Amey has paused its Sheffield tree felling work due to safety concerns after contractors and protestors clashed.
The £2.2bn Streets Ahead PFI deal between Sheffield City Council and Amey has been the centre of controversy after environment campaigners claimed healthy trees were being felled. Last summer the council was granted a High Court injunction banning protestors from entering a tree “safety zone”.
Clashes between protestors and Amey workers in Meersbrook Park Road to the south of the city centre escalated last week until the work was called off on Monday.
Streets Ahead account director Darren Butt said: “We welcome safe and peaceful protest but unfortunately this is not what we experienced in Meersbrook Park Road on Monday. In the interests of everyone’s safety we withdrew from site, and we will resume as soon as we can ensure the safety of our staff, local people and the protestors themselves.
“Re-planting certain street trees which are ailing or damaging is one of the ways we deliver the council’s legal duty to maintain the city’s highways, which is why a High Court injunction is in place to keep our working areas safe.
“We urge people to respect peaceful communities and not to wilfully obstruct our works on the highway by staying outside the safety zones, so we can complete this programme for the benefit of everyone in Sheffield.”
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A South Yorkshire Police spokesperson confirmed on Twitter that it had received “a number of allegations of assault in relation to this matter”, adding that police are reviewing the reports. New Civil Engineer has contacted the police for further comment.
Under the PFI deal, trees are classified as either dangerous, dead, diseased, dying, damaging footpaths or properties, or “discriminatory” - for example by obstructing wheelchair users - before a decision to fell them is made. Sheffield Council lists 25 possible engineering solutions for problem trees, alongside felling, but only 14 of these can be carried out within the contract.
Sheffield City Council told New Civil Engineer that “huge budget cuts” meant that “careful consideration” had to be given before exploring the other 11 options, and documents presented by the council to the High Court said there was “no money for unfunded solutions outside of the PFI contract framework”.