The Happy Man pub and its tree. Image: Ellen Halliday

Developers began demolishing the Happy Man pub on Tuesday after a court ordered protestors to stop their campaign to save a neighbouring 150-year-old tree.

The Happy Man tree was earmarked for removal during Phase 3 of the Woodberry Down redevelopment – one of the biggest single-site estate regeneration projects in Europe, led by Hackney Council and developers Berkeley Homes.

Last Friday, a High Court judge banned campaigners seeking to save the London Plane tree from continuing their protest. 

The injunction, requested by Hackney Council and issued against five named individuals and ‘persons unknown’, means that any person could be fined or sent to prison for continuing to disrupt planned work. 

   

Campaign group Friends of the Happy Man Tree said: “This legal blunderbuss is a bullying and extreme weapon for any organisation to use. 

“We are upset to see that Hackney Council and Berkeley Homes have resorted to the tactics of the rich and powerful to achieve their aim. 

“Throughout this protest we have asked for dialogue. Instead, they are using an injunction against anyone, threatening unlimited fines and imprisonment. 

“This shows Berkeley Homes and Hackney Council as morally bankrupt because of their failure to engage with the protest.

“They may well be able to cut the tree down, but they are losing the argument.”

Campaigners argue that the landmark 150-year-old tree has significant social and environmental value and could have been incorporated into redevelopment plans, which were approved by the council’s planning committee in April. 

The Town Hall says there was extensive public consultation on the issue but the tree could not be saved without completely redesigning the project, which would have caused huge delays in the construction of affordable and social housing for new and current estate residents.

Woodberry Down resident Janet Grant said: “I don’t think there’s anything good about taking down a tree. The campaign was a really special thing, and Hackney Council cannot write off trees again.

“But there are people currently living in really substandard accommodation. I really care about those people.”

The Berkeley Group will build 584 new homes in the next development phase, 117 of which will be social housing and 126 for shared ownership.

Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville said: “Building new homes is never easy, and is full of trade-offs and hard decisions.”

A council spokesperson added: “We’re pleased the court has granted our application, but this was always a last resort, following months of consultation and meetings with local residents.”

The developers will plant 175 new trees at the estate and create a new park and 29 tennis courts’ worth of public open space.

The council has previously committed to planting 35,000 new trees across the borough by 2022. 

Berkeley Homes said: “We will continue to work closely with local people, the council and all other interested parties as we progress the regeneration of Woodberry Down.”

The Friends of the Happy Man Tree added: “Despite being deeply upset about the pending loss of the much loved Happy Man Tree, the members of Woodberry Down are determined to fight on.”

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