Protesters look on in horror as ‘Tree of the Year’ is CHOPPED DOWN to make way for 584 new homes on a housing estate in London
- Tree was voted England’s 2020 Tree of the Year in a Woodland Trust competition
- It brings to an end long-running saga of protests aimed at saving tree in Hackney
- Dozens of police officers were seen standing guard as the tree was felled today
- Hackney Council voted to cut down tree as part of housing development plans
Protesters looked on in horror today as the ‘Tree of the Year’ was chopped down to make way for 584 new homes on a housing estate in London.
Crowds were unable to stop the 150-year-old ‘Happy Man tree’, which had been named after a since-demolished pub, from being felled, but warned that the councillors who voted for it to be cut down will never be forgiven.
The tree was recently voted England’s 2020 Tree of the Year in a competition organised by the Woodland Trust, which aims to showcase the UK’s favourite trees to help show their value and need for protection.
It brings to an end the long-running saga of protests and injunctions aimed at saving the Plane Tree in Hackney, London.
Dozens of police officers stood guard as the tree came crashing down as part of plans for a housing development on the Woodberry Down estate.
The 150-year-old ‘Tree of the Year’ pictured before it was cut down to make way for a housing development on Woodberry Down Estate in Hackney, London
The tree pictured after it was cut down. Crowds were unable to stop the tree from being felled, but warned that the councillors who voted for it to be cut down will never be forgiven
Police were called in to remove protesters who had climbed it in a last ditch attempt to stop it being felled.
A petition to save the tree with 22,000 signatures was delivered to the Mayor of Hackney in June last year, with the High Court granting an injunction to stop protesters blocking the demolition work granted two days later.
Hackney Council finally voted to cut down the tree in September as part of Berkeley Homes’ third phase of the regeneration of the estate, which will add 175 new trees and 29 tennis courts’ worth of open space.
A Twitter account named Save The Happy Tree said: ‘We will so miss you #HappyManTree.
‘We will never forget what you did @BerkeleyGroupUK @hackneycouncil @mayorofhackney. Destroying the #TreeOfTheYear will NEVER be forgotten. @WoodlandTrust.’
Environmental lawyer Paul Powlesland watched the tree being felled and was assisting local campaigners through the group Lawyers For Nature.
He said: ‘We must not let anybody forget that @BerkeleyGroupUK destroyed this tree when they didn’t need to because it was easier and more profitable for them to do so.
‘Let their brand forever be associated with the fact they killed England’s tree of the year.
An undated handout photo of the tree in Hackney, London, which won England’s Tree of the Year title in a contest organised by the Woodland Trust
The tree as it came crashing down in London, while protesters look on. Hackney Council voted to cut down the tree in September as part of the third phase of the estate’s regeneration
Two protesters hug ahead of the tree being felled. A petition to save the tree with 22,000 signatures was delivered to the Mayor of Hackney in June last year
‘For all their protestations that homes are needed, it was possible to re-design the development to have the same number of homes and keep the tree, but Berkeley would not countenance a few months delay. Let this never be forgotten.
‘Don’t buy @BerkeleyGroupUK’s s**t flats and houses, tell others not to, remind them of their tree killing whenever you can: on social media or in real life.
‘Let them understand that the damage to their brand means that in future they should retain mature trees not destroy them.
‘In order to facilitate the felling of the tree against the wishes of local people, the Met Police collaborated with Berkeley Homes and sent dozens of officers to help with the felling, at the same time as saying they have no resources to attend burglaries or robberies.’
Adam Cormack, head of campaigning for the Woodland Trust, said in October: ‘The local community has made a powerful case to retain the tree, adopting the slogan #noticethistree.
Police officers seen standing guard as the tree, which was recently voted England’s 2020 Tree of the Year in a competition organised by the Woodland Trust, is felled in Hackney
The 150-year-old tree pictured as it is being felled. In June, Hackney Council secured a High Court injunction and possession order to remove protesters guarding the tree
A protester seen as the tree, voted England’s 2020 Tree of the Year, is felled in Hackney, London. The ‘Happy Man Tree’ was chopped down to make way for a new development
‘We did notice, and so did thousands more. In too many places we see well-loved mature trees lost to development rather than designed in to plans from the start.
‘When this happens it’s a lose-lose situation. The tree itself is lost and people lose something that made their lives better.
‘Efforts to create new homes and better places to live must start with protecting existing trees, and their avoidable loss must always be prevented. Planting new trees, while needed, will take years to have the same impact on absorbing carbon and cleaning air.
‘The legacy of this tree must be that the planning system, which is currently facing overhaul in England, should protect existing trees and local voices must be listened to when decisions on local trees and woods are made.
‘Trees have a huge positive impact on people’s quality of life, but this needs reflecting in national planning policy and local decision-making.’
In June, Hackney Council secured a High Court injunction and possession order to remove protesters guarding the tree to stop it from being felled.
At the time, a spokesperson for The Friends of the Happy Man Tree campaign group said: ‘This legal blunderbuss is a bullying and an extreme weapon for any organisation to use.
The tree seen after it was felled. It brings to an end the long-running saga of protests and injunctions aimed at saving the Plane Tree in Hackney, London
Two protesters look on ahead of the tree being chopped down. The Woodland Trust’s contest aims to showcase the UK’s favourite trees to help show their need for protection
An undated handout photo of the tree, with a sign reading ‘notice this tree’. It brings to an end the long-running saga of protests and injunctions aimed at saving the Plane Tree
‘We are upset to see that Hackney Council and Berkeley Homes have resorted to the tactics of the rich and powerful to achieve their aim.’
Hackney Council stated in August last year: ‘The “Happy Man Tree” had been identified for removal for more than a decade, and although no concerns were raised in previous extensive consultation, when the issue was raised last year, the application was paused and a series of workshops were held with elected resident representatives to look at other options for the design of the scheme.
‘An independent report was also commissioned to understand the impact of the loss of the tree and what mitigation measures would mean for the biodiversity of the area.
‘This report, submitted as part of the application, details that the mitigation measures put in place would have a net benefit on biodiversity on the estate.
‘After months of workshops and meetings, it became clear that there was not a way to avoid removing the tree without causing a 15-month delay to the construction of affordable housing, and a redesign of the project.’
On its website, Berkeley Homes describes the development as ‘sustainable’ and ‘committed to the natural environment and energy conservation, enhancing the area’s abundant wildlife’.
It adds: ‘Master planning for Woodberry Down has focused on creating a sustainable community, with large and improved public open spaces as well as impressive new community facilities.’
MailOnline has contacted Berkeley Group, who declined to comment, and Hackney Council.
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