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Town Hall leader slams ‘nimby’ tree activists

Homes scheme anger as environmental campaigners take fresh protest action at Highbury site

30 October, 2020 — By Helen Chapman

A ‘save the trees’ banner left at Dixon Clark Court in Highbury

ECO activists were angrily lambasted as “nimbys” by the leader of Islington Council as they tried to stop trees from being cut down in Highbury.

Councillor Richard Watts was running thin on patience as a new group set up camp at Dixon Clark Court, where seven trees have been earmarked for felling so that the council can start building a new block of homes.

The Town Hall had already negotiated with campaigners from the Extinction Rebellion group, who left the site last week after an agreement to hold a “citizens’ assembly” on housing and the climate emergency.

But almost as soon as they departed, a new group called “Save The Trees” stepped in to try and stop them from being chopped down.

Councillor Richard Watts

Cllr Watts tweeted: “It’s utterly depressing that there seems to be growing opposition to building new council homes.

“Old-fashioned nimby arguments seem to have come back into fashion using a cover of environmentalism.”

Dr Larch Maxey, one of the demonstrators who moved into the camp on Monday, said: “We absolutely can and we will save these trees. The council know there is a climate emergency, they have declared it, so this is just a way to get them to do something. We have to change what we are doing as a society and address this most complex and serious issue humanity has faced.

“We’ve got a very short window to act and it’s shrinking fast. Saving the trees is a way to stop societal collapse. We are in the red zone of danger. We have gone way beyond what is safe.”

Conor McHugh, who died in April, led the campaign to save the trees

The ancient chestnuts, sycamores and a Norwegian maple at Dixon Clark Court remained untouched as of last night (Thursday).

The Town Hall is now offering to plant 100 new trees across the borough, having originally promised 63, as part of its offer.

The campaign to save the trees began last year, spearheaded by Compton Terrace resident Conor McHugh, who died in April.

Islington Extinction Rebellion member Helena Farstad said: “We are grateful that the council has been willing to engage and take steps towards rebuilding much-needed trust between councillors and local people, who have for a long time now not felt their valid concerns have been heard.”


An Extinction Rebellion campaigner in one of the trees at Dixon Clark Court, near Highbury Corner

She added: “Although we have agreed to leave we will never accept that felling trees and losing precious natural space is the right thing to do.

“We need to acknowledge that the removal of these trees will be traumatic and be a great loss to the many people who have passed them, lived next to them, and until now, in them. In this emergency, every tree and every green space is worth fighting for.”

Cllr Watts said: “To be clear, I’m not talking about the Extinction Rebellion Islington activists who had a constructive dialogue with the council.”

He added: “I am proud of building new council housing. If we didn’t do this we’d be failing and anyone who is opposed to it should hang their head in shame.

“Our new build programme will become carbon neutral over time in line with our climate emergency declaration.”

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