Gazette letters: Protecting trees, housing associations, knife crime prevention and teaching STEM subjects

Short-back-and-sides given to the street trees outside Arsenal stadium recently. Picture: ANDREW MY

Short-back-and-sides given to the street trees outside Arsenal stadium recently. Picture: ANDREW MYER - Credit: Andrew Myer, Islington Green Par

Many thanks to Nicola Baird for her article on the benefits trees bring to our city, which was absolutely spot-on, writes Andrew Myer, Islington Green Party.

As she said, trees not only help absorb carbon from the atmosphere, they remove pollutants, provide shade and cool air in summer, offer habitat for wildlife, reduce flood risk, support our mental health, can even give us food, and, of course, look lovely.

I was therefore dismayed to see the "short-back-and-sides" given to the street trees outside Arsenal stadium recently.

Trees are usually best pruned in autumn or winter, while they are dormant, but these were ruthlessly hacked back after their spring foliage had grown, so visitors to the stadium forecourt this summer will have to make do without their shade or cooler air and suffer the bizarre sight of their sad bare skeletons.

I'm not sure whether it was Islington Council or Arsenal itself responsible for the mutilation but whoever it was has shown little understanding of trees' value to our community and little respect for our urban environment.

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I hope the fans and trees don't suffer too badly as a result.

I am writing regarding your editor's comment: "A quick look at the books with Clarion", writes Susan French, chief executive, Barnsbury Housing Association.

We were interested to read the editorial in last week's edition about large housing associations selling off properties in Islington.

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I would however like to respectfully point out that housing associations come in all sizes, and we rather take issue with the suggestion in your recent editorial that we all now prioritise "business" over community roots.

Barnsbury Housing Association's "Islington only" record goes back 50 years and while building new homes for genuinely affordable rent in this tiny borough is extremely hard, we are doing just that, albeit on a modest scale.

But we also have some sympathy for those who feel other areas may offer better use of their resources. And there is some irony too in that very often criticism directed at housing associations is prompted by our very efforts to build more homes here for people who cannot afford "Islington" prices.

Fifty years ago, housing associations like Barnsbury HA were held up as reaching the parts of Islington the council couldn't reach, more individually and flexibly than the council. Islington Council today is leading the way with its formidable drive to revive council housebuilding. But it cannot alone meet the enormous demand for new homes Islington so badly needs.

We're happy to take the knocks when deserved (or even not!) but a little credit please for the good we and others like us are doing locally, inspired by our heart-felt commitment to Islington.

Tackling re-offending is a key facet in our fight against rising violent crime, writesJ ennette Arnold OBE, London Assembly Member for Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest.

This is why it has been very positive to see City Hall recently increase its investment in this area.

The Mayor of London is expanding upon a pilot scheme which has been operating in Lewisham, Croydon, Southwark and Lambeth, making it a requirement for knife crime offenders, deemed to be the most at-risk of re-offending, to wear a GPS tag after their release from prison as part of strict licence conditions.

I welcome the decision to roll this out to our boroughs and believe it will help to improve the rehabilitation of persistent offenders and protect victims. It should also enable the police to more effectively detect and prevent violent crime.

It is vital that we continue to come together as a community and cultivate a strong relationship with our local police teams. In this way, we will be playing our part in stopping more tragedies from occurring on our streets by sharing with officers any relevant intelligence and information that we might have.

Rakhia Ismail, Mayor of Islington, writes about Islington primary schools taking part in The Great Science Share for Schools (GSSfS), which took place at London Metropolitan University:

It is very interesting to see young children carrying out their own scientific investigations, especially as its taking place in my home turf of Holloway. It's a great way to keep children mentally active and nurture their natural inquisitiveness.

I think it's important that young girls engage in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects, as there is a small percentage of women working professionally in the sciences.

Nevertheless, I believe it is still important to strike a balance in both professional and educational areas. Young boys needs to be engaged just as much as young girls.

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