She’s best known for flirting with James Bond or with Victorian royal equerries.
But Dame Judi Dench has got off her high perch to get onto her high horse and condemn town hall chiefs for threatening a tree.
The globally-recognised actor has signed the petition to save the black poplar tree, in York Road, Battersea, currently occupied by Extinction Rebellion activists.
And she said: “WHY cut a 100 year-old tree down when there is an alternative to go round it?? Are we not all aware now just how important trees are?? I find myself making appeals like this every day, surely we know better!”
Her intervention comes after the developers Taylor Wimpey and Wandsworth council applied for a court order to gain possession of the area.
But an online 10am court hearing granted the tree protectors postponement of the hearing until Friday to give them time to get a lawyer and prepare their case.
Currently up the tree is Extinction Rebellion member Bradley, pictured, who said: “Everything nowadays gets rushed. We’ve finally got what we wanted, which is a voice in this case.
“From the start it seemed that no one had a voice except for the construction company that was initiating it. However it goes on Friday, I’m happy we’ve finally got a voice and they’re willing to listen. It shouldn’t be so hard, you shouldn’t have to live in a tree for over two weeks, to achieve that!
“Locals should have a voice before projects like this happen.”
Bradley has discovered many of the residents on the estate are not going to be rehoused when the estate gets rebuilt, and they will need to find new accommodation, without support.
“That’s really disgraceful,” he said. “Things like this should never happen. Yes, the estate is 60 years old and needs redevelopment but it doesn’t seem like there’s support for the people who live here. And they can’t voice their opinions because they’re trying to stay on good terms with the council.
“We have to find a way to solve issues like this. We’re in a climate emergency and trees are being felled all over England. I’m young and I’m still learning how the system works.
“Britain is supposed to be demonstrating what an industrialised working system should look like. A lot of money gets put into London. Why isn’t it getting used properly? The new generation wants to see change, and we need to keep fighting for solutions.”
Passers-by are offering support to him and his cuddly Koala bear.
“There are a lot of people who come by to offer support, so that’s very motivating,” he said. “I’m trying not to make too much noise because of the nest, so I’m sort of nesting myself. “I’ve moved into the tree and I’m just one limb trying to voice its survival.”
Food and drink are being allowed up now, he reports, but “if anything apart from food falls to the ground, you don’t get it back!
“It’s a busy year for activism – tree felling has gone into a rampage massacre. It’s great here and I’m going to stay as long as I can but there are so many cases that need support.”
The protest began at dawn on Monday 22 February when tree protectors climbed into the iconic black poplar, visible from all around, in support of a long-running campaign by local residents to save it from being cut down to make way for the laying of a new electric cable.
This is just the beginning of a planned redevelopment of the Winstanley and York Road estates by Wandsworth council and Taylor Wimpey, which means that 124 of 173 trees are marked to be chopped down, mostly large mature and semi-mature trees.
The campaigners want the whole development to be paused and reconsidered in the light of the climate emergency and the strong support among local residents for the protest.
Birds are now building a nest in the tree – it’s an old nest but there’s clear evidence of fresh new twigs with green shoots on them.
Stephen Moss, ornithologist and BAFTA award winning television producer of some of our most popular natural history programmes such as BBC’s Springwatch, has also supported the protest, arguing it is highly irresponsible of the council to plan to fell a healthy tree during nesting season.
He said: “My opinion, having watched the video evidence, is that the magpie observed in the tree is either prospecting for a nest site and/or revisiting an existing nest, to which it looks as if the bird has added fresh twigs this spring. It is still fairly early in the nesting season, so I would not expect eggs to have been laid in the nest at this stage.”
Local residents all say the cable could be diverted to spare the tree.
The tree protectors have issued the following demands to Wandsworth Council:
- Halt all construction work and tree felling immediately
- Urgently conduct an arboricultural assessment and treat the branches and roots that
were damaged on the black poplar by preparatory construction activity
- Actively consider and present all possible options to save the black poplar
- Back the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill
- Work proactively and constructively with the Citizen's Assembly to revise project
- Utilise all empty properties and make them available for people (do not add to
London’s housing and homelessness crisis)
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