‘Tree-gate’: Protest over planned felling of trees in Highbury to build private and council homes

PUBLISHED: 16:54 09 March 2020

Paul Saunders is appealing for artists to help design his community garden. Picture: Joshua Hurston

Paul Saunders is appealing for artists to help design his community garden. Picture: Joshua Hurston

© Joshua Thurston - All Rights Reserved

Campaigners climbed up trees to stop a council contractor cutting them down this morning.

A protest was held outside Dixon Clarke Court in Canonbury Lane in opposition to Islington Council's planned felling of seven mature trees.

The council has planning permission to build 41 new homes on the site, with 27 for social rent. A block of 14 private flats is due to be erected where the trees currently stand, it will subsidise the council homes.

In total, 18 trees are set for the chop and contractors started felling some of them today but haven't yet hacked at the seven aforesaid trees facing Highbury Corner.

A petition signed by 294 people calling on the town hall to 'save our trees' was presented to full council on February 27.

Conor McHugh, who started the petition, today accused the council of 'green washing' and a 'blatant disregard for the environment'.

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He added: 'They shouldn't be selling public green space for private dwellings.

'They didn't have to put the homes right on top of the trees after declaring a climate emergency.'

Cllr Caroline Russell (Green, Highbury West) said: 'The council is right to be building new council homes but at Dixon Clark court the new private homes are separate from the estate and will have a separate entrance. Islington estates have integrated communities regardless of tenure. This plan breaks that principle.'

But housing chief Diarmaid Ward said all the homes will be 'tenure blind' and built to the same specifications. He added: 'The first thing to say is Dixon Clark Court is going to deliver 27 desperately needed new council homes. [...]

'There are some private homes on the site but that's vital to pay for council homes and landscaping and a new community room. [...]

'Trees play a vital role in tackling the climate emergency and we have actually got 40,000 [in Islington] and a canopy cover 25 per cent better than London's average.'

He said removing the trees will sacrifice about 750 meters of canopy cover, but stressed the council will replant 12 on-site to provide about 470 meters of cover.

Cllr Ward added: 'We are looking at other places in the area to not only replace the remaining 300 meters of canopy cover but actually provide an increase in the number of trees.'

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