Hackney locals mount 24-hour watch on Happy Man Tree

Protesters by The Happy Man Tree. Picture: Twitter @happymantree
Protesters by The Happy Man Tree. Picture: Twitter @happymantree

Hackney residents have started to camp overnight by an ancient London plane tree in Woodberry Down known as the Happy Man Tree in a bit to prevent developers from cutting it down.

They moved there on May 19 after workmen put fences around the tree in what looked like a first step towards cutting it down.

Peter Buckingham, creator of the online petition and protester, explained: “The tree got threatened on Tuesday, when hoardings were put around it on Tuesday.

“It was a very bad moment; as it felt like when the hoardings went up, the tree was lost.”

Protesters by The Happy Man Tree. Picture: Twitter @happymantree

Later on that day, the Mayor of Hackney Phillip Glanville, tweeted: “The tree is not being felled today. I can only apologise for the distress caused.”

Buckingham said: “We have lost a bit of trust, so we are trying to maintain a 24 hour watch on it, with people staying to protect it overnight.”

“We have a self-populating rota; a core group of 40 that talk and organise on a WhatsApp group.” he added.

The petition, created by Buckingham against the removal of the tree, has now over 15,000 signatures; gaining 9,000 signatures in only a week.

Buckingham said: “I remember thinking that if we got a hundred signatures we’d do okay.

“It’s like being in a river. I don’t know where we are going to end up but the current is very strong.”

Protester hugging The Happy Man Tree. Picture: Arina Zinovyeva
Protester hugging The Happy Man Tree. Picture: Arina Zinovyeva

Geoff Bell, vice chair of Woodberry Down Community Organisation said: “I’m very surprised and, of course, gratified about the support the tree has attracted in the past week, since Berkeley Homes workmen arrived to try and cordon off the tree.”

“Berkeley Homes and indeed Hackney council need to positively respond to this. As I have said to them in more than one occasion, I believe that if there is good will on all sides we can secure a solution which will save the tree and deliver all the homes.”

Glanville said: “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.

“New plans include the planting of 175 new trees, as well as the equivalent of 19 tennis courts of new open spaces, including a new fully public park.”

He added: “The council is responding to the climate emergency with Hackney’s biggest ever tree planting programme, with 35,000 new trees across the borough by 2022.”

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