PETITION UPDATE from Deepa Shetty, Sheffield, United Kingdom
PRESS STATEMENT FROM DAVID DILLNER
27 APR 2016 —
I am extremely disappointed with the Court’s decision to refuse permission and the decision to dismiss my claim to protect the trees of Sheffield due to the budget implications for the PFI contract and the Council and PFI investors. The judge was fundamentally wrong to view this case through the prism of finance and any increase in the Council’s costs – it is about fundamental fairness through public engagement and environmental protection for the trees of Sheffield which are a great environmental asset.
My legal team does not accept the strident criticism in the judgment and will be appealing the decision to the Court of Appeal before the end of the week on the basis the judge erred as matter of law on the grounds raised in my case. The grounds of appeal are being formulated to deal with the inordinate length of the judgement on what in my view were two very simple grounds of claim relating to the Council’s failure to carry out a lawful consultation and the failure to conduct a full environmental assessment. In my view, supported by the arguments of my legal team, the Court has failed to uphold EU environmental law designed to impose strict obligations on authorities to ensure, prior to taking damaging measures, that the full environmental consequences and alternatives like flexi-paving are fully evaluated to reduce environmental damage.
The judgement on the consultation ground is surprising given the line of questioning the judge put to the Council’s barrister during the hearing.
Mr Justice Gilbart expressed criticism of the conduct of council officers when hearing arguments on the Council’s so called strong leader model of government. The Council told the Court in evidence that the Full Council has “NO POWER TO DECIDE THAT FELLING SHOULD CEASE NOR HOW THE PROGRAMME OF WORKS TO HIGHWAYS SHOULD BE CARRIED OUT.”
What this means to my case is the local government of Sheffield is being made subservient to the financial interests of private finance syndicates who stand to make millions from the £2.2 billion Streets Ahead Project. This simply cannot be right in a democracy when the investors are in fact the citizens of Sheffield who underwrite the PFI contract through their rates.
I will be seeking the Council’s immediate assurance that it will not recommence felling until the Court of Appeal has considered whether to grant permission for my case to be heard. Given that the proceedings remain in dispute I look forward to discussing with the Council officers an agreed way forward to ensure no unnecessary felling ensues in the short term.
Save Sheffield’s Trees
Sheffield is known as one of the greenest cities in Europe. We’re proud of our city and we’re a great example to other cities in the UK and Europe. But this is now under threat! 50% of Sheffield’s mature street trees may be at risk of felling.