In the continuing tale of Sheffield’s street trees, last week saw a new turn of events on Abbeydale Park Rise – the Dore street famed for its Christmas illuminations and Spring cherry blossom. This week’s story from the street is a farcical one of fairy lights, a bumpy pavement made smooth and a very determined woman in a tree.
When felling crews arrived the week before last, Jane Sharpe climbed a ladder from her garden into the overhanging branches of a cherry tree in the verge outside her house. She berated them from on high about her belief that the tree was being felled for spurious reasons and made clear that Amey did not have her permission to work on the tree in the airspace above her garden.
Branches were hacked on one side, but the tree still stands – thanks to Jane in her perch.
Last Wednesday, she took Amey to the small claims court for the destruction of her Christmas lights in the tree last June, during an attempted felling. The cabling had been cut. the lights thrown into her front garden.
Jane takes up the next part of the story:
“While I and Amey’s Senior Management were in court today, 3 BT workers doing some telephone work were busy making the bumpy pavement flat around the tree outside my house.”
Amey and the City Council had declared that the tree was severely damaging the path and must be felled so that the path could be repaired. (This was despite Amey’s own tarmac crew carrying out remedial work on the pavement beside the tree opposite Jane’s house last year. This successfully made that pavement perfectly flat too. That tree was still subsequently felled.) A report by residents last year claimed that many of the 19 trees could be retained if tarmac crews were allowed to exercise their skills and judgement.
Today, residents were again proved right. When asked, the BT workers said
“We work round trees like this all the time.”
Here is a video showing the BT work – with the roots of the tree 8 inches below the pavement surface.
On 5th and 9th March, 60 security men, police and felling crews turned up to fell Jane’s tree and others. The following week, 3 BT men made the pavement flat and proved that the tree could be saved. BT workers had done in a morning that which Amey had claimed was impossible.
Unfortunately, while BT were expertly flattening the pavement outside her house, Jane lost her case in the small claims court. Amey managers had told residents that they were entitled under the Highways Act to “remove pictures, letters, signs or other marks from a tree or highway.”
Jane said that in her dictionary, lights were none of these things. In a surprising turn of events, District Judge Heppell said
“I find that fairy lights are a picture”.
They could thus be legally cut and removed.
Jane may have lost her case and her fairy lights, but the pavement outside her house is now beautifully flat and the tree, albeit still on the felling list, is about to blossom. Jane says:
“I look at the now smooth pavement and then at the beautiful tree vandalised for profit and it leaves me speechless.”
Meanwhile, every day, a rota of residents are on look-out from the early hours for felling crews, security personnel and police arriving. Despite their efforts to negotiate, persuade, defend their trees (actually paid for by residents 40 years ago) and even in Jane’s case climb ladders, the famous trees are still set to go. The Council have so far refused to negotiate with the street tree campaign. Residents of Abbeydale Park Rise now wish to challenge Amey once more with this new evidence – that pavements can definitely be repaired without the need for trees to be felled. This must be the case for trees not only here, but across the city. Is felling really “a last resort” Councillor Lodge?
One resident said,
“Perhaps given the great work of their men today, BT would like to sponsor our street. We could even display their signs for Amey and the Council to see: It’s good to talk.”