Green campaigner is facing up to two years in jail for direct action against tree felling

A green campaigner is facing up to two years in jail after he was found in contempt of court for breaching an injunction to prevent direct action against tree felling.

Activist Calvin Payne posted a message on Facebook this month encouraging “as many people as possible” to break the injunction.

The post was part of a city-wide campaign to prevent felling which has seen more than 5,000 trees cut down as part of a 25-year highways maintenance contract between a council and a private maintenance contractor.

The injunction obtained by Sheffield City Council, South Yorks., earlier in the year prevents protesters entering safety zone set up around trees being felled.

It also forbids people encouraging or facilitating anyone else to break the injunction, including through social media.

In the post on October 6, in order to prevent tree felling crews from working, Mr Payne wrote: “What I would really like is for as many people as possible to break the injunction on Monday morning.”

Evidence supplied to the Sheffield Crown Court, South Yorks., also referred to another Facebook post by Mr Payne on October 10.

He wrote: “All trees still there.

“It has taken methods that may be illegal but there are bigger principles than upholding the law in play by now.”

In response to another post on the same day hoping no one was prosecuted, Mr Payne said: “That’s a risk we’ll have to take – I no longer care.

“I’d rather do what’s right than be what the powers that be see as well behaved and respectable.”

Calvin Payne could face two years in prison after breaking an injunction forbidding disruption of tree felling in Sheffield, South Yorks., October 28 2017. 

Speaking outside the court yesterday (October 27), Mr Payne said he did not regret his actions.

He said: “It reflects my genuine feelings.

“I’ve had a consistent position throughout and throughout two-and-a-half years.

“It didn’t change when I was arrested, it didn’t change when my case collapsed, it didn’t change when I went to the High Court, it hasn’t changed today.

“The law must decide what the law is.

“I believe we’re in a pretty sorry state of affairs when preventing ecological destruction on our streets is against the law but the destruction itself is fully within.”

Commenting on whether he was afraid of being sent to prison when the case resumes on Friday, Mr Payne said: “It’s something I’ve been prepared for for sometime now.

“It appears that the one of the most substantive parts of the case – us being inside the barriers preventing felling is at least open to question.”

Sheffield City Council’s application included a number of other claims against Mr Payne about his alleged incursions into safety zones in other parts of the city.

Mr Justice Males said he would issue a written ruling on the remaining allegations early next week.

Calvin Payne appeared at the High Court in Sheffield along with two other campaigners accused of breaking the injunction, Green city councillor Alison Teal and Siobhan O’Malle.

The judge dismissed the case against Ms Teal while he said Mr Payne would be sentenced on November 3.

He will also hear the case against Siobhan O’Malle on the same day.

Sheffield has seen regular street protests and a series of arrests as contractors have removed thousands of roadside trees.

The dispute has its origin in a 25-year £2.2 billion private finance initiative agreement the council signed with contractor Amey in 2009.

The contract includes a huge programme to resurface thousands of miles of Sheffield’s pothole-ridden road system and as part of this Amey is tasked with maintaining 36,000 roadside trees.

The contractor and council say the trees being removed are diseased or dangerous and all are being replaced.

But protesters say many of the trees and their root systems are simply getting in the way of Amey’s resurfacing methods.

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

Arm yourself – there is a new war, and we’re losing it

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3 Responses


    The letter below was sent to The Star and the Yorkshire Post newspapers on 10th August 2017. The same day, an earlier version was published by the Sheffield Telegraph newspaper (on sale for seven days), on page 8, under the title: “Safe long-term retention of existing trees”. Notation and references have been added to support the content.



    Dear Editor,

    With regard to city-wide destruction of Sheffield’s street trees, Sheffield City Council (SCC) frequently justify felling mature street trees on the basis that damage to footways and kerbs hinders or prevents accessibility and mobility, and represents a danger to people or vehicles [2]. Fortunately, there are a range of alternative resurfacing products, methods and techniques that can be used for reconstruction or repair – reasonable maintenance options. Their use would enable the safe long-term retention of existing trees, as well as achieve a smooth surface of adequate regularity [1]. It is not necessary for SCC or Amey to fell all trees associated with damage to the built environment in order to fulfil their statutory duties [2]. The £2.2bn highway maintenance PFI contract commits the service provider – Amey – to maximise canopy cover and apply an holistic, innovative, sustainable approach to stewardship of the highway tree population [3]. Neglect to take adequate steps to ensure fulfilment of these commitments stems from the fact that, contrary to all current good practice guidance and recommendations, SCC has yet to honour its 7yo policy commitment to have a tree strategy [4], to guide and inform policy and decisions, and help ensure a planned, systematic, consistent, integrated, balanced approach.

