‘They may cut the tree down, but they are losing the argument,’ says Happy Man Tree Supporter after council granted injunction
- Credit: The Friends of the Happy Man Tree
An injunction and possession order to remove protesters ‘occupying’ The Happy Man Tree in Woodberry Down has been given the green light.
Supporters of the 150-year-old Plane Tree were “devastated” by the outcome at a High Court hearing on June 26.
The ruling in favour of Hackney Council and Berkeley Homes means work can continue on The Woodberry Down Estate regeneration project and the tree chopped down.
A spokesperson for a group campaigning to save the tree called The Friends of the Happy Man Tree, said: “This legal blunderbuss is a bullying and an extreme weapon for any organisation to use.
“We are upset to see that Hackney Council and Berkeley Homes have resorted to the tactics of the rich and powerful to achieve their aim.”
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A judge authorised the serving of a “sweeping” interim injunction on “persons unknown” meaning anyone near the tree and those seeking to prevent its felling must vacate the area or risk breaching the injunction.
Breach of an injunction is a contempt of court and punishable with an unlimited fine or imprisonment for a period of up to two years.
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The Friends of the Happy Man Tree’s spokesperson told the Gazette: “Throughout this protest we have asked for dialogue. Instead, Hackney Council and Berkeley Homes are using an injunction against anyone, threatening unlimited fines and imprisonment.
“This shows they are morally bankrupt because of their failure to engage with the protest. They may well be able to cut the tree down, but they are losing the argument.”
But Hackney Council says it’s “pleased” with the approval of its application which will ensure “hundreds of desperately needed, genuinely affordable homes for local people at Woodberry Down”.
A spokesperson for the council said: “This was always a last resort, following months of consultation and meetings with local residents, and the plans being approved by the council’s planning committee in April.
“We will continue to work closely with local people and their elected representatives on next steps.”
The council’s plans at Woodberry Down include the planting of 175 new trees and the creation of a new park and public open space.
Despite feeling “deeply upset” about the pending loss of the “much-loved” ancient tree, located near the former Happy Man Pub, Woodberry Down Estate residents are “determined to fight on.”
“Residents have been concerned about the fate of the Happy Man Tree for many months, but the community that has come together, and grown immeasurably, to save it.
“They are determined that their community will continue to grow, learn and evolve in order to fight for and save the many other mature beautiful trees that are at risk as part of the development of Woodberry Down,” a spokesperson for The Friends of the Happy Man Tree said.
A spokesperson for Berkeley Homes said:“Following the recent approval of the planning application for Phase 3, we want to move forward with the plans to deliver 584 much needed new homes, and plant 175 new trees, as quickly as possible.
“To enable this, Hackney Council has made an application for a possession order and injunction on Woodberry Grove which will allow us to remove the London Plane tree whilst respecting the safety of the protestors. We will be making no further comment on these proceedings until they conclude.”