Chainsaw gang felling one 25ft cherry tree are protected by 48 guards as huge protests meet Sheffield Council's £2billion resurfacing plan
With 28 officers, 20 security workers, perimeter fencing and a police van, it looks like the scene of a high-profile crime bust.
But in fact, this is just the latest instalment of Sheffield’s tree wars – and the focus of the operation is a 25ft cherry tree destined for the chop.
Thousands of the city’s trees have been felled as part of a £2billion resurfacing plan with contractor Amey, leading to frequent clashes with protesters.
While officials say they have removed only dangerous, diseased or dead trees, campaigners say the felling has been only to make resurfacing easier. The battle has grown so heated that South Yorkshire Police has begun turning out on almost a daily basis.
Officers are now accompanying the chainsaw gang on an almost daily basis – fuelling public anger over the implications of diverting officers from serious duties.
Yesterday dozens of officers assembled to watch a single tree felled on Abbeydale Park Rise while colleagues hunted a knife killer, who was still yet to be caught last night.
On Thursday officers even donned riot helmets to arrest a protester blocking operations by squatting below a cherry picker.
And on Monday there were said to be 33 police officers standing by as contractors were stopped by campaigners from felling the tree that was finally axed yesterday. Design consultant Justin Buxton, 47, was arrested then ‘de-arrested’ after he sat on a wall to stop barriers being erected.
Yesterday he was dragged away from the same spot by private security guards. Around 25 campaigners sang and chanted as the job was done, while two men were arrested. One woman who lives on the street, where the council wants to axe 19 of the 65 trees, said: ‘I want to know which money pot this is coming out of.
‘If there is about 30 police here that means there is 30 police less out on the streets elsewhere. I’m a reasonable person and I don’t mind them chopping down diseased trees but this is ridiculous.’
More than 5,500 trees have so far been felled under a 25-year, £2.2billion contract to maintain Sheffield’s roads. Lib Dem peer Lord Scriven, a former leader of Sheffield City Council, has questioned the use of police resources.