A row of mature trees threatened by The Mall’s redevelopment has become the focus for local campaigners, writes James Cracknell
Campaigners fighting to save Walthamstow Town Square from being built on are creating a children’s art gallery along a row of condemned trees.
On Saturday 1st September the group Save Our Square will tie more than 100 children’s pictures to the mature trees set to be cut down. Locals are invited to bring a picnic to the square, where there’ll be fun activities and a talk about its history.
The open space is due to be reconfigured – and shrunk by one-third – as part of the redevelopment of The Mall shopping centre and construction of 500 homes by developers Capital and Regional (C&R). The scheme was granted planning permission by Waltham Forest Council last December. A total of 81 existing trees will be cut down to make way for it – with 94 new trees set to be planted in their place.
This summer ten architecture students developed a series of alternative designs for the town square to those currently proposed, identifying opportunities for the space to better serve the community, which were displayed there in July.
Save Our Square also recently commissioned an aboriculture consultant to assess the condemned trees and the details about them included in the planning application submitted by C&R. Russell Miller claimed to find discrepancies including the numbering, making identification difficult, as well as “enormous underestimates” in the life expectancy given for many trees.
Among his conclusions, Russell wrote: “The lime avenue in particular is an extraordinary asset, creating a people and wildlife friendly corridor in a busy and polluted urban context. There is solid scientific evidence that removing this avenue will have an adverse effect on mental health.
“New trees do not replace old trees. Replacement suggests like for like, or equivalence. but there is no equivalence when removing a mature tree and planting a young one.
“It is difficult to over state the tree cover loss and associated loss of human and environmental benefits that would result from the felling of these trees. In the local context this would represent a very significant destruction of a public amenity.”
C&R claims its plans will see £200million invested in Walthamstow town centre. Regarding the loss of trees in the town square, a company spokesperson said: “With our specialist consultants, we have reviewed the tree report in question from Russell Miller in light of the queries raised. We are satisfied, following that review, that the findings from our original planning submission were accurate.
“We understand that there are concerns around the provision of trees in the new town square and garden, and we would like to reassure the local community that new trees will be planted in the square, resulting in an overall increase in the number of trees and sensory gardens, transforming this public space.”
To view an online gallery of the children’s town square artwork: