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Hackney protesters ‘occupy’ tree to stop development plans going ahead

PUBLISHED: 09:22 27 May 2020 | UPDATED: 14:44 29 May 2020

Campaigners hoping to save the 150 year old London Plane tree that stands outside the former Happy Man pub on Woodberry Grove N4, near the junction with Seven Sisters Road. Campaigners are with the tree 24 hours a day. Picture: Polly Hancock

Campaigners hoping to save the 150 year old London Plane tree that stands outside the former Happy Man pub on Woodberry Grove N4, near the junction with Seven Sisters Road. Campaigners are with the tree 24 hours a day. Picture: Polly Hancock

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Hackney neighbours have rallied their numbers to “occupy” a tree and stop developers from chopping it down.

Campaigners hoping to save the 150 year old London Plane tree that stands outside the former Happy Man pub on Woodberry Grove N4, near the junction with Seven Sisters Road. Campaigners are with the tree 24 hours a day. Picture: Polly HancockCampaigners hoping to save the 150 year old London Plane tree that stands outside the former Happy Man pub on Woodberry Grove N4, near the junction with Seven Sisters Road. Campaigners are with the tree 24 hours a day. Picture: Polly Hancock

Berkeley Homes plans to fell a tree believed to be more than 150 years old near The Happy Man pub as part of The Woodberry Down Estate regeneration.

This will see more than 5,500 new homes, community facilities and public spaces built on the site.

Hackney Council has given Berkeley permission to cut down the plane tree, but when workers erected hoarding around the entire development site, neighbours took action.

A message posted on a 16,000-strong petition against the plans reads: “They are trying to cut the tree down now. We now only have minutes to save the tree.

Woodberry Down Estate tree. Picture: Geoff BellWoodberry Down Estate tree. Picture: Geoff Bell

“An anonymous caller has let us know (twice) that they believe the tree is scheduled for felling this weekend, over the Bank Holiday. Now they have fenced the tree off and the police are there. However we have people under the tree, and children, so they can’t cut it down now.”

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The group is now “occupying” the tree 24 hours a day and has set up a dedicated website.

Vice-chair of the Woodberry Down Community Organisation Geoff Bell told the Gazette: “It’s really stirred up a lot of feeling and emotion.

An artist's impression of the new homes on the Woodberry Down Estate. Picture: Hackney CouncilAn artist's impression of the new homes on the Woodberry Down Estate. Picture: Hackney Council

“The council and the police, I suppose they could drag all the people off the tree, take them away and knock it down, but I think it’s very clear they have to start talking.”

In a blog post, Hackney mayor Philip Glanville said this was a “last resort”: “To everyone’s disappointment, we could not find a way to avoid removing this tree without huge delays to the construction of desperately needed genuinely affordable homes for social rent, and a complete redesign of the project.

“Building new homes is never easy, and is full of trade-offs and hard decisions.”

A spokesperson from Berkeley Homes said redesigning the plans would result in a 15-month delay, adding: “In addition to the new homes, the proposals – which were designed in partnership with the community over 18 months - will deliver significant improvements including better air quality and a 154 per cent improvement to the biodiversity of site, providing more wildlife habitats.”

Campaigners hoping to save the 150 year old London Plane tree that stands outside the former Happy Man pub on Woodberry Grove N4, near the junction with Seven Sisters Road. Campaigners are with the tree 24 hours a day. Picture: Polly HancockCampaigners hoping to save the 150 year old London Plane tree that stands outside the former Happy Man pub on Woodberry Grove N4, near the junction with Seven Sisters Road. Campaigners are with the tree 24 hours a day. Picture: Polly Hancock

She said proposals include a park the size of 29 tennis courts and 175 new native trees.

The dedicated website is at www.thehappymantree.org


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