By Julia Gregory, local democracy reporter
Residents pleaded for a reprieve for the “devastating and upsetting” loss of 37 trees which are due to be felled as part of a plan to build new homes on a north Kensington estate.
It comes after 160 residents from the Wornington Green estate and nearly 900 of their neighbours signed a petition appealing for the trees to be spared.
Catalyst Housing Association won planning permission to rebuild the estate with 1,000 flats a decade ago.
It has already cut the number of trees it will fell from 42 to 37 in the second stage of the scheme after residents asked them to rethink. But residents are pleading for them to save all the trees.
Together with the housing association they discussed the issue at Kensington and Chelsea Council’s overview and scrutiny committee.
The council is working with Catalyst to see if more trees can be preserved.
Resident Christine Dingle who is a member of the Wornington Green residents steering group said: “It is so devastating and upsetting to think about cutting these trees down that have been part of our lives.
“Those badges that have a badge of death (on trees earmarked for felling) are horrific.”
Constantine Gras documented the new development as old blocks of flats are gradually replaced in his film Wornington Word.
Mr Gras said: “Trees are a matter of life and death.”
“Green spaces and trees are really vital to filter out toxicity in the air.”
He welcomed Catalyst’s reduction in the number of trees it will fell, but added: “We still think this is a governmental disaster for North Kensington. Plans can and must change.”
Abbas Dadou, the chairman of the Lancaster West Residents Association said people were already concerned about the contamination following the Grenfell Tower fire.
Dadau said trees can play a part in tackling pollution and there is “a lack of trees” in the area, “it’s just more beautiful with trees.”
Keith Stirling moved into Wornington Green in the 1960s and said pollution is a real problem in North Kensington.
“The health of the people who live in this part of the borough is not in great shape,” he said.
“When I heard they were going to cut down the trees I was absolutely horrified.”
“London plane trees are the ones that provide us with the most benefit. They clean the air.”
London planes are able to withstand pollution, according to the Woodland Trust.
Catalyst’s regeneration manager Fearghal O’ Hara said: “We would never move trees without good reason.”
He said he keeps residents updated on the development, with events including a party on the park and online information and has worked with the council to look at ways to keep more trees.
Catalyst plans to plant 55 more trees and almost half an acre of grassland and wildflower green roofs as part of this phase of the redevelopment.
Mr O’Hara added: “We have not just brushed concerns aside.
“These trees were planted with the estate and are intertwined with the existing layout. It’s almost impossible to build round them unless the existing layout is changed.”
He said the housing association is not insensitive to the long-term impact of Grenfell on the community.
Johnny Thalassites who is the current lead member for planning said he regretted that the planning committee’s decision – taken years before he joined the council.
Councillor Judith Blakeman was on the committee and opposed the controversial scheme. She said the vote went up to the wire and only went through by the casting vote of the then committee chair.
The estate is in Labour opposition leader Pat Mason’s ward and he said there were lots of objections ten years ago, including the loss of trees.
And councillor Kim Taylor-Smith, who has responsibility for housing, suggested transplanting any trees which could not stay on the estate elsewhere in the borough.
Committee chair Marie Therese Rossi said: “Something has gone very badly wrong here.
“You got planning permission which by the sounds of it you got by the skin of your teeth.”
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