Protesters climb 100-year-old tree threatened by new housing estate

By Sian Bayley, Local Democracy Reporter

Protesters have climbed into a 100-year-old black poplar tree in Battersea to save it from being cut down to make way for electric cables for a new housing development.

It is understood there are three protesters – two men aged 23 and 31 and one woman aged 62 – in the tree.

The tree is in York Gardens, next to the Winstanley Estate, a 1960s housing development which is undergoing a redevelopment by Wandsworth council.

The local Extinction Rebellion group and Green Party branch have been supporting the protesters and want the cable to be diverted to spare the tree, which has been referred to in council planning documents as having ‘high amenity value.’

Local campaigner and author Isabel Losada said the protesters want to get a stay of execution on the trees to stop them from being cut down, and for the whole planning application to go back to the drawing board.

She said: “We can put a car on Mars, but we can’t find a way to relocate some electric cables to save a 100-year-old tree, during a climate emergency, when we want to be London’s greenest borough.

“I mean, I couldn’t make this stuff up.”

Although more trees are being planted on the estate, Ms Losada said this isn’t good enough.

“There’s no way that a 10-year-old sapling replaces a 100-year-old tree. It’s no comparison. You can’t knock down a four storey house and say that we’re giving you a caravan instead.

“There is no comparison, ecologically, environmentally, in terms of the birds, in terms of the wildlife, in terms of the mental health of the people around it.”

Fellow campaigner Tina Grace said she was “astounded” by the move.

“To destroy a healthy 100-year-old tree that has survived two world wars, for the sake of laying some electric cables. I mean, it’s laughable if it wasn’t so horrendous. The very thought of that is beyond comprehension.”

Both women also expressed concern that they had heard reports of a heavy police presence around the tree, which they said was there to “intimidate” other protesters from joining.

An eviction notice was handed to the protesters by the council to vacate the site yesterday.

A spokesman for Wandsworth council said: “This site is needed to provide 136 new council homes for our residents on low incomes and in housing need, especially those currently living in cramped and overcrowded conditions.

“No one wants to see mature trees lost but sometimes it’s sadly unavoidable, despite our best efforts in this case to find a suitable alternative solution. However as part of the regeneration scheme we are planting about 450 new trees around the estate and providing a new 2.5 hectare public park so that residents have newly-created green outdoor space to enjoy.

“To ensure Wandsworth remains one of London’s leafiest and greenest boroughs we constantly plant new trees. Over the past three years we have planted more than 1,200 in our streets and parks and this winter planting season another 750 are being added.

“Overall we look after more than 50,000 trees in our streets and open spaces. We take these important responsibilities seriously and will only agree to a tree being lost if there is no alternative and only if a greater number are planted as replacements.”

Pictured top: Protesters in the tree


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