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Highbury protesters go the distance in bid to save estate trees

Campaigners hopeful their vigil will ‘outlast’ Town Hall’s chainsaws

27 March, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

Conor McHugh and Helena Farstead keep up their tree protest… while social distancing

PROTESTERS who have stood guard over a group of condemned trees near Highbury Corner for over a fortnight are hopeful they can “outlast” the council.

The trees, on Dixon Clarke Court estate, were due to be cut down to make room for a private block of housing, which the council says is essential to paying for the affordable housing aspect of planned works on the site.

But the demonstrators say the private housing block could be built elsewhere, and argue that healthy, mature trees should not be cut down next to Highbury Corner, where pollution levels are already high.

In the midst of the escalating coronavirus crisis, protestors organised by Conor McHugh have been taking it in turns to watch over the trees, ready to stand in front of them should workmen appear while conforming to social distancing rules.

Now they hope the council will stand down at least until the pandemic crisis is over.

But speaking to the Tribune, Mr McHugh said they would remain watchful.

“I’m pleased that they didn’t come in the past few weeks,” he said.

“It might mean that they’ve finally seen sense. But they could come back tomorrow, or any other day, so we’ll keep watching and waiting.

“It would make sense for them to postpone this folly in the current crisis and focus on other things, and maybe that is what they are doing. But until they announce that, we will keep watch.

“We can’t rely on that assumption until we’ve heard through official channels.

“The tree felling notice has a duration, and as I understand it that runs out on Wednesday. So I suspect they will have a few more goes at cutting them down.”

The council said yesterday that the work would go ahead once it was “safe to do so”.

In a previous statement, a spokesman said its first priority must be to provide social housing, with the development set to deliver 27 council homes.

They also pledged to build a hedge along the western edge of the site, as a barrier against pollution, and promised “additional planting and ventilation measures within the buildings”.

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