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Walthamstow: Avenue of trees saved!
Linda Taaffe, Waltham Forest Socialist Party
The people of Waltham Forest have received an early Christmas present. Waltham Forest council has issued a public statement to say that "the avenue of Lime trees will remain" as part of the revised plans for the mall and the square.
But unlike little children who are usually advised they'll only get presents if they are good, Save Our Square campaigners, supported by thousands, have got there by being a thorn in the side of the councillors and the mall company!
For four years we have battled every step of the way. From petitions and letters, numerous events, a demonstration and publicity stunts, we have been out there taking the issue to local people, the trade unions and to the local Labour Party.
Many children participated in our campaign two summers ago, when they drew pictures of trees in the square, which we then exhibited. Then, local artists came on board and produced some wonderful pieces of work. Our Tree Defenders were ready to swing into action at the drop of a hat. More recently, Extinction Rebellion expressed an interest in doing their bit to save the local environment. No wonder the planners have now stepped back on the trees.
The consultation in October demonstrated in no uncertain terms the depth of opposition of local people. The council may even have got wind of our intention to use new environmental legislation to go for legal action. So we end this year being well pleased!
However, the campaign started with objections to the height of the proposed blocks plus the unaffordability of the flats, and to the loss of almost a third of the public realm to private property developers. These issues remain.
The October consultation outlined plans for a 29-storey tower block, and other high blocks that are completely out of keeping with the surrounding houses. With only 10% of flats for social rent, and the loss of public space with a large grassy area, it is nothing short of daylight robbery!
Therefore we remain, and urge all campaigners to stand firm. The battle is not finished. Let's see what is in the revised plan in the new year.
Meanwhile, let's raise a glass to Save Our Square, and all those campaigners who, in one way or another, over the years, demonstrated that they were willing to go to the end to save our beautiful lime trees.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 11 December 2019 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.