BREAKING: Charges dropped against Sheffield councillor and eight other campaigners arrested over city tree-felling

Charges against nine campaigners including a Sheffield councillor arrested over a tree-felling protest have been dropped.

Thursday, 2nd March 2017, 4:07 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:07 am
Councillor Alison Teal in the back of the police van following her arrest. Picture: Simon Crump

Green councillor Alison Teal and six others were arrested on suspicion of preventing workmen from chopping down a tree in Chippinghouse Road, Nether Edge, on the morning of February 6.

They were arrested under Section 241 of the Trade Union Act used primarily on workers on the picket lines during strikes in the 1980s.

Police and protesters at the scene of the tree-felling on Chippinghouse Road on February 6. Photo: Marisa Cashill/The Star

A total of 14 tree-felling protesters arrested under the legislation since November 2016 have had charges dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service.

This was another protest in an increasingly bitter dispute over Sheffield Council's plans to remove hundreds of roadside trees deemed to be dangerous, diseased or dying.

Campaigner Simon Crump, Ms Teal's partner, was one of the 14 arrested who later had charges dropped.

He said: "It's a victory for common sense. I really don't know what the police have been playing at to be honest.

Police and protesters at the scene of the tree-felling on Chippinghouse Road on February 6. Photo: Marisa Cashill/The Star

"We've been told again there is insufficient evidence and it isn't likely to succeed in court. Somebody somewhere has had a proper look at this and saw sense.

"I really hope South Yorkshire Police stop arresting people and hiding behind this legislation for acts of peaceful protest.

"Alan Billings said today on BBC Radio 4 that it's so hard it get a police officer out to an incident now with all the continued cuts. Well, I think it's easy - all you have to do is stand under a tree."

The fight for Sheffield’s trees has its roots in a £2bn PFI deal signed by the Labour-run council in 2012. The contractor Amey is tasked with maintaining the city’s 36,000 roadside trees as part of a road maintenance agreement.

Coun Bryan Lodge said: “We are working positively and productively with South Yorkshire Police, and the Police and Crime Commissioner, on managing any ongoing protests relating to the Streets Ahead tree renewal programme.“We do know that the majority of people in the city want to see this work carried out, and we respectfully ask that should any protests be organised, that they are done so in a way that does not stop work and therefore cost the city money at a time where we are having to find budgets savings, including from services for vulnerable people.”“It is important to be clear that this is not a decision on Sheffield City Council policy. The Streets Ahead programme is replacing all the street trees that are taken down, and planting many more on top of this.

"We all have great pride in our green and leafy streets. However, these trees won’t last forever. Streets Ahead is the biggest investment ever seen in roads, street trees and infrastructure in the city we love.

"This represents our opportunity to replace trees where necessary so that they don’t just last for the next ten years, but for the next hundred years. For our children and our grandchildren. We simply won’t get this chance again with public sector funding going the way it is.”