Why we want to save Gaywood Road’s trees

Local resident Leila Reyburn writes about her community’s 40,000-strong petition to stop the felling of two Walthamstow trees…

The trees residents are fighting to save (Credit: Clare McGann)

The neighbours of Gaywood Road and beyond are fighting to save two mature trees on the edge of a Pocket Living building site, opposite the William Morris Gallery.

As of early July, 40,000 people and counting have signed a petition to save these trees

I’ve lived in Gaywood Road, Walthamstow for eight years. When my partner Tom and I moved here, we were delighted to move into such a friendly street. The day we moved in lots of our neighbours popped by to introduce themselves.

This sense of community became even more apparent during the pandemic, when we set up a WhatsApp group – people help each other out, lend things and keep an eye out for each other. 

Recently, planning permission was granted for Pocket Living to build 90 flats on a site of a former care home at 458 Forest Road. Given the planning pictures we saw, we thought the beautiful horse chestnut and cherry tree on the edge of the site would be here to stay.

One tree in bloom (Credit: Clare McGann)

But we soon realised that was apparently not the case. Several us of wrote to the Echo about our desire to save these trees, and soon after a neighbour, Katy, started a petition.

“The outcry within the community has been so huge, I felt organising a petition was the right next step,” she says. “The response has been truly amazing and reflects such a sense of unity and passion to save these incredibly special trees.”

Another neighbour, Heather, told me: “Watching the changing of the seasons and seeing nature thrive in the city is one of the pleasures of living on this lovely road.

“For those trees to be chopped down in their prime… is so unfair on future generations whose environment is being ripped apart.”

A number of objections were made to the planning application for the Pocket Living development – but the application was ultimately approved by Waltham Forest Council.

Delays to the building work meant deconstruction of the care home commenced in the middle of nesting season – and the two mature trees have been temporarily saved, as there is a birds’ nest in the horse chestnut. 

Residents have raised the issue to William Morris Ward councillor Grace Williams, who has helped us raise concerns with Pocket Living. They’ve told us they are reviewing the situation, but also that there is little hope of saving the cherry tree permanently, due to roots being too close to the planned building (despite it being on the very edge of the site).  

With 40,000 people – and counting – signing our petition to save these trees, we hope that the cherry tree can stay. And that both beautiful trees, which are at the centre of Waltham Forest, can be kept for all to enjoy. 

Visit the Gaywood Road change.org petition to learn more