Activist scales iconic 150yo tree in bid to save it from felling as long-standing tree row continues

An activist scaled a 150-year-old oak tree today (mon) in a bid to prevent it from being felled by a local council.

Residents gathered in the street where the tree is sited today (October 16) in the hope of stopping the council from tearing it down.

TV presenter Vernon Kaye is among campaigners who have appealed to Sheffield City Council to re-think pavement resurfacing plans and save the much-loved oak.

In a video appeal, he said: “Sheffield Council, come on.

Protestors, including Sue Unwin, 59 (right), oppose the felling of a 150+ year old oak tree on Vernon Road in Sheffield, South Yorks., October 16 2017. 

“It’s only a pavement – I’m sure you’ve got a few quid somewhere that you can re-design that pavement around that tree that’s been in Sheffield longer than everyone in Sheffield.”

Campaigners have converged on Sheffield’s Vernon Road, South Yorks., bedecked in yellow ribbons and singing songs ahead of announcement that felling was due to start this week.

One campaigner has even scaled its branches with a climbing rope, telling onlookers “I’ll stay here all week if I have to” as they passed him food and supplies from ground level.

Resident Sue Unwin has created a focal point for campaigning in her back garden and has messages on display from various protesters including MP Nick Clegg.

Appearing on the street today, Sue from Sheffield Save Dore, Totley and Broadway Trees, said: “I sincerely hope this tree can be saved.

“I’ve lived here for 20 years and it’s the first thing I see in the morning.

“There’s a guy up the road who is 93 – he and his mates used to meet at the tree when they were kids.

“The first part of the street was built in the 1930s and then they extended it in the 1960s with some quite dull houses.

“We just don’t have many large street trees in the street here.”

The protest comes in the midst of a bitter row between activists and Sheffield City Council over a 25-year highways maintenance project with a private contractor which will see thousands of trees felled.

Since the Sheffield’s “Streets Ahead” project began in 2012 5,600 trees have been felled with 400 set for removal by the end of the year.

A protestor has climbed high to oppose the felling of a 150+ year old oak tree on Vernon Road in Sheffield, South Yorks., October 16 2017. See 

The oak tree on Vernon Road in the well-healed Sheffield suburb of Dore preserves a time when the now built-up suburb was nothing more a few Derbyshire fields.

It has become one of the most important trees in Sheffield’s campaign against the city council’s campaign against felling.

Protester Margaret Peart, also of Save Dore, Totley and Bradway Trees, who is out on the street, said: “Vernon Oak has been growing where it is for at least 150 years and it is a perfectly healthy tree which preserves a time when Dore was agricultural.

“There was a time when this tree was growing in a field in Derbyshire – before Dore became part of the city of Sheffield.

“There are pictures which show the fields here before Vernon Road was built and the tree is in them.

“Not only is this tree beautiful but it’s important culturally and for the area’s heritage.”

“If we lose this tree it will be more than sad – it will be the disastrous and totally unnecessary depletion of green areas.

“If we don’t manage to stop this tree being felled it may help somewhere else.”

The latest Sheffield activist facing legal action is Sheffield Green Party councillor Alison Teal.

Calvin Payne, 45, a Sheffield historian and tour guide, is charged with breaking the injunction and inciting others to do so.

He said: “People who have never broken the law in their lives are considering breaking this injunction now.

“I will be pleading not guilty on the basis that I do not think breaking this injunction is a crime.

“I could be looking at a short prison sentence but you get to the point where you don’t care what they threaten you with any more.”

Protestors, including Colin Ross, 64, and Sue Unwin, 59, oppose the felling of a 150+ year old oak tree on Vernon Road in Sheffield, South Yorks., October 16 2017. 

Councillor Bryan Lodge, Cabinet member for Environment and Street Scene at Sheffield City Council said:

“Unfortunately, a very small number of tree activists are continuing to trespass inside the exclusion zone erected around tree works despite a High Court ruling stating that anyone who did so is acting unlawfully and would be in contempt of court.

“The continued breach of the injunction is both disappointing and unacceptable and will now result in further court action and potential imprisonment for those involved.

“What’s more, this direct action is in complete disregard of the law and goes against the wishes of the majority of people in Sheffield who are in support of our work.

“The purposeful breach of the civil ruling means the Council will now follow all associated legal steps to ensure committal for contempt for those involved.”

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2 Responses

  1. COST OF SUSTAINABILITY (a letter to a Sheffield newspaper)

    “Dear Editor,

    On 20th September, The Star reported on the potential cost of retaining street trees [1]. An extortionate estimate of cost to retain trees was provided. Steve Robinson (SCC Head of Highway Maintenance) was quoted:

    “That’s not a result of a detailed design. We would have to spend some money to do a detailed design.”