    On 2nd September, 2015, Steve Robinson (SCC Head of Highway Maintenance) publicly presented a list of 25 ideas – “engineering solutions” – that could be used to retain mature street trees when resurfacing. The list included: EXCAVATION; “FLEXIBLE PAVING/SURFACING SOLUTION”; RAMPING/RE-PROFILING; USE OF THINNER KERBS; REMOVAL OF DISPLACED KERBS; PRUNING (including pollarding); “creation of LARGER TREE PITS” [3]. 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]”

    SCC regularly assert that felling is a “last resort” [6]. But, since 2015, the Information Commissioner [7] and John Mothersole (SCC Chief Executive) [8] have confirmed that no alternative highway engineering specifications have been commissioned or drafted for consideration for use as an alternative to felling.

    D.Long (BSc Hons Arb), Sheffield.”



    See London Tree Officers Association (LTOA) guidance: ‘Surface Materials Around Trees In Hard Landscapes’ – May 2017:

    Trees and Design Action Group, 2014. Trees in Hard Landscapes: A Guide for Delivery. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 25 January 2015].

    See the letter from the Department of Transport, dated 7th July 2015, on page 163 of the Nether Edge petition hand-out that was distributed to every Councillor in Sheffield, prior to the meeting that took place on 3rd February 2016 (the SORT letter dated 29th January 2016. Also, see pages 52 & 53):

    “Local highway authorities, in your case Sheffield City Council, have a duty under Section 41 of the Highways Act 1980 to maintain the highways network in their area. The Act does not set out specific standards of maintenance, as it is for each individual local highway authority to assess which parts of its network are in need of repair and what standards should be applied, based upon their local knowledge and circumstances.”

    (this letter triggered Amey & SCC to publish the back-dated 5yr contract document, the day before the meeting [3])

    Also see UK Roads Liaison Group Guidance: ;

    & D.Long’s previous letter to The Star newspaper:

    In addition, SCC & Amey have existing policy commitments to comply with “national best practice”. See:




    See the Amey Streets Ahead tree management contract document that 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 [2]:

    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:–about/parks-woodlands–countryside/green-and-open-space-strategy.html

    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 (a) and David Caulfield (b), sent on 11th July, 2016.

    a) 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 (c) has been appointed as his replacement].

    b) 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])

    c) 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 [3] [d]):

    d) See the Final Report of Sheffield’s Green Commission:

    Also see D.Long’s letter to The Star:

    “STREET TREE MASSACRE” (a response to Cllr Peter Price, published on Saturday 21st January 2017: the day of the STAG conference):

    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_NO EXTRA COST SOLUTIONS_150902_001_2_3_2). Please note that to date (7th August 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 31st July 2017)

    See the aforementioned SORT letter [2]. Also, listen to the audio clip of the first “bi-monthly” Streets Ahead Highway Tree Advisory Forum meeting, held on 23rd July 2015, attached above (HTAF 1_23rd_July_2015_Steve_Robinson – SCC Head of Highway Maintenance_Last Resort_150723_002_5[1]).

    See the Information Commissioner’s e-mail, dated 19th February 2016, on pages 14 to 17 of the following PDF:

    See the letter dated 20th OCTOBER 2016, sent from Sheffield City Council’s Chief Executive – Mr JOHN MOTHERSOLE – to NICK CLEGG. Sheffield City Council confirm that, OVER 4 YEARS IN TO A £2.2 BILLION CITY-WIDE PROJECT, NO ALTERNATIVE HIGHWAY ENGINEERING SPECIFICATIONS HAVE EVER BEEN COMMISSIONED OR DRAFTED for consideration for use as an alternative to felling, as a means to retain mature street trees associated with damage to the built environment (footways, kerbs, and, to a lesser extent, boundary walls & drains):


    Learn more here:


    The letter below was published in Sheffield Telegraph on 16th August 2017, on page 58, under the title: “Battle for sustainable stewardship of trees”. Letters are usually near the front of the paper, on page 8. You can view a photograph here:

    THE STAR (a Sheffield newspaper) and THE YORKSHIRE POST refused to publish it, despite further media interest with the SECRETARY OF STATE FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS – Michael Gove – stepping up to criticise Sheffield City Council* Notation and references have been added to support the content.

