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The Happy Man Tree, The Woodland Trust’s Tree of the Year 2020, to be felled imminently

FRIENDS OF THE HAPPY MAN TREE

PRESS RELEASE 13/12/20


England’s Tree of the Year 2020, known as The Happy Man Tree, is to be cut down imminently. Protestors now face prison and unlimited fines

On Friday 11th December at 4.22pm, a Tree Repossession Order was placed on the tree. An injunction against campaigners continuing to protect the tree was secured by Berkeley Homes and Hackney Council in June and became active at 9am on Sunday 13th December.


The injunction also includes a clause stipulating that ‘persons unknown’ will face prison time and an unlimited fine if they are actively protecting the tree, protesting within a certain radius of the tree, or being perceived to incite others to take action.

Campaigners anticipate the tree will be felled in the early hours of Monday 14th December. Campaigners believe the injunction was served late on Friday afternoon in order to hinder counter legal action being pursued over the weekend.

The Happy Man Tree is a 150 year old grade A London Plane street tree located next to the recently demolished Happy Man pub in Woodberry Down, Hackney. It won a landslide majority in the vote for The Woodland Trust’s England Tree of the Year 2020 competition.(1) The tree has been identified on a map from the 1870s, meaning it has survived two world wars, the arrival of the motorcar and the development of the Woodberry Down estate.


The tree was first ordered to be felled by Berkeley Homes and Hackney Council in May 2020 to make way for Phase 3 of the local Woodberry Down development. However, local community members, including families and the elderly, protested and prevented the tree from being felled.

Since then, the Friends of the Happy Man Tree have been campaigning to save the tree through legal action, public protest and by keeping a physical presence at the tree to protect it. Part of efforts to save the tree included the development of an alternative architectural design, which would have saved the tree and also retained all planned housing units.(2) Berkeley Homes refused to engage with or implement this alternative design.


The campaign to save the tree has united the local community during the Covid-19 pandemic, providing a focal point to come together around. The Friends of the Happy Man Tree campaign group is made up of local community members from all walks of life, united by their shared desire to take local action on the climate crisis and save this well loved landmark tree.

The group have so far extended the Happy Man Tree’s life by 8 months. The most recent action by the group is a ‘community Christmas card’, taking the form of a festive mural painted behind the tree. The message reads “All we want for Christmas is The Happy Man Tree. Peace and Love.”

If the tree is felled as planned by Hackney Council and Berkeley Homes, it will be the second Tree of the Year to be lost in 2020. In June, The Cubbington Pear Tree, a 250 year old wild pear tree in Warwickshire that was still bearing fruit, was cut down to make way for HS2.(3)

The Friends of the Happy Man Tree will remain present near the tree this week in expectation of it being felled. This will be a devastating loss for the local community, as well as the nation as a whole as we lose England’s Tree of the Year 2020. The Friends of the Happy Man Tree, however, do not believe this is the end. It is just the beginning of the fight for climate justice at the local level, and the group will be sharing learnings for other local activists as well as continuing to campaign on behalf of trees in Hackney.

For further information, please contact happymantree@drifting.org.uk

Images can be found on The Happy Man Tree website: https://www.thehappymantree.org/

ENDS

  1. Woodland Trust Tree of the Year: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/tree-of-the-year/

  2. A number of alternative designs which would allow the Happy Man Tree to be saved have been put forward, including an option developed by Friends of the Happy Man Tree: https://www.thehappymantree.org/post/phase-3-design-option-to-retain-the-happy-man-tree

  3. HS2 Ltd Fells Historic Cubbington Pear Tree https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/press-centre/2020/10/hs2-fells-cubbington-pear/

  4. For further information about the Save the Happy Man Tree campaign, please visit the website: https://www.thehappymantree.org/

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