Over 6,000 Hackney locals have signed a petition to protest plans to cut down an ancient London plane tree in order to make way for a block of flats.
Hackney Council say they need to remove the tree – know as the Happy Man Tree after the now-closed Happy Man pub outside which it grows – from the pavement on the north end of Lordship Road on the Woodberry Down estate to enable new buildings to go up.
Geoff Bell, vice-chair of the Woodberry Down Community Organisation and resident of Woodberry Down for 40 years, said: “The proposed destruction of the tree is an act of vandalism. Now more than ever we should be showing and teaching by example respect for our natural heritage”.
Woodberry Down is one of the largest council estates in Europe and it has endured many successful developments. The new development will consist of four residential blocks of up to 20 stories, including 584 homes of which 42 per cent will be offered as social housing.
Bell said: “In the past, I wholeheartedly supported the regeneration: going as far as New York to promote it as a housing conference”.
However, he added: “The proposed destruction of the tree was hidden.
“No one in Woodberry Down knew of it until it was spotted in a detailed plan by John Burke in late October.
“The public consultation on the phase was a three-day exhibition in which the only specific mention on trees was the addition of 110 new trees, but there was no mention of the destruction of the Happy Man tree. This was a deceit by omission.”
Angela Phillips, member of the local Labour Party branch, said: “The local Labour branch was involved very early on as we wanted to support the local tenants and Residents’ Association who were the ones that brought the issue to our attention.
“So many mature trees have been already cut down in and around the development, so it should be possible to reorganise the way they build the blocks in order to fit in the tree.”
Phillips added: “It seems to me that in the middle of a pandemic, we need to find imaginative ways of protesting. Therefore, I encourage everyone to draw a picture of a tree with the #savethehappymantree and tweet it to @happymantree on Twitter!”
Many locals and residents have already joined in.
In a report, Hackney Council said: “Various options to retain the tree have been explored… but it was concluded that there would be considerable design harm and reduction in affordable housing that would result from the benefits of retaining the tree.
“Whilst the loss of the tree would be regrettable it is considered that the suggested contribution, together with the other biodiversity and landscaping benefits referred to in this report, will be sufficient to ensure that biodiversity and public amenity impacts are adequately mitigated.”
To support the local residents on saving ‘The Happy Man tree’ sign the petition HERE.