Friday, 17 June 2011

Can we trust Islington Labour to safeguard our trees?

Last week, the campaign to save two mature plane trees in Richmond Avenue, came to an abrupt conclusion when the trees were unceremoniously chopped down by the Council. As reported by the Islington Tribune, private insurers had said the trees were the cause of subsidence to a large property in the road and that the trees had to go.

Campaigner Meg Howarth claims in last weeks's Tribune that the recorded damage is "very slight, the lowest possible official category of structural damage and certainly fixable by underpinning".  This suggests the felling is a clear breach of the council's new tree policy 14: "we only fell trees for sound arboricultural reasons such as...proven to be causing significant structural damage."

Executive Member for the Environment Cllr Paul Smith inherited a comprehensive tree policy written in 1992, updated in 2002 and again in 2009.  He decided a new common sense tree policy  was required to "protect Islington's trees while slashing bureaucracy".

Cllr Smith has certainly "slashed bureaucracy", but his new slimmed-down two page tree policy  has not "protected" two precious, mature planes from the unreasonable demands of insurers keen to minimise their costs.

Ironically the trees were felled, in the same week that Islington Council published it's excellent Fairness Commission report . The felling was in direct contravention of the Commission's Recommendation 11 on Public Space, which states "we need to reclaim, protect and maintain communal spaces in Islington for community use".
The benefits to health and well-being provided by the needlessly-felled plane trees in Richmond Avenue are lost to the community for ever.  Street trees take years to grow and are an invaluable asset to the community not only providing shade, cleaning our polluted air and improving the visual amenity of public space, but also contributing to the health and mental well-being of all residents.
Nothing can be done in the short term, to replace a pair of trees, thought to be a hundred and fifty years old, but perhaps Islington Council can commit to considering the fairness implications of spending council money to destroy community assets for the benefit of insurance companies and private householders?