200 new trees ripped out from park …‘because they were in wrong place’

Council says sorry after deciding that location for saplings planted by volunteers is unsuitable

Friday, 6th May — By Anna Lamche

trees Credit FOFP - planted trees

The new trees in the ground in March. Photos: Friends of Finsbury Park

A COUNCIL has apologised after 200 newly-planted trees were “ripped out” of a park.

Around 20 volunteers from Friends of Finsbury Park (FFP) joined forces with Finsbury Park staff to plant the saplings in March.

They were put into the ground near the Richard Hope Play Space, an area for children near the boating lake in the centre of the park.

This location had been pre-agreed with park staff: the aim was to give shade to the play area, which “gets very warm” in summer and “lacks tree cover,” said FFP co-chair Tom Graham, who added: “We work with the council to co-ordinate positive things.

“One of the things we’ve tried to do is to increase greenery: we’ve planted fruit trees, we made a deadhedge to discourage antisocial behaviour.”

Donated by The Conservation Volunteers charity, these saplings were the latest step in the journey to improving the park’s greenery.

“It was a real mix of English trees,” Mr Graham said.

But last month the volunteers said they were “hugely disappointed to see 200 new trees forcibly removed by Haringey Council officers,” Mr Graham said.

To add insult to injury, Mr Graham has pointed out the trees were removed on “Earth day,” a celebration of environ­mental protection.

Gone: the council dug them out at the end of April

Volunteers are worried the trees were removed by park staff because their location could infringe on event space for music events.

The hosting of the Wireless Festival, which is due to held in Finsbury Park again over summer, has been long-running sore point.

The park borders three boroughs including Islington but Haringey Council is responsible for the day-to-day running and upkeep, and has said this is not the reason for the trees removal.

Mr Graham said: “Green vandalism should not be tolerated in London parks, which are principally open spaces for local residents – not venues for commercial­is­ation.”

He said he had spoken to Haringey’s environ­ment chief, Councillor Mike Hakata, and said there was a commitment to replanting.

But he warned: “Council officers have to think hard about the way they engage with ‘friends groups’ to harness their good will for the park.’

A spokesperson for Haringey Council said: “We are looking to relocate these 200 trees to a more appropriate place in Finsbury Park as they were originally planted in an unsuitable location. This was a mistake and we apologise.

Volunteers planted the saplings in Finsbury Park in March

“The trees are currently in our nursery in the park on an interim basis and we have offered the Friends a meeting to discuss a new setting for them.

“Wherever they are planted next will be in line with our Conservation Action Plan.

They added: “We look forward to replanting these trees in due course and remain grateful to The Conservation Volunteers and other community stakeholders for all their hard work, help and support on this project.

“We would like to reassure our residents here in Haringey and those further afield that we would never just destroy our trees and this has nothing to do with the major events in the park this summer.

“We already work closely with local charitable organisations and community groups here in Haringey, as has been evident throughout the pandemic.

“However, we remain keen and open to strengthening those ties still further in the future.”

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