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Highbury ‘save the trees’ protesters get to stay

Objectors’ legal appeal frustrates Town Hall plan to start construction work on block of homes

20 November, 2020 — By Helen Chapman

Protesters celebrate staying put in their camp

TREE protesters remained in their camp last night (Thursday) despite a High Court order demanding they move out of the site where a new block of homes is planned.

The Save The Trees group have managed to stay at Dixon Clark Court in Highbury, where they are aiming to stop any felling, because they have lodged a legal appeal. A possession order cannot be enforced until this is resolved.

Islington Council remains frustrated that construction work has been delayed as 25 new local authority homes are included in the development. The trees – sycamore, Norwegian maples and chestnuts – are due to be axed to build the private sale portion of the development, which will fund the social housing.

The Town Hall are pledging to plant 13 on the site and a further seven nearby in mitigation. It has also said it will plant another 43 new trees around the borough, but the protesters remain unconvinced.

QC Marie Demetriou, who lives in the borough, helped argue the case for an appeal on Wednesday. Nineteen witness statements have been submitted by the protesters.

Dr Larch Maxey, one of the protest organisers, said: “It was only in my masters I learned that climate change trumps every other issue that we are concerned about. It is clear from reports that extinction is a great possibility and if we carry on the way we are now, we are heading towards societal collapse.”

The trees at Dixon Clark Court in Highbury

Seb Maxey, 20, Dr Maxey’s son who has been at the site this week, said: “I think every tree is a living being – they grow, they breathe, they die. They have a life cycle. Like any other living thing they breathe.”

The Save The Trees group moved in after an earlier demonstration by Extinction Rebellion came to an end.

This all followed a long-running campaign to save the mature trees on the site by Conor McHugh, who lived nearby. He kept watch whenever it appeared the chainsaws were coming.

Mr McHugh, who often argued that there should not be a choice between housing and trees, died earlier this year but friends and neighbours in Highbury have pledged to continue his protest. Passers-by and supporters of the campaign visited the site on Wednesday to celebrate the suspension of the possession order.

Islington housing chief Councillor Diarmaid Ward said: “Very reluctantly the council has had to take this matter to court, despite doing everything we can to avoid legal action including offering to spend the money we would have spent on legal fees on even more trees.”

He added: “The council does not take the decision to remove trees lightly but demand for council housing massively outstrips supply, and we owe it to those families who are living in increasingly desperate positions to build these new council homes.”

  • This article was amended on November 20

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