Campaigners told tree will be cut down after 'temporary pause' in plans

The mulberry tree on the Park View estate, which is at risk of felling by Islington Council

Islington Council says the tree is infected with bracket fungi and will now be cut down - Credit: Eilidh Murray

Plans to axe a Highbury mulberry tree have been set in motion once again after a "temporary pause" last week. 

The 70-year-old specimen was previously due to be cut down as part of a development for 38 new flats on the Park View Estate off Collins Road, but things changed when campaigners garnered 1,300 signatures on a petition urging the authority to reconsider.

The Gazette reported last week that Islington said it would "temporarily pause this plan and residents will be updated in due course".

A letter has now been sent to people on the Park View Estate informing them the tree is once again at risk. 

The letter says although Islington Council was initially planning to offer residents the option of moving the tree or planting a new one, an inspection of the mulberry tree on February 16 revealed it is infected with bracket fungi. 

It advises residents and children to steer clear, reading: "This fungi causes progressive decay and the tree will become structurally unsound and eventually fail. Therefore, the option of moving the tree is no longer possible."

The tree's health has been the subject of contention before - an expert commissioned by the local authority in October 2019 came to the conclusion that the tree was "shedding its heavy branches and is very close to the end of its life", while an independent expert deemed it in "fine health" and able to live for another 200 or 300 years.

A new, mature 10-foot mulberry tree will be "sourced" instead, the letter said, and planted "once the landscaping works take place" in a location "to be agreed by both residents and an arborologist".  

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The letter continues: "As part of the original proposal there will also be 12 additional trees planted across the estate, a new hornbeam hedge, perennial planting of geraniums, grasses, anemones, aster, lady’s mantle, snowdrops and a wild flower meadow."

Cllr Caroline Russell (Green, Highbury East) said the situation is a symbol of the erosion of trust in the council on the estate.  

"In a year with an extraordinary global pandemic that has kept us all living at home, our appreciation of green space around us where we live, we have come to appreciate that green space and trees and all the stuff around us," she said. 

"Cutting down trees is a violent act and it's very upsetting.

"Everyone's mental health has suffered over this last year and we need these green spaces like never before."