    Amey is the service provider for the £2.2bn “Streets Ahead” highway maintenance project. In 2015, commenting on Amey’s contractual commitments, as SCC Cabinet Member For Environment, Recycling And Streetscene, Cllr Jayne Dunn informed:


    As I understand it, a contract is legally binding. In response to a 140 page letter from the Save Our Roadside Trees Group, dated 29th January 2016 (distributed to every Councillor in the city) [3], on 2nd February 2016, Amey released a “commercially sensitive” contract document [4]. Quote:

    “The removal of street trees will only be considered as a LAST RESORT where there are no other reasonably practicable management options available. […] As part of our commitment to only removing a street tree as a LAST RESORT, whenever a tree is found to be either damaging or disciminatory, we consider a list of engineering SOLUTIONS to establish whether any of these can be employed to retain the tree in situ.”

    There are a number of “strategic goals” listed within the contract document, such as:

    “MAXIMISE potential CANOPY COVER through… good arboricultural management”

    “Establish a SUSTAINABLE tree stock through… appropriate management.”

    “Improve compatibility with environment through HOLISTIC HIGHWAY DESIGN AND MANAGEMENT.”

    “Improve function of highway trees through INNOVATIVE DESIGN strategy.”

    At the second (most recent) meeting of the “bi-monthly” Highway Tree Advisory Forum (2/9/2015), Steve Robinson presented a list of 25 ideas – that could be used to retain trees. He informed:

    “The engineering and tree-based solutions come at no extra cost to the council. So, THE TAX-PAYER DOES NOT PAY IF AN ENGINEERING SOLUTION OR A TREE-BASED SOLUTION CAN BE APPLIED and the reason for that is that the Streets Ahead project is a highway maintenance project and engineering and tree-based solutions are highway maintenance solutions [5]. …THE COUNCIL HAS A DEFENCE UNDER THE HIGHWAYS ACT – Section 58 defence under the Highways Act – OF NOT HAVING SUFFICIENT FUNDING TO DEAL WITH ALL THOSE DEFECTS.”[6]

    On numerous occasions, the Council and Amey have asserted that they work to British Standard 5837 [7]. The standard states:

    “ROOT SYSTEMS, stems and canopies, with allowance for future movement and growth, NEED to be taken into account in all projects…

    Where tree retention or planting is proposed…

    THE OBJECTIVE SHOULD BE to achieve a harmonious relationship between trees and structures that can be sustained…
    (from page 1 of BS5837)


    Where alternative design solutions are not available… the potential impact of the proposals on the tree should be assessed, and a Tree Protection Plan and Arboricultural Method Statement produced.

    […] Details of DESIGN PROPOSALS should be developed in conjunction with the project ARBORICULTURIST and, where required, input from a SUITABLY QUALIFIED engineer.”
    (from page 23 of BS5837)

    When I met Cllr Lodge (SCC’s Cabinet member for Environment & Streetscene), on 1st August 2016, he said that SCC HAD FINED AMEY OVER £2 MILLION DURING 2015, for neglect to meet agreed standards. He added that SCC were “just in the process of taking some action against Amey”, for the same reason. I was led to understand that the fine money was available and could be used specifically to retain trees [8].

    In short, provided Amey honour their existing contractual commitments, and the Council’s Highways PFI Client Team provide adequate ON-SITE SUPERVISION, MONITORING, AND ENFORCEMENT of compliance with the range of current good practice guidance and recommendations that the Streets Ahead team claim to comply with [4 & 9], there is no reason why the majority of mature street trees currently scheduled for felling can’t be safely retained, long term. In law, and in practice, Sheffield City Council has sufficient discretion to insist on A SUSTAINABLE APPROACH to stewardship of the highway tree population and prevent further UNNECESSARY, AVOIDABLE LOSS AND IRREVERSIBLE ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION.

    Time for SCC & Amey to start honouring existing policy commitments [10].

    D.Long (BSc Hons Arb – former Highways), Sheffield.”




    “Saving Sheffield’s war memorial trees ‘could cost £350,000’”:

    An e-mail to a lead participant within the Save Our Roadside Trees Sheffield Tree Action Group. It can be viewed using this link:

    The SORT letter, dated 29th January, 2016, can be accessed using the following link:

    The Amey PFI contract document can be accessed using this link:

    The document was made public on 2nd February 2016 – the day before the Nether Edge Sheffield Tree Action Group presented their 6,295 plus signature petition at a meeting of Sheffield City Council. It was released in response to a letter from the Save Our Roadside trees Sheffield Tree Action Group, addressed to Sheffield City Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment & Transport (Cllr Terry Fox), dated 29th January 2016 [3]

    See D.Long’s previous letter: “The Battle For Sustainable Stewardship of Sheffield’s Street Trees” ( ) and the audio recording that accompanied it: “HTAF 2_2nd_September_2015_Steve_Robinson – SCC Head of Highway Maintenance_NO EXTRA COST SOLUTIONS_150902_001_2_3_2”. The audio is transcribed on page 47 of the SORT letter [3, above].

