Read the story update (15 March court hearing) below:
Haringey council in north London declared a climate emergency along with many other councils in 2019 when it became fashionable to do so after Extinction Rebellion hit the news.
But local campaigners are deeply critical of the council’s attitude towards the borough’s trees and have formed a network of Haringey Tree Protectors to share information and protest where necessary.
The group seem to have uncovered a country-wide issue that insurance companies regularly force councils to cut down trees in order to avoid having to pay out for subsidence claims, thus passing costs onto the public rather than settling claims themselves. And because council legal departments are often no match for huge international insurance companies, they are caving in and felling mature healthy trees on an industrial scale (10,000 a year in London alone according to this report), making a mockery of any climate commitments.
Real Media reported last year on the battle to save a mature plane tree on Oakfield Road in Haringey. At a meeting packed with local residents, council officials including deputy leader Mike Hakata explained that the council was in a very difficult situation but that he would go back to lawyers to see if they can make a stand.
Since then, the lawyers seem to have been busier acting against campaigners rather than standing up to dubious insurance claims. The council has also been spending considerable amounts of public money on security guards (many of whom fail to display any SIA licence) to intimidate protesters.
While felling dozens of trees recently on a Parkland Walk nature reserve, the council posted legal notices claiming that the public only had ‘permissive access’, and that the council could withdraw public access along the whole walk at any time. However, the nature reserve is marked on the council’s own maps and on Ordnance Survey maps as a public right of way, and part of it is actually owned by a neighbouring borough over which Haringey have no control. At time of writing, the council’s legal officers have been unable to provide any documentation to back up their claims despite repeated requests.
In December, campaigners managed to get a stay of execution on the Oakfield Road tree, with a firm instruction from the judge that the council MUST NOT fell the tree until a further hearing this month. That hearing will be on Wednesday, but yesterday local residents were woken before 5am on a Sunday morning by the noise of a scaffolding being unloaded and rigged around the tree, fencing enclosing the tree along with a legally parked vehicle, and around 8 security guards, who now appear to be holding a 24-hour presence at the site.
Real Media has been shown a letter handed out to residents in the area, from Simon Farrow, the council’s Head of Parks & Leisure. It claims that “following the court proceedings of December 2022, the Council decided not to remove the tree until a further hearing in March.” Campaigners dispute this and other claims as false – they say that the Council were actually given an order by the judge not to fell the tree, and that the use of so many security guards, the scaffolding and the fences, AHEAD of any court decision and at no inconsiderable cost to the public, marks a new phase of council intransigence and contempt for the serious climate and ecological issues.
Find out more about Haringey Tree Protectors here.
UPDATE 15 March:
At court today, the Judge adjourned the Council injunction hearing until tomorrow afternoon. At the same time, one of the residents at the centre of the issue, whose insurance company is pressuring the council to remove the tree, has applied for an emergency injunction while awaiting the outcome of an ombudsman complaint against Allianz.
The council looked all set to bring in the chainsaws in the morning, but now it looks like their massive profligate security operation will continue burning up public money while the courts reach a decision – tonight we counted a dozen personnel at the tree from BMLGroup.co.uk, many of whom simply refuse to display their SIA accreditation – a breach of the Security Industries Act 2001.