Residents’ Fury Over Tree Felling

Furious residents are questioning Islington Council’s boasts of ‘a green borough’ after they refused to act on concerns over trees being chopped down in favour of developers’ projects.

An application for eight trees on Lennox Road and Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, to be removed for student accommodation was initially refused by the council, but later overturned on appeal. Residents, suspecting a cover up, demanded to see council notes detailing the agreement between developers Spirit Bond and Watkin Jones, and council executives.

Residents were outraged that signs on the streets put up last week were their only notice that the trees would be felled after 12 March. They now believe the trees will be felled on 24 and 25 March.

Caroline Russell, Islington’s Green Party member, has tirelessly campaigned to keep the trees. She met with activists on Monday 10 March, following a rally by 24 activists the previous day.

She said: “It is going to take a public outcry for this to be prevented.”

Finsbury Park is well-known for its urban copses
Finsbury Park is well-known for its urban copses

Late on Monday night all the trees were surreptitiously bound with ‘future crime scene’ tape.

Last year, The Metro dubbed Finsbury Park ‘the lungs of London’, but it appears this status may be called into question.

Four instances of mature street trees being marked for felling has occurred in the past two months in addition to the removal of four in Clifton Terrace last year.

Rich Gittins, who lives in the Finsbury Park area, said: “There’s a community suspicion that promises were made during the appeal process. It sounds cynical but unfortunately, that’s how many of us feel due to the lack of transparency and no right of appeal for the people who live in the area.”

The trees currently at threat are several metres away from the existing John Jones site, and outside of its boundaries. Some who live opposite the site have been in tears over the prospective loss.

Mr Gittins said: “Not everyone in the borough has a garden, or will benefit from [] the site. For some people, those trees are some of the only trees they see all day.”

The developers deny that the trees are home to a variety of wildlife, citing the results of the council’s nesting survey. Their promise to plant new trees has not soothed activists.

John Jones were unavailable for comment but insisted the situation was in the hands of the new owners of the site, Spirit Bond and Watkin Jones at a recent meeting with residents.

Peter Dempsey, project manager, said the developers’ had paid “a substantial fee to Islington Council to relocate the trees on any other roads in the borough”.

He insisted that they would be replaced with ten new trees towards the end of the development in 2015.

He added: “we’re taking down 11 trees and planting something like 45 and we’re paying for that”, continuing that health and safety issues meant the trees would have to be removed.

The local environment inspector said: “Only two trees need to be removed to allow the proposed development to take place, but the construction works would impinge on both the roots and canopies of several others, and consequently, their health and life expectancy could be reduced.”

The new site will make way for accommodation to house around 470 students and residential space. However campaigners have refused to accept the decision, launching a petition which is continuing to gather momentum. It received over 76 signatures online in 24 hours and hard copies are circulating in several local businesses.