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250 days to the big day: Protest over private company’s plan to use park to sell Christmas trees

Objectors say Pines And Needles will take away trade from charity initiative

19 April, 2019 — By Helen Chapman

Protesters want Camden Council not to allow Pines And Needles’ pitch in Fortune Green

THE sun is shining and it may be more than 250 days until Christmas – but a row over whether trees should be sold in a public park has already begun.

Christmas tree sellers Pines and Needles have triggered new protests after applying for a licence for Fortune Green later this year. Residents say the business would draw customers away from the Mill Lane Garden Centre, which hosts a charity-run enterprise selling trees at Christmas while offering training and opportunities for people with learning difficulties.

Protester Natasha Back said: “I’m so angry that Pines and Needles have had the gall to apply to sell Christmas trees at Fortune Green once again this year. If Camden grant them permission, it would be catastrophic for Mill Lane Garden Centre who rely massively on the sale of Christmas trees to fund their brilliant work.”

Pines and Needles, which operates from more than 20 sites across London, has applied to Camden Council for a licence to trade from Fortune Green for the past two years. The Town Hall turned them down last year after hundreds of residents signed a petition, but the business has now asked to return.

The Camden Society, which runs the garden centre, said it saw sales drop by around 25 per cent in 2017 after the private firm were allowed to open a stall a few hundred metres away. Robin Collingwood, who lives nearby, said: “We are absolutely appalled that Camden Council should put the interests of private enterprise before the wellbeing of our local charity.

The Mill Lane Garden Centre Charity, which looks after many Down Syndrome and other needy young people throughout the year, every year, depends on volunteers and public contributions to support the wonderful caring and educational work it does. Perhaps its main and most important income source is that derived from Christmas tree sales.”

In a statement, Pines and Needles said: “Pines and Needles received an overwhelmingly positive response from the public when we traded at Fortune Green in 2017. We of course want to be a benefit to the commun­ities we operate in, and are proud to raise funds for local and international charities.

Last year, inspired by the Camden Society, which runs Mill Lane Garden Centre, Pines and Needles employed seven young people with learning difficulties.”

It added: “We are sad­dened that a few residents do not wish us to trade at Fortune Green and believe our proposal to work with Mill lane Garden Centre, pay generous rent for use of the green, employ local people, light up Fortune Green for the festive season, and offer the wider community increased choice at Christmas, all make compelling reasons to have Pines and Needles at Fortune Green.”

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