    Listen to the attached audio clip, from the second meeting of the “bi-monthly” Streets Ahead Highway Tree Advisory Forum, held on 2nd September 2015, attached above (HTAF 2_2nd_September_2015_Steve_Robinson – SCC Head of Highway Maintenance_Section 58 Defence – Insufficient Funding_150902_001_2_3_2). The audio is transcribed on page 45 of the SORT letter [3, above].

    Please note that to date (29th September 2017) there has not been a third meeting, despite the SCC website continuing to assert:

    “Anyone who cares about the trees on Sheffield’s streets can come along to the Highway Tree Advisory Forum meeting.

    The forum has been set up to give people an opportunity to hear from a variety of experts from various fields from across the city to debate how highway trees should be managed.”

    (web-page last updated on 8th September 2017)

    Reference: The British Standards Institution, 2012. British Standard 5837:2012 Trees in Relation to Design, Demolition and Construction – Recommendations”. London: BSI Standards Ltd.

    The quotes used are from pages one and twenty-three of the standard.

    See the following online content, at the Stocksbridge Community Forum website:

    “EXTRACTS FROM British Standard 5837”


    Evidence exists. Also, see D.Long’s previous letters to local newspapers:




    The Streets Ahead team Claim to comply with a range of “national best practice”. See Amey’s previously commercially sensitive contract document [4, above].

    Extracts from pages 40, 121 & 162 of the SORT letter, dated 29th January, 2016 [3, above]:

    • On 8th July, 2015, STREETS AHEAD team stated:

    “all works will be supervised by a qualified arboriculturalist [sic] TO ENSURE NO TREE ROOT DAMAGE OCCURS as part of our works. The Streets Ahead team work to National Joint Utilities Group (NJUG) regulations AND RELEVANT BRITISH STANDARDS for construction works in the vicinity of trees”.

    • In an e-mail (Ref: 101002358788) dated 8th January, 2016 (Appendix 19), sent in response to a complaint made on 9th December, 2015 (Appendix 19), STREETS AHEAD Customer Services stated:

    “The Streets Ahead project aims to work to BEST INDUSTRY PRACTISE AND GUIDELINES in all working sectors, including when working in the vicinity of highway trees.”

    “In fact, we intend to expand the concept with a series of workshops starting in January 2016 looking at improving our processes and BUILDING ON industry good practise.”

    The response to Freedom of Information request FOI / 574, dated 7th August, 2015 (“Please provide a copy of the current national highway maintenance standards, guidance and recommendations that the Streets Ahead project claim to be using and working in accordance with; please also provide an online link to these standards.”), stated:

    “Highways maintenance standards and REQUIREMENTS ARE DICTATED BY A NUMBER OF PIECES OF BOTH INDUSTRY BEST PRACTICE (for example the Well-Maintained Highways Code of Practice for highway maintenance management – ).”

    *** NOTE ***

    UKRLG guidance has been reviewed and revised. Quote:

    “’WELL-MANAGED HIGHWAY INFRASTRUCTURE’ SUPERSEDES THE PREVIOUS CODES’ Well-maintained Highways’, ‘Well-lit Highways’ and ‘Management of Highway Structures’. This was published on 28 October 2016.

    The new Code can either be adopted straightaway by authorities or they HAVE UNTIL OCTOBER 2018 TO ADOPT A RISK BASED APPROACH.”


    Also see the following links:


    For existing policy commitments, see references 3, 4 & 9 above, as well as the following online content:

    “STREET TREE MASSACRE” – a response to Cllr Peter Price:





    There is an existing policy commitment within “Sheffield’s Great Outdoors: Green and Open Space Strategy 2010-2030″ policy document, to initiate, develop, adopt and implement a tree strategy – a “Trees & Woodland Strategy” – as Council policy:

    Also see D.Long’s previous letters to The Star:

    “DECEIT & LIES” (published on 12th September, 2016, as ‘Worthy of Trust?’):

    “Deceit” (not printed, dated Tuesday 27th September, 2016):

    & see:

    (A letter from Save Our Roadside Trees [SORT], dated 11th July, 2016, addressed to Simon Green (10a) and David Caulfield (10b), sent on 11th July, 2016.

    Then SCC Executive Director for the “Place” portfolio, which included responsibility for the £2.2bn, city-wide, Streets Ahead highway maintenance project [Mr Green has since resigned. Laraine Manley (10c) has been appointed as his replacement].

    Then SCC Director of Development Services, with overall responsibility for highway trees [Mr Caulfield has since resigned. Paul Billington has been appointed as his replacement])

    Sadly, Ms Manley’s recent policy document – “Growing Sustainably: A Bold Plan For A Sustainable Sheffield” neglects to make any mention whatsoever of Sheffield’s urban forest, trees, vegetation, or green infrastructure. Here’s a link to the report (remember that SUSTAINABILITY is supposed to be at the heart of existing policy commitments [4] [10d]):

    See the Final Report of Sheffield’s Green Commission:

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