40 homes, but much-loved tree’s facing the chop

After years of campaigning to save it, residents are told mulberry must be moved

Friday, 30th July 2021 — By Helen Chapman

Park View Estate tree

The Park View Estate mulberry tree that residents want to save

THE good news: 40 new social housing units will be built.

The bad news, according to residents on the Park View Estate in Highbury, is that they will lose the much-loved mulberry tree that they have been trying to save from being dug up.

In the latest development-versus-trees dispute, tenants said that the works could have gone ahead in Collins Road without destroying the tree.

And they were dismayed when, on Tuesday night, planners gave permission for it to be removed and replanted – a measure which objectors say will not guarantee its survival.

Work on the estate has already begun and Islington Council says it needs to get on with creating much-needed new housing but that the tree’s roots are blocking the way.

An illustration of how the Park View Estate homes could look

Sarah Brakes, who objected to the idea of removing and replanting the mulberry tree, spoke on behalf of Park View Estate residents at a Town Hall meeting.

“The mulberry tree is symbolic to our estate and has over the generations unified and brought the community together,” she said.

The tree had been saved by a campaign in 2016, but since 2018 residents have been told that the tree is dying.

Islington has now resolved to make all of the new homes available at a social rent.

Labour councillor Bashir Ibrahim said: “One of the biggest issues that councillors face is the lack of housing. We have a list of 14,000 people in need of housing in Islington. Having been born and raised in Islington, I think we need to keep as many trees that we have and keep planting trees as well, but having read this report and toying with it, I have come to the decision that we are doing our best to ensure the mulberry tree is preserved as best as we can.”

Park View residents organised an independent horticulturist to carry out an assessment of the tree and a report came back saying it is healthy.

Ms Brakes said: “The distrust between the residents and Islington Council is now extremely apparent.

“It is not just as simple as moving to another part of the estate. Some residents have deep-rooted memories of families now passed away that are entwined with the tree and the area it is located in.”

Labour councillor Paul Convery told the meeting: “I’m particularly conscious of the thousands or so households in this borough that are severely overcrowded.

“The fact is that 40 social rented homes doesn’t mean we rehouse 40 families, it probably means we rehouse 80, 90 or 100 families because of the multiplier effect when you build new homes.”

Sarah Eley, from HTA Design, speaking on behalf of the applicant, said: “It is a complex, evolving situation. Since the original application was granted permission, a lot of work has been carried out in terms of technical design and it has been found that it is not possible to retain the tree.”

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