    * To quote from Gove’s letter, dated 9th August 2017:


    Links to national media coverage can be accessed here:



    Dear Editor,

    In my opinion, significant omissions from recent media coverage of the legal dispute between Sheffield City Council and Sheffield Tree Action Groups have led to misleading reports. Various news sources reported that dead, dying, diseased and dangerous street trees are being felled in Sheffield [1&5]. However, that accounts for just four of the “6Ds” criteria that SCC & Amey Hallam Highways Ltd use to justify felling street trees [2]. The other two “Ds” – DAMAGING and DISCRIMINATORY – were NOT mentioned, yet they are the criteria most used by SCC and Amey to justify felling [7&9], and the most controversial [4].

    Amey is the service provider for the £2.2bn “Streets Ahead” highway maintenance project. Prior to this 25yr contract, in 2007, Elliott Consultancy Ltd surveyed Sheffield’s entire street tree population. The consultant reported that 73.8% of Sheffield’s street trees were mature (25,877 trees) [3]. Most are associated with damage to footways and kerbs. The Deputy Leader of SCC has twice confirmed that the contract permits the felling of 67.7% of mature street trees [4]. On 28th July 2017, BBC Look North informed that around 5,400 have been felled [5].

    On 23rd July, 2015, Steve Robinson (SCC Head of Highway Maintenance) informed:

    “So, our underinvestment and underfunding left us with a number of dead, dying and dangerous trees. …there were 1,200 trees that were within that category. So, Amey identified those trees and addressed those first. […] Our next priority is to improve the condition of our roads and pavements. So, in other words, deal with the DAMAGING trees… So, we’re now looking to deal with DISCRIMINATORY trees.[6] …IF AN ENGINEERING SOLUTION CAN BE APPLIED, THEN IT WILL BE APPLIED. …a tree is removed as a LAST resort.””[4&7]

    Since 2015, the Information commissioner [8] and John Mothersole (SCC Chief Executive) [9] have confirmed that no alternative highway engineering specifications have been commissioned or drafted for consideration for use as an alternative to felling. Instead, SCC & Amey have a list of 25 ideas [8 & 9].

    Yours Sincerely,

    D.Long (BSc Hons Arb)

    SOURCE (notes & references can be found here):


    On 17th August 2017, The Star (a Sheffield newspaper) reported:

    “The council has warned that IT MUST NOW COMPLETE WORK TO REMOVE AND REPLACE 6,000 STREET TREES BY THE END OF THIS YEAR, with around 500 left to still be removed. IF NOT, IT SAYS IT WILL BE IN BREACH OF ITS PFI CONTRACT WITH AMEY, which is due to move into a 20-year “maintenance” phase from the start of the next year.”


    On 17th August 2017, BBC News reported:

    “A council says it is facing a possible multi-million pound bill if it fails to complete controversial tree felling work by the end of the year.
    Work to replace about 500 trees must be carried out or Sheffield City Council says it will face penalty charges and have to fund the incomplete work.
    Councillor Bryan Lodge said the costs ‘could be into the millions’.
    ABOUT 5,500 TREES HAVE BEEN FELLED IN SHEFFIELD since the start of a £2.2bn 25-year programme of works, having been assessed as either dangerous, dead, diseased, dying, DAMAGING or discriminatory.

    He told BBC Radio Sheffield: ‘WE HAVE A CORE INVESTMENT PERIOD THAT ENDS AT THE END OF THIS YEAR and we need to get on with [the work] and complete the programme.’ ”


    “Sheffield tree felling delays could cost ‘millions’ says council”:

    On 16th October 2017, BBC News reported:

    “The felling is part of the £2bn Sheffield-wide maintenance project Streets Ahead to upgrade roads, pavements and bridges.

    About 5,500 trees have been cut down since 2012.”


    “Protester climbs Sheffield’s Vernon Oak to prevent felling”:

    On 16th October 2017, The London Economic reported:

    “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.”


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

    On 16th October 2017, The Star (a Sheffield newspaper) reported:

    “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.



    “Campaigner climbs 150-year-old Sheffield Vernon Oak tree to save it from the chop”:



    “Sheffield City Council has won the money from government to transform and maintain the roads over a quarter-of-a-century, and three contenders have to complete detailed bids by December.

