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Pollution fears as Highbury Corner trees face the chop

Neighbours plan protest over ‘slaughter’ ahead of homes development

06 March, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

Neighbours and green campaigners who want to save the trees at the Dixon Clarke Estate

PROTESTERS are planning to picket the planned “slaughter” of trees at Highbury Corner, after Islington Council ordered them to be removed to make room for a private housing block.

The trees – sycamore, Norwegian maples and chestnuts – are on the Dixon Clarke estate, where planning permission has been granted for 41 new homes, two-thirds of which will be for social rent.

But to build the private sale portion of the development, which will fund the social housing, a number of trees have been marked for the chop.

The council argues their first priority must be to provide social housing, but some residents are not convinced.

Conor McHugh, who lives in nearby Compton Terrace, said: “They’re building these private homes on that point because it will raise the most money as it’s the furthest away from the social housing. In order to get the value to pay for the homes, they say they’ve got to build on this green space.

“Our point is that it could be put somewhere else. It doesn’t even have to be on the same site.

“But if they were to put it any nearer to the social housing, it would lower the value, which is why they won’t do it.”

He added: “Another option to consider would have been offering the naming rights to companies. The trees are alongside a major highway, and the area is very visible.”

The felling is due to take place on Monday.

Alison Gosper, who lives in the tower block overlooking the trees, said: “We’ve got a primary school next door. We need trees and people need trees if they’re going to be physically and mentally healthy. It’s important for our mental health to be able to look out onto green spaces. This is hugely important for local residents.”

She added: “My six-year-old son interacts with the trees here all year round. He picks up leaves in the autumn and watches the birds the rest of the year. It would be a huge shame if these trees were to go, for everybody in this community.”

Alison Finley, another objector, said the felling raised concerns over the toxicity of the air near Highbury Corner.

“I think Islington Council doesn’t have a very good policy on trees,” she added. “They have strict rules about residents trimming trees but they’re willing to cut down these to make way for private housing.

“I think Highbury Corner is inundated with traffic already, and cutting down trees will make it more toxic for the children in the local schools.”

Town Hall housing chief Diarmaid Ward said: “The Dixon Clark Court development will deliver 27 desperately needed new council homes for local people.

“As part of the council’s commitment to clean up the air we breathe, the Dixon Clark Court scheme has a number of landscape improvements to help reduce toxic air pollution, including a 1.5-metre-high and 1.5-metre-deep hedge running along the western edge of the site, which will provide a barrier and screening from air pollution arising from road traffic.”

He added: “The trees which are to be retained at the site, combined with additional planting and ventilation measures within the buildings, will all help to vastly improve the air quality in the area.”

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