The operation was carried out early on Sunday morning by national firm Acorn Environmental Management Group, leaving only four of the 14 lime trees standing.
Campaigners had fought to halt the plan and had been in discussion with the Highways Agency and council to come up with an alternative solution.
Unsurprisingly the news was not well received by those involved in the campaign. In fact it’s safe to say that many people became hysterical, as though someone had been assassinated.
Talk was of the underhand, dirty ‘tactics’ of felling the trees early on a Sunday when there was little traffic around; how the trees had been ‘murdered’ by ‘vandals’; and how people were distraught at the actions of a council that they thought was listening to them.
It wasn’t a fair fight said one (it never is).
Various individuals have since encouraged civil disobedience in retaliation including stopping traffic in Edgar Street, wedging potatoes in the council leader’s car exhaust and a tongue-in-cheek comment (we hope) of desiring an American with a gun to come and wreak revenge on Herefordshire’s elected representatives.
All this for 10 trees. It’s a shame some of the same anger was not vented over cuts to adult social care, youth services or even public toilets.
The outrage, however, is now being turned into a loose campaign to kick out the ‘dead wood’ from the council: It’s Our County members are encouraging people to stand for election in 2015 and an online petition calling for a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the council is now slowly gaining momentum.
Yet this opposition is set to make the same mistakes again.
Outside of a few areas in Hereford city itself, It’s Our County has little support in the rural wards where it would be necessary to strategically unseat influential Tory councillors. And the cutting down of a few trees is nothing out of the ordinary in the countryside where many voters will be indifferent to yesterday’s events in Edgar Street. Without strong support from the villages the Tories will retain their grip on power in the county.
Now is the exact time to remember that the petition to save the Edgar Street trees failed, despite being signed by almost 3,000 people (and let’s not forget the It’s Our City petition against the Edgar Street Grid in 2009 that was signed by many thousands more but also had no effect). Calling for people to sign another petition as a show of no confidence in Herefordshire Council will ultimately fail. Let’s be blunt, it’s a complete waste of time.
If the aim is to kick out the council then more effective tactics need to be used. Drop the petitions, drop the fluffy yarn-bombing and start being awkward—Egypt didn’t oust Mubarak by knitting scarves did they.
Discontent with Herefordshire Council is widespread, although the motivations and solutions are many and varied.
If people are serious about breaking the council then we must take effective action: all their meetings should be picketed, rallies should held in Hereford and all the market towns. Mass flyposting across the county will spread a message of resistance and will signal a desire for change.
Power must be taken from the council with a strategy of ‘counter-power’: decisions should be made in our neighbourhoods and villages, and rulings coming from Brockington should be ignored and disobeyed.
Crucially we all must be involved, let’s not leave this to the (wannabe) politicians.
Hereford lost 10 trees yesterday, but let’s not dwell on it: worse things are happening and future injustices must be prevented.