Gazette letters: Felling trees, The Hackney Society and toilet roll

The launch of Hackney: portrait of a community 1967  2017 at the town hall. Picture: SIMON MOONEY

The launch of Hackney: portrait of a community 1967 2017 at the town hall. Picture: SIMON MOONEY - Credit: simon mooney

Since Sir John Betjeman helped found The Hackney Society in 1967, two years after a major re-draw of the metropolitan boundaries, one might well say a lot of progress has been made in improving the borough as a place to live and work, writes Nick Perry, chairman, Hackney Society.

I have the great honour of being chair of The Hackney Society at the moment we launch a new book charting that progress over the last 50 years.

I can take no credit for its fascinating content: that has been the work of over 50 authors and photographers who have made Hackney their home or workplace.

But it’s plainly not been all rosy in that half century, and we’ve not shied away from telling it.

The borough has had more than its fair share of social and financial difficulties to face in that time. And they are far from gone today. Thankfully the progress made hasn’t been driven entirely by economics but by recognising a genuine need to keep the past in perspective and embrace it as part of our incredibly rich and diverse cultural and physical heritage.

I believe the Hackney Society can lay some claim to holding the council to account for its record on that score, over far more than the few years I’ve been a trustee. Balancing the need to preserve the best of our heritage against those cold hard financial pressures and the sometime harrowing social pressures is as difficult a judgement now as it has ever been.

The society has remained a critical friend of the council since its inception. Even my short time here has seen us in court, rallying against planning decisions we saw as critically poor – that, in our view, permanently erased heritage and yet failed to deliver a reasonable amount of affordable housing. But despite the apparent awkwardness of our relationship, we remain, I hope, a trusted friend. We are part of relevant consultations and our voice is heard – if not always as loudly as we’d like.

That the council kindly hosted our book launch event in the beautiful surrounds of the recently restored town hall and its newly created atrium is a testament to that working relationship. That the former mayor and key figure in achieving that restoration, Jules Pipe, was present to hear the current mayor Philip Glanville attest to the progress we’ve made together was an honour indeed.

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I came to Hackney in 2000; If I’d been born here in that year I’d be a native near-adult. As it is I’m an incomer who inadvertently made Hackney his home and is, like so many of my neighbours, proud he did so. I plan to stick around for as many of the next 50 as I can. Here’s to them!

If I write about trees a lot, it’s simply because after us humans they are probably the living thing that most shapes our experience of the city, writes Will McCallum, Newington Green.

Trees provide homes to wildlife, pave our streets, tower over our parks and shape the views from our windows.

Last week a plane tree along New River Path was cut down due to a fungal infection. The view from my office window forever altered.

Running up Clissold Crescent towards the park I stopped as I reached Church Street. The vista across the road seemed odd, and then I realised. Another tree cut down, the park’s tree canopy perimeter now interrupted by a patch of sky.

Walking around Abney Park Cemetery admiring the green tinged gravestones, I stopped to read a sign in the far north-east corner. It gave a little information about the enormous ash tree in front of me.

Propped up with manmade supports, the tree only survives in this urban environment due to the care of the park’s wardens.

Their care is rewarded with the huge amount of little creatures now dependent on this tree, its giant hollow a home to all kinds of fungus, its branches the feeding grounds of many types of beast.

Felling trees may sometimes be the easiest option; sometimes it is necessary.

But such is their cultural and ecological importance that it should never be a decision taken lightly.

Popping out to your local Hackney corner shop for some loo roll might seem harmless, but I recently learned that my choice of toilet paper could be contributing to the destruction of one of the world’s most important forests, writes Conor Sneyd, Norcott Road, Stoke Newington.

The Great Northern Forest, also known as the boreal forest, stretches across Canada, Sweden, Finland and Russia, and is home to almost a quarter of the world’s trees (750billion).

It stores huge amounts of carbon in its trees and soils, playing a crucial role in preventing climate chaos, and also provides a habitat to 20,000 plant and animal species, including lynx and reindeer.

But the Great Northern Forest is under threat, and has suffered the greatest gross loss of any forest area in the world in recent years. 40 per cent of this deforestation is caused by logging, which is where toilet paper comes in.

The brand Velvet, available in countless Hackney shops, might seem like a safe choice, with its “three tree promise” to plant three trees for every one it uses, but sadly it’s not that simple. Velvet (along with Cushelle and Plenty) is produced by the company Essity, which sources pulp from a company called SCA (Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget) Forestry, who are actively deforesting areas of the Great Northern Forest designated as areas of “high conservation value” by the Swedish government.

I’m calling on Essity to become a genuinely “green” company. You can join me by signing Greenpeace’s petition here: