Plans to chop down 70-year-old Islington mulberry tree paused
- Credit: Eilidh Murray
Plans to chop down a "rare" 70-year-old mulberry tree on a Highbury estate have been paused after more than 1,300 people signed a petition to save it.
Islington Council wants to build 38 new flats on the Park View Estate off Collins Road, and campaigners say it promised residents over the past three years the 10m-high tree would be protected.
But in what they describe as a "sudden U-turn", the council threatened to fell the tree within a month following a consultation in December.
According to the council, it "became increasingly clear" that cables and pipes would have to run in front of the building near to the tree as the project's design phase progressed.
A tree 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", deciding its chances of surviving the building work were "extremely slim".
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But Dr Peter Coles, an independent expert on mulberry trees, disagrees; he said the tree is in "fine health" and could live for another 200 or 300 years.
Zoe Alzamora, who launched a petition calling on the council to save the tree which now has over 1,300 signatures, said: "The tree is part of our heritage and has taken a lifetime to grow.
"It provides fruit every year, [is] enjoyed by everyone from the elderly to the small children of our estate, and [is] a habitat for wildlife - honestly, the drunk squirrels in the autumn are something else.
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"We understand it is necessary and right to build new homes on council land but promises for the safety of our tree are being broken."
The debacle comes hot on the heels of the controversial move to chop down seven trees at Highbury Corner to make way for a private block of flats which will fund social housing at Dixon Clark Court.
The council's housing chief, Cllr Diarmaid Ward, said "removing trees is always a last resort": "That is why, when the mulberry tree’s short remaining life and low chances of survival became apparent, the council moved quickly to propose planting a mature mulberry tree in a more suitable location as a replacement.
"In light of further feedback, we have agreed to temporarily pause this plan and residents will be updated in due course.
“We are pleased that the project will result in a net gain of six trees."