Sheffield City Council calls temporary halt to tree work

Sheffield City Council is to call a temporary halt to its tree replacement work, the BBC understands.

Campaigners say the council has cut down a number of healthy trees among the thousands felled since 2012.

The BBC’s Dino Sofos told the Daily Politics show there would be “no felling for the next few weeks” while those involved discussed the issue.

The news comes after Environment Secretary Michael Gove said he would do “anything required” to stop the work.

The BBC has approached Sheffield City Council for a comment.

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Mr Sofos said he understood there would be a pause in the felling during the Easter holidays.

“What I’m hearing is, during that period both sides are going to get around the table because [the situation] is unsustainable,” he said.

It is understood that work such as pruning will continue during the hiatus but no trees will be cut down.

The tree-felling is part of the £2bn 25-year Streets Ahead project, which is being carried out by contractor Amey and has seen about 5,500 trees cut down since 2012.

The council says the trees have been assessed as dead, dying, diseased, damaging or dangerous, and each tree cut down will be replaced.

However, campaigners say healthy trees have also been lost.

The dispute has led to a series of stand-offs between protestors, contractors, private security staff and police, with a number of campaigners arrested and a court injunction imposed as a result.

Speaking on the BBC’s Daily Politics, Conservative MP for Chichester Gillian Keegan said: “It does seem ridiculous. The whole country is covered with tree-lined streets that have these problems with roots and trying to keep flat pavements.

“This is something every other council deals with. What on earth is happening [in Sheffield], to have police on the streets, for this to have escalated in to such a big deal? This happens day in, day out across the country.”

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‘Beast of Wombwell’ Peter Pickering found dead

A convicted child killer dubbed the “Beast of Wombwell” has died in a psychiatric hospital.

Peter Pickering, 80, stabbed and strangled 14-year-old Shirley Boldy in Wombwell, near Barnsley, in 1972 and was suspected of murdering Wakefield schoolgirl Elsie Frost in 1965.

On Tuesday he was convicted of raping a woman weeks before he killed Shirley and was waiting to be sentenced.

He had been detained under a hospital order since admitting killing Shirley.

West Yorkshire Police said Pickering died on Saturday night after falling ill in a secure psychiatric accommodation in Berkshire and his death was not being treated as suspicious.

Det Sup Nick Wallen said: “We can now formally confirm that Peter Pickering was the man we arrested and interviewed over the last two years as part of the renewed investigation into the murder of 14-year-old schoolgirl Elsie Frost in Wakefield in 1965.

“We strongly suspected that Peter Pickering was responsible for her murder. We had been liaising with the Crown Prosecution Service and it was our expectation that Pickering would be charged in due course.

“His unexpected death clearly means that will no longer happen.”

Detectives said the rape Pickering was convicted of this week only came to light while they were investigating the murder of Elsie, who was stabbed in the back and head while walking through a railway tunnel, just off a canal towpath.

The woman he raped, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told his trial she did not think she would have been believed if she had reported the attack in the 1970s.

She was then persuaded by police to co-operate in 2016.

‘A monster’

During the rape trial, Leeds Crown Court heard Pickering had lured his victim into his van before driving to a secluded spot in 1972.

He then subjected her to an ordeal that involved handcuffing her and burning her breasts with cigarettes.

The woman told the jury: “I remain of the fervent belief that whether he has a mental illness or not, the man is a monster and wherever he is now that’s the right place for him to be.”

Weeks after the rape, he abducted, raped, strangled and stabbed 14-year-old Shirley Boldy to death on her way home from school in Wombwell.

He later admitted manslaughter by diminished responsibility the same year and has been in secure psychiatric hospitals, including Broadmoor.

Most recently he had been detained at Thornford Park Hospital in Berkshire.

In 1965 a major murder inquiry was launched in 1965 after Elsie’s body was found at the bottom of a flight of steps by a dog walker.

In 2015 police launched a fresh appeal to find her killer.

It coincided with the BBC Radio 4 podcast series Who Killed Elsie Frost? which followed her brother Colin Frost and sister Anne Cleave as they sought justice for the schoolgirl.