John Errington, 65, of Melrose Road, Burngreave, who has only a few weeks left to live petitioned under trees to prevent felling even during treatment for cancer.

As a tree enthusiast and an active member of activist groups in Sheffield including Sheffield Tree Action Groups (STAG), Mr Errington spent the last few years campaigning against the felling, which was planned for over 17,000 trees across the city.

One of the affected roads includes Abbeyfield Road in Burngreave.

 

 

Photo by David Lalley, Abbeyfield Road 2008

 

Abbeyfield Road post-felling

Mr Errington, who was diagnosed with cancer of the upper jaw and neck over a year beforehand said: “I had to sit under trees on Abbeyfield Road when I was ill. Not as ill as this, mind. But I took my nutrition, medication and fold-up easy chair!”

Yesterday, further talks took place between Sheffield City Council, STAG and construction company Amey.

Amey were responsible for the felling after a programme was launched to remove dangerous and diseased trees from footpaths in the city.

Campaigning earlier in the year led to a pause on the cutting down of trees by Amey, which was part of the Streets Ahead programme.

The Streets Ahead Programme is a £2.2bn, 25-year Private Financial Initiative (PFI) contract with Amey to maintain the city’s roads, pavements, streetlights and trees.

Mr Errington described how during the height of the fellings activists would park their cars in front of trees in an attempt to prevent them being cut down. Many protesters would gather around trees which were about to be felled and stand their ground.

Mr Errington said: “I was once wearing a Sheffield City Council jacket while tying a sign to a tree in protest and was asked, ‘Don’t you get some hassle from these campaigners?’ but I was one of them.

Many innocent people were imprisoned and assaulted, those who are responsible for this need to be held to account.”

Despite a number of reports discussing agreements from Sheffield City Council to reduce the number of trees to be felled, this is not the case.

A statement released by STAG representative Paul Selby who attended the talks said: “There is no agreement or deal. Progress has been made, the council intent is to save a proportion of the 305 still threatened street trees.

More talks are needed for more progress to be made. Please be patient and be thankful that the pause continues whilst the talks are ongoing. None of us want the alternative of on the streets conflict.”

Mr Errington said that the ideal outcome of these discussions would be to remove PFI element involved in the plans and replace it with a council led programme which works to purely remove dangerous or diseased trees for environmental reasons, not for financially driven ones.

Sheffield has a number of green spaces which Mr Errington has explored since falling ill. Some of his favourites and less well-known areas include the Bowden Housteads Wood as well as the wooded area around the confluence of the River Don and the River Loxley.

There is more to be discussed on this issue, but the passion and determination of activists such as John make the outcome of this ongoing debate look significantly brighter, and hopefully full of trees.

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