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Sunday, January 03, 2021

Saving our trees

Last year may have seen nature reassert itself after we all locked ourselves in and stop polluting the atmosphere with car emmissions amongst other things, but it seems that profit still wins out when it comes down to the real choices facing developers.

Here in Swansea a property developer and his firm were fined a total of £300,000 in October 2019 for ordering a 176-year-old giant redwood be cut down for new homes. They are appealing, a case that will likely come to court in 2021.

There are countless stories of councils failing to protect valuable trees but surely one of the worst must be in Hackney, where according to the Independent, a healthy 150-year-old plane tree in Hackney, which was voted the Woodland Trust’s tree of the year by the public, is now due to be felled as part of local redevelopment plans:

The plight of the Happy Man Tree, as it is known due to its proximity to a former pub called the Happy Man, inspired an outpouring of love from those who live nearby, who have dressed the tree with garlands and hung signs and banners up drawing attention to the plans to chop it down.

The tree is being removed as part of a housing redevelopment project, which will provide social housing, but the developer - Berkeley Homes - admitted earlier this year that had they known how much the tree was valued they would have drawn up different plans which could have kept it. Though they said it was too late to do so.

As well as seeing the tree named England’s Tree of the Year, the plans to cut it down have sparked street demonstrations, court injunctions of protesters and the opposition of over 25,000 people.

But this week it appears Berkeley Homes are now on course to remove the tree as planned and fearing a backlash, have obtained an order by the High Court which states that anyone who peacefully stands under the tree after 9am on December 13 could face a prison sentence of up to two years and may have their assets seized.

In my view the removal of this tree is a dereliction of duty on the part of the elected officials who oversee Hackney's planning process. The housing scheme could and should have been redesigned, why was that not specified from the very beginning?

We still have a long way to go to become trusted guardians of our environment.
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