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Campaign statement August 2020

Updated: Aug 23, 2020

The Friends of the Happy Man Tree includes many residents from across the Woodberry Down estate, Hackney and neighbouring boroughs, as well as tree and environment experts. In the months that Friends of the Happy Man Tree have been providing a protective presence at the tree, we have had conversations with, and support from, many hundreds of people.

The Friends of the Happy Man Tree believe that mature trees can and should be protected alongside meeting a community’s housing and other needs.

The Happy Man Tree is a 150 year old street tree located on the pavement next to the now demolished Happy Man Pub. We believe that this tree, which is an important part of the fabric of the community for very many people, should have been incorporated into the design of Phase 3 of the Woodberry Down development.

With the climate emergency, gone are the days when mature trees can be casually felled to make way for developments without genuine consideration of alternative solutions. Mature trees are a vital part of local ecosystems with high decarbonising value and each one must be treasured. Replacement trees often die and few survive the many decades it takes to grow into a mature tree.

To say that we can only have EITHER social housing OR we can prioritise trees and nature is a false choice.

The Woodberry Down community can and should have both. The largest proportion of the development is for private sale so the number of social housing units should not be reduced. We call on Hackney Council to honour its commitment to address the climate emergency and protect green spaces and natural habitats, alongside its commitment to providing affordable and social housing.

Hackney Council have decided that this large development needs to be reconsidered in relation to the new Local Plan, which was adopted by Hackney Council in July 2020. The Planning Committee will discuss the Woodberry Down Phase 3 development on 9 September and we hope that they will take the opportunity to take on board the huge opposition within the local community to felling the Happy Man Tree, and that they will fully consider alternative proposals.

The new Local Plan is likely to highlight other aspects of large developments that now need greater consideration. For example, the new gas fired combined heat and power plant (CHP) will use outdated fossil fuel technology and not meet the Local Plan requirements that state that developments should be carbon neutral. The Planning Committee will also need to ensure that other mature trees on the estate are not unnecessarily felled in the construction of Phase 3.

We recognise that there are concerns that the campaign to save the Happy Man Tree may lead to delay in the provision of housing to residents of the estate waiting to move. Phase 3 has already started with the demolition of buildings. We hope and expect any delay to be minimal and believe that with commitment, Hackney Council and Berkeley Homes can find a solution. We have no intention of stopping Phase 3. On the contrary, the Friends of the Happy Man Tree expect the local community to be provided with improved social housing alongside the protection of the natural environment.

The Solicitor for the Friends of the Happy Man Tree has applied for a Judicial Review to challenge the licence arrangements between Hackney Council and Berkeley Homes, which currently would allow the tree to be cut down. This was necessary to ensure that the tree was not felled before the September planning committee and is particularly important as the high court authorised an injunction on 26 June which could have been used by Hackney Council and Berkeley Homes at any point to stop community protection of the tree.

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