Gazette letters: Tree felling, People Friendly Streets, air quality and planning changes

The little forest at Dixon Clark Court. Picture: Alex Hofford.

The little forest at Dixon Clark Court. Picture: Alex Hofford. - Credit: Archant

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Gazette readers this week.

Felling little forest will not tackle climate emergency

Eilidh Murray, Canonbury, full address supplied, writes:

The recent occupation of Dixon Clark Court’s ‘little forest’ by XR Islington has highlighted the plight of these seven mature trees.

The facts have been well documented in your paper over the past weeks and months. I still struggle to join up the dots.

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1. Last year, the council declared a climate emergency with much fanfare and a photo opportunity on the steps of the Town Hall with both Islington MPs.

On its website, it proudly states: “Islington Council declared a climate emergency in June 2019, recognising the need to drastically reduce carbon emissions in the borough. A pledge was made to work towards being a net zero borough by 2030.”

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All well and good. However, we need to ask ourselves, did the council understand what they were signing up for?

2. In the council’s Biodiversity Action Plan, updated in September 2020 as a result of 175 (consultation) responses, it states that 17 per cent of Islington is deficient in access to nature. Cutting down a little forest won’t help.

3. In the same BAP, there is the statement: “Greater amount of natural spaces in or around schools are associated with better emotional, behavioural and learning processes and outcomes.” Cutting down a little forest won’t help the children at Canonbury School or the young people living in Dixon Clark Court.

4. The council states that its vision is “to protect and enhance Islington’s biodiversity”. Felling trees affects not just the trees themselves, but all the other life forms which live on and in the trees above and below ground - life forms often invisible to humans but which are a key part of the natural food chain.

5. Under action plan 1.2 in the BAP, the council “will ensure adequate mitigation for trees lost to development and seek net gain and canopy cover increase where possible”.

Planting a hedge and some saplings does not compensate for the loss of seven mature trees. It will take another two generations of humans before the new planting will be as effective as the existing trees when it comes to carbon capture.

6. Action plan 1.8 is that the council “will ensure that existing trees are protected where possible and appropriate numbers and species of new trees are planted in new developments”.

Chopping down seven trees where it is possible to think again ensures nothing but the bulldozing through of council plans regardless of any objections on any grounds.

So why did the council bother to declare a climate emergency? Beats me.

Can’t the council see that in the face of climate change, we need action and not empty assurances?

Please sign this petition: I propose all trees should have TPO (tree preservation order) protection and only be opted out on certain grounds.

The climate emergency won’t wait, it’s upon us now.

Less traffic will help local shops

John Hartley, Islington, full address supplied, writes:

I was delighted last week to see the Gazette’s reporting of the vital support needed by our local shops. They are a vital resource for our community, and many are bending over backwards to help us all through this pandemic.

But many people are still buying online from places like Amazon that not only treat their employees badly but also make little tax contribution to the maintenance of the infrastructure they rely on to run their highly profitable businesses.

However, there is hope.

With Islington’s investment in People Friendly Streets project, it will be easier and more pleasant for the vast majority of Islington residents to access their local businesses, which will benefit from greater footfall from local shoppers.

This is backed up by a TfL study in 2018 which found that people walking and cycling visit high streets more frequently and spend more money there compared to people in cars.

For more information, visit

Airport runway ‘hypocrisy’

Sian Berry, Green Party candidate for Mayor of London, writes:

Heathrow Airport started action in the Supreme Court this month challenging the decision to send government policy on airports back to the drawing board.

Greens in London celebrated when the High Court ruled in February that the climate emergency made policies to support a third runway incompatible with new government commitments to prevent runaway global warming.

The idea that the greed of one business should override all our futures in this way is outrageous.

But also outrageous is the current mayor of London’s continued support for the expansion of Gatwick Airport. Climate change doesn’t care which runway emissions come from, and Sadiq Khan’s claim to be the “greenest mayor ever” falls apart while he keeps supporting new runways in this way.

My colleague in the London Assembly, Caroline Russell, has repeatedly challenged the mayor over this hypocrisy, and we’ll continue to hold him to account.

We are calling on all Londoners who want real climate action to join us in calling on Sadiq Khan to ignore the lobbyists and change his mind on Gatwick, and if he refuses, to vote for a real Green mayor in May 2021.

Planning changes to ‘attack’ shops

Dr Alison Moore, Londonwide Assembly Member, writes:

The Covid-19 pandemic is not the only threat to our high streets.

Amongst the government’s proposals to overhaul our planning system are further attacks on our local shops.

The situation is already stark with the Centre for Retail Research finding that almost 14,000 shops across the country pulled down their shutters for the final time this year alone.

Despite this, ministers have just pushed through an expansion of permitted development rights, enabling retail and office space to be demolished to give way to flats.

These proposals would also remove democratic control from councillors and bar local people from being able to formally object to these schemes, which could permanently transform the face of our communities.

Whilst permitted development projects now have to abide by minimum space standards, they still do not have to be set at an affordable rent or provide outside space for tenants.

More permitted development and the gutting of our high streets is not the solution to our housing crisis.

The government must urgently have a rethink on this.

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