Back in 2018, Islington Council gave planning permission for a new development at Highbury Corner in north London. They are building 14 prime location private flats in front of an existing tower block on a small patch of green, and felling seven mature trees in the process. The council promises the project will also fund 25 much-needed social housing units to be built in a small area to the rear.
The project attracted much local resistance from the start, spawning the Save The Trees campaign which has identified other brown-field sites as alternatives, who were also joined by activists from Extinction Rebellion.
In June 2019 Islington Council (like many other local authorities) declared a ‘Climate Emergency’, but did not review existing projects, instead promising to do better in future.
Highbury Corner is a heavily-polluted hotspot, and the Islington is the most densely populated local authority area in England and Wales, but only 13% is greenspace – the second lowest proportion of any local authority.
Last year the protesters built an encampment, made treehouses and a tunnel, launched petitions and won legal challenges, successfully seeing off the chainsaws for a year.
Finally yesterday the battle was lost and the trees were felled, witnessed by a handful of protesters and passers-by, London Burning Pink mayoral candidate Valerie Brown and local Green councillor Caroline Russell.
Even at this last moment, the operation was delayed when one of the campaigners jumped up on the chipping machine and police were called. She was eventually arrested along with a young woman who was filming.