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The battle to save the ‘little forest’ goes on

08 January, 2021

Dixon Clark Court ‘little forest’ at Highbury Corner

• AS 2021 begins, with a pandemic raging, schools closed, and lockdown, the Town Hall bosses seem intent on pursuing the destruction of the Dixon Clark Court (DCC) “little forest” at Highbury Corner.

Here, thanks to the courage and unwavering efforts of those camping out to protect them, 52-year-old mature trees are still standing.

For how much longer depends on the outcome of the legal proceedings for repossession of the site, which are due to resume next week.

The trees and the green space in which they sit benefit not only existing residents but all who live near and pass this noisy, toxic, busy location.

Apparently blind to this reality, councillors are choosing instead to cling to a party manifesto commitment to build 550 additional council homes across the borough by the end of next year.

Making existing council tenants pay to reduce the borough’s housing shortage by destroying their environmental amenity is an odd thing to do for a party that claims to have the interests of its poorer and vulnerable residents at heart.

Council leader Richard Watts must know this. Residents aren’t stupid.

They know that when circumstances change, policies must follow, just as they understand that offers to cram huge numbers of saplings on to the DCC estate as replacements for mature trees cannot be considered a serious measure of the council’s care for the environment.

That hasn’t stopped certain elected members pushing this line on Twitter, while the lead environment councillor, Rowena Champion, has made no public comment at all about DCC and the potential loss of trees and green space.

The final irony of the council’s plan for the estate, should it go ahead, is that the mature trees will be replaced not by council homes but a private leasehold block, the sales / income-stream from which are essential to the viability of the additional 25 social homes scheduled for elsewhere on the site.

And worse: the “right to buy” a number of these additional homes has itself been factored in to the long-term viability of the entire development, (It’s not just a question of saving the trees, December 10).

An ingenious scheme, it could be argued, but one which does the council no favours, particularly as the consultation on the project coincided with the major redevelopment of Highbury Corner, where residents’ attention was understandably focused.

And offering existing tenants “first dibs” (to use the council’s crude phrase) on the new-build homes seems to have been designed to secure their support for a scheme to which they might otherwise have objected.

The council has to date rejected calls for a fresh consultation on its plans for Dixon Clark Court. But our pandemic new world surely demands a reconsideration of a plan that would increase the population density of the site at a time when space and open air are prerequisites for long-term health?

A frank, public debate is needed with residents about the chronic housing situation in Islington, where some elected members own two homes while thousands of residents are homeless or badly housed.

If you’re concerned about this damaging scheme, write to councillors before it’s too late.



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