    If Amey wins, it will be responsible for the largest private finance initiative (PFI) contract in the council’s history. It includes 2,000km of road, 65,000 streetlights, …35,000 HIGHWAY TREES, 3,666km of footways, more than 2m sq m of urban grass verges and will mean improving about 85 per cent of the city’s streetlights …DURING THE FIRST FIVE TO SEVEN YEARS.

    ’The importance of this contract for Sheffield cannot be underestimated. It has the potential to have an immense impact on the city, not just over the next 25 years, but for generations to come,’ said GRAEME SYMONDS, AMEY PROJECT DIRECTOR FOR THE SHEFFIELD HIGHWAYS MAINTENANCE PFI.

    HE HAS WORKED ON CREATING A SIMILAR, 2.7bn PROJECT IN ***BIRMINGHAM***, where Amey has been named the preferred supplier – although Mr SYMONDS emphasises the firm has to ‘get under the skin of Sheffield’ rather than merely importing the techniques used in Britain’s second city – with the project due to start in April and run for 25 years.

    ***** And, he is at pains to add, the PFI provider bears the risk. ‘IF YOU DO SOMETHING THAT GOES WRONG, THEN IT IS UP TO US TO PUT IT RIGHT AND THE TAXPAYER WILL NOT BE PUT AT RISK – that is a fundamental part of it.’ *****

    This might be good news for people living and working in Sheffield, but what about the other ripples of such a transformational scheme – disruption, noise, delays and the cost to the environment?

    Most people would want to see their city improved, BUT NOT BY HAVING THEIR ROAD DUG UP FOR MONTHS ON END.

    Mr Symonds is realistic, accepting that life will be more complex for motorists for a while but saying Amey has already planned how to mitigate this – for example, it says it will never work on parallel streets at the same time.

    ‘You cannot develop a programme of this scale without some sort of disruption (but] we don’t focus all our resources in one area so we won’t bring the area to a halt. For example, ***** YOU MAY HAVE A DAY OR TWO OR A WEEK OR TWO OF SOME INCONVENIENCE ***** but it will be outweighed by 25 years of improvements.’



    GRAEME SYMONDS, THE MAN BEHIND AMEY’S PLANS FOR SHEFFIELD’S HIGHWAYS, intends to relocate to the city from HERTFORDSHIRE if the firm’s tender is successful.

    The married father of three, who LIVES OUTSIDE BEDFORD, started his career as a civil engineer at Breheny, in Ipswich…

    He went on to work in local government in Carlisle and Kendal, in ***** CUMBRIA. ***** Mr SYMONDS …joined Amey in 2002.”


    i News, 31st March 2017:

    “Britain’s beloved street trees are being felled at a rate of nearly 60 a day, it can be revealed, amid fears council chainsaw gangs are stripping the nation’s leafy suburbs of their Victorian and Edwardian boughs to save money.
    The news comes after campaigners IN BIRMINGHAM lost a hard-fought fight last month to save the city’s oldest tree, aged at least 90-years-old, which is just one of 9,200 TREES FELLED in the city IN THE PAST SEVEN YEARS.”


    Icebat, 11th September 2017 22:17 hrs

    “AMEY HAVE CUT DOWN A LOT OF TREES IN BIRMINGHAM TOO. A BIT MORE STEALTHILY THAN IN SHEFFIELD – THEY SEEM TO REMOVE ONE TREE PER STREET EACH YEAR, rather than doing whole streets at once – but it’s still adding up. My small street had five mature trees when I moved here in 2013; we’re now down to one (will that one survive this felling season, I wonder?). It’s pretty sad.

    To make matters worse, I was originally told they were going to ‘replace’ the trees by planting new ones in a nearby park instead of on the street, which isn’t the same at all. (I just kept complaining and in the end new trees were planted on the street… so now we just news to wait 30 years for them to grow.)”


    Comment left on The Guardian website, under an Opinion piece by Patrick Barkham (Put a price on urban trees – and halt this chainsaw massacre):

    The Sunday Times – July 10th 2016:


    AMEY, OWNED BY SPAIN’S FERROVIAL, WON THE 25-YEAR DEAL IN 2009. The council is embroiled in a High Court row with Amey over contract issues that reportedly stem from problems with pothole repairs. The agreement covers more than 1,500 miles of road.

    Amey’s annual report showed the company has set aside £55m to cover the impact of an ‘unfavourable resolution’ to the court case, and cut its profit forecasts.”



    Also of interest:

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