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Locals accuse Haringey council of Orwellian tactics to fell 120-year-old tree


aringey council have been accused of employing “Orwellian tactics” as they enlisted a dozen security guards including one on 24/7 sentry duty from a watchtower to prevent environmentalists from protecting a 120-year-old tree in north London.

Locals say they were awoken to a “dawn raid” on their “beloved” plane tree on Oakfield Road, Stroud Green at 4.45am on Sunday.

Tree surgeons drilled scaffolding in place, building a watchtower and erecting a portaloo to service a nightwatch patrol to prevent potential protesters clambering up the north London tree.

The plane tree had been occupied by protesters in the past but the council quickly swooped to fortify defences ahead of its potential felling amid claims the tree risks a £400,000 insurance payout after allegedly causing subsidence at a nearby property.

A notice pinned to the trunk from Simon Farrow, head of parks and leisure at Haringey Council suggested protesters had prepared to occupy the tree.

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The tree is at the centre of a legal battle, with insurance company Allianz claiming it is causing damage to a house and the council taking locals to court.

Haringey Tree Protectors, a group made of local families carrying out environmental actions, will face the council in court on Wednesday in a battle for “possession of the tree”.

Two security guards up the ‘beloved’ plane tree

/ Clive Carter

A spokesperson said: “The tree is wrapped in white plastic, has 24/7 security guards, a porta cabin on the road, a viewing platform and scaffolding.

“These are the extreme measures the state will go to to fell a healthy 120-year-old tree that is helping mitigate against the worst effects of the climate and biodiversity crisis.

“This is a brutal show of power by a council that claims it is committed to fighting the climate crisis. It is undemocratic and undermines the court hearing process we are involved in with the council.

“Thousands of pounds of our tax paying money is being spent against our will on this.

“This is not the way to do democracy.”

24/7 security guards at the tree

/ Paul Powlesland

Paul Powlesland, a lawyer and environmental campaigner visited the site, said: “There are eight security guards ringing the fencing and a guard platform up in the tree. It’s jaw-dropping to see this Orwellian and destructive waste of taxpayer’s money.”

He told the Standard: “[Haringey] have taken the urban component of the war on nature to a whole new level and wasted large amounts of money whilst doing so.”

Former Highgate Liberal Democrat councillor Clive Carter said: “The impending destruction of the now totemic tree is symbolic of the lack of weight Haringey council attaches to mature trees in the Borough.

“The council repeatedly talks up new plantings. Whips and saplings are welcome, but the council uses them as a fig leaf to mask the loss of existing trees. Big old trees will for many years, be far more effective as a CO2-sink than saplings.”

The local resident added: “In the week that Haringey further reduces mature tree-canopy cover, it is perhaps ironic that this week is the 4th (fourth) anniversary of the unanimous Declaration, at a Haringey Full Council meeting, of a climate emergency. In four years, there has been net-zero practical progress beyond PR and publications.”

The tree last year had protesters living in it

/ Barney Davis

A notice read: “The council has become aware that people have begun to install climbing ropes and other items in the tree.

“Therefore in line with the possession order granted to the council in December 2022, it has had to take physical possession of the tree and the surrounding ground.”

A Haringey council spokesperson refused to comment on the cost of employing security at the tree.

They said in a statement to Ham&High: “In the light of expert opinion, the council considers that felling the tree is the only option in the circumstances.”

They added: “The council has exercised the authority granted by the court order by taking physical possession of the tree to deter and prevent illegal occupation.

“We appreciate that some disturbance and inconvenience may have been caused by this action, but we hope residents will understand the necessity of this work, and to do so unimpeded.

“We will make every effort to keep further disruption to a minimum.”

Haringey has been approached for further comment.

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