Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Sheffield tree-felling: Councillor resigns over 'abuse'

Councillor Bryan Lodge Image copyright Sheffield City Council
Image caption Councillor Bryan Lodge has quit his cabinet post but still remains a councillor

The councillor who was leading Sheffield's controversial tree-felling programme has quit the role.

Councillor Bryan Lodge had been cabinet member for Environment and Streetscene at the city council for two years.

Since 2012, 5,500 trees, assessed by the authority as dead, dying, diseased, damaging or dangerous, have been cut down. But protesters have said healthy trees have also been lost.

Mr Lodge said "nasty and personal abuse" had been directed at his team.

In a Facebook post, Mr Lodge - who remains a councillor - said: "Never let the truth get lost in the aggressive, nasty and personal abuse directed at us."

He said the last two years had been "interesting/challenging".

City council leader Julie Dore said he had resigned because of stress, which was affecting his health.

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In the Facebook post Mr Lodge said he was proud to have worked with "such a dedicated, hardworking and professional team of people".

"We need to get the people of Sheffield, all the people, back on board to realise the benefits of this biggest ever investment in the infrastructure of the city," he added.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Sheffield Council has said only dead, dying, diseased, damaging or dangerous trees have been felled, but campaigners say healthy trees have also been lost

He said the authority had "worked to improve the highway network across our fantastic city" but described it as a "political football".

"I hope that in years to come, others can hold their heads high because I know I can," he said.

"To the campaigners, I respect your passion but can't condone the behaviour. Respect plays both ways."

Mrs Dore said: "Over the last several weeks, Bryan has been expressing concern about his ability to continue in his role because of the impact on his family and his own personal health and well-being."

She said he sustained "an enormous amount of personal abuse".

However, councillor Alison Teal, who was arrested during a tree protest, said Mr Lodge had "profoundly mishandled" the tree-felling programme and "entirely lost the confidence of Sheffield people".

Mr Lodge has been replaced by councillor Lewis Dagnall.

Image copyright Dave Higgens/PA
Image caption Protesters stand next to a rare Huntingdon Elm tree in Sheffield

The authority said it was replacing trees it classed as "damaging" or "discriminatory" by planting new ones as part of its £2bn 25-year Streets Ahead project.

But campaigners have said the trees should be saved and instead amendments be made to surrounding pavements and roads.

In March, Environment Secretary Michael Gove waded into the row and accused the council of "environmental vandalism", promising to do "anything required" to end the tree-felling.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said Mr Gove was urging the authority to agree on a new plan to reduce levels of felling across the city.

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