A community group has succeeded in its bid to spruce up Stamford Hill Estate by sprouting more trees – with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan awarding it nearly £7,000 to get the project up and running.
Zoë Herron Coleman, a member of Friends of Stamford Hill (FOSH), applied for a community tree planting grant from the Greater London Authority, and found out this week that it had paid off.
Freeholder Southern Housing helped the group with its bid, and has also contributed extra funding to the tune of around £2,000.
FOSH will use the cash for a range of 21 trees, which will help reduce noise and air pollution on the estate – situated right next to the busy A10 road.
The proposals need to be finalised by March next year, with the trees being planted soon afterwards.
Zoë said organising the application was “actually quite a painful” process – “one of those things where you think ‘What have I got myself into?'” – but is delighted it has all been worth it.
And it is not just the physical, pollution-busting benefits that make the trees “really important” for residents, Zoë explained, but the effect they have on people’s mental wellbeing.
She said: “In preparation for the bid, I interviewed a number of residents, many of whom are older or disabled and have lived here for over 20 years.
“There was lots of grass and trees around when they first moved here, but now that’s all gone. We’re surrounded by brick buildings and car parks. The first thing you see when you walk out the front door is a row of bins.
“So having these new trees will be really important, physically and psychologically.
“With funding cuts going on, projects like this are not seen as a priority, so it’s up to communities to take action themselves.”
One resident Zoë spoke to, a pagan woman named Mo Roberts, had not wanted to move to the estate when she found out she was being placed there decades ago. It had a reputation at the time for being “very rough”.
But what swung it for Mo, Zoë revealed, was a “beautiful old oak tree” outside her flat: “It was the one thing she treasured during those first few years. But now it’s been paved over as the estate has expanded.”
The new trees will have to be looked after by the community, as the grant does not cover ongoing maintenance, but Zoë said discussions are already underway about how to achieve that.
She said: “Ultimately, we want to have a barrier of trees around the whole estate, soaking up the pollution and blocking out the noise from traffic.”
And she explained that FOSH is still in the first phase of a master plan to make Stamford Hill “London’s best eco estate”.
The group has already helped to set up an allotment, as well as the Peace and Wellbeing garden, which is often used to host community get-togethers.
The Mayor of London also announced this week that Hackney Council and its partners, including local park user groups, had been awarded nearly £50,000 to plant 180 trees across the borough.
The project aims to improve air quality, reduce flooding and improve biodiversity in Hackney.
Trees are to be planted in Allens Gardens, Aske Gardens, Butterfield Gardens, Clapton Common, Clapton Pond, Clapton Square, Clissold Park, Daubeney Fields, De Beauvoir Square, Hackney Downs, Hackney Marshes, Haggerston Park, London Fields, Mabley Green, Millfields Park, Shepherdess Walk, Shoreditch Park Springfield Park, St Thomas’s Square, Stonebridge Gardens, Well Street Common and West Hackney Recreation Ground.
Shirley Rodrigues, Sadiq Khan’s deputy mayor of environment and energy, said: “The Mayor wants London to be one of the greenest cities in the world and the 20,000 new trees we are planting this season will play a small but important part in improving our green spaces.
“In addition to this we are also offering 10,000 free trees to local community groups, schools and charities.
“The Mayor is determined to protect and increase our trees, woodland and green space and help London become the world’s first National Park City.”
To find out more about community tree planting grants, or to see a map of current projects, please visit the Mayor of London’s website here.