Tree protesters' 'tunnel' revealed as bailiffs swoop at Highbury Corner
- Credit: Polly Hancock
The crew behind the Euston HS2 protest claim they have built another tunnel at Highbury Corner, in protest at Islington Council's plans to chop down seven 50-year-old trees to make way for a block of flats.
Bailiffs apparently discovered the "hidden tunnel" when they tried to evict the camp at Dixon Clark Court, off Canonbury Road, at 5am on Tuesday morning (February 9), according to reports from eco-activists.
A statement issued by the Save The Trees campaign today said: “Early this morning, authorities were reeling to discover they’d failed to learn their lesson from The Great Escape – that there’s always more than one tunnel.”
Islington Council said it "could not confirm anything about tunnels at this stage", and said its representative could "just see one person in a hole".
Campaigners say there is a tunnel stocked with food, water, bedding, battery packs and other essentials.
They have not said how many people it holds, but it is thought that veteran peace campaigner Maria Gallastegui, 62, who lived in a tent outside Parliament for six years, may be inside.
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Protesters claim the tunnel at the site dubbed the Highbury Corner Tree Protection Camp, shares many of the same features as the 100ft tunnel network at Euston Square Gardens, which was dug secretly for months to try to stop the planned high-speed railway, which campaigners have warned will damage ancient woodland.
Eco activists claimed squatters' rights to the Norwegian maple, sycamores and chestnuts at Highbury Corner in October to try to stop them being felled, and have lived in pallet huts, tents and treehouses ever since.
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The council says the block of 14 private flats it wants to build will help solve the housing crisis, and will fund a net gain of 25 flats for social rent on site.
Campaigners have been urging council chiefs to reconsider those plans, and instead build on one of 80 council-owned brownfield sites elsewhere in the borough.
Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists originally occupied the site but Save The Trees took over after XR struck a deal with the council that it would plant more trees than originally pledged when the development gained planning permission in 2018.
The council has now promised to plant 63 saplings and trees to make up for the loss - 13 of which will be at Dixon Clark Court.
In a statement the council's housing chief, Cllr Diarmaid Ward, said: "We have given protesters who chose to remain every opportunity to comply with the directions of the court, including additional time.
"It’s truly disheartening that people who claim to care about both trees and homes have forced an outcome resulting in fewer trees for the borough, significant costs, and further delays to building much-need council homes for local families in desperate need.”