Sheffield tree lawyer offers to help Tonbridge campaign for free
by Andy Tong | 30th November 2018
A LAWYER who helped to keep tree protesters out of prison in Sheffield has offered his pro bono services to the campaign to protect the chestnut tree on River Lawn.
Since 2012, around 5,500 trees have been cut down by the Yorkshire city council's felling and replacement contract aimed at improving roads and footpaths. A further 12,000 are scheduled to be felled over the next 20 years.
Paul Powlesland has acted on behalf of several residents in Sheffield who received suspended prison sentences for breaking an injunction banning ‘direct action’ protests against the project.
The 32-year-old barrister and environmentalist wrote on the campaign group Keep River Lawn Green’s [KRLG] Facebook page to congratulate their efforts in mounting a week-long vigil, saying: “I’m seriously impressed by the courage and determination many of you have shown to protect your beautiful tree.
“I’m a barrister who represented the Sheffield tree protectors in their dispute with the council who wanted to remove thousands of their beloved trees.
'Be under no illusion that you are alone in this struggle. There are so many people around the country waking up to the destruction of our natural world and doing what they can do to protect it'
“If you run into legal problems (such as the council trying to use civil court proceedings or injunctions to remove you, or the police trying to use criminal offences against you), I will offer any advice I can for free.”
He added: "I just wanted to add as well: be under no illusion that you are alone in this struggle.
"There are so many people around the country waking up to the destruction of our natural world and doing what they can do to protect it.”
Mr Powlesland offered to be on the end of the phone when Mark Hood, chair of KRLG, met representatives of the developer Assura on Friday [November 30].
Mr Hood told the Times: “This has been great for our campaign to save River Lawn because it has raised the profile nationally and we now have a very well respected barrister following our campaign.
“He was available to help us this morning if we’d wanted it – he said ‘just call me in the meeting if you want to’.
“We have had lots of support from the Sheffield campaign and from their arbiculturalists – there’s quite a network in place now.”
On November 6, less than a week before the centenary of the Armistice, it was announced that 32 trees planted in honour of fallen World War One soldiers in the Yorkshire city had been saved from being cut down.
The story mirrors that of River Lawn, which was gifted to the community after the Great War in recognition of the sacrifice of the townspeople.
Tonbridge Urban District Council bought land in the 1920s specifically to provide recreation and employment through the Employment Grants Committee, which sought to provide work for veterans of the war. The trees were planted by veterans on the site in 1926.
The trees on Sheffield’s Western Road were a designated war memorial, planted in 1919 in memory of pupils at a nearby school who died in the conflict.