Waltham Forest Echo

Waltham Forest Echo

Leyton ‘pocket park’ trees under threat from high-rise flats

More than 100 trees set to be cut down for housing have each been given their own bodyguard, reports Local Democracy Reporter Josh Mellor Orient Way Pocket [...]

Hero for Leyton ‘pocket park’ trees under threat from high-rise flats
An activist poses with the London Maple she has promised to protect (Credit: Friends of Orient Way Pocket Park)
By Waltham Forest Echo 27 September 2021

More than 100 trees set to be cut down for housing have each been given their own bodyguard, reports Local Democracy Reporter Josh Mellor

Orient Way Pocket Park is an “informal green space” created on former industrial land near Lea Bridge Station by Waltham Forest Council, which now wants to build around 300 new homes in the area.

This regeneration project would spread across three sites at the crossroads between Orient Way, Argall Way and Lea Bridge Road and mean cutting down all 122 trees in the pocket park.

The council says 95 of these trees are “low quality” and 12 “cannot realistically be retained” for longer than one year, while promising to plant more than 250 trees on the new development.

Protestors, meanwhile, are determined to use non-violent action to stop the felling and on 27th Sunday posted notices on each tree with the name of its protector.

Organiser Emily Hughes, said: “I think it was a really good event and it felt like we were doing something purposeful and that can be replicated whenever a green space is under threat. 

“It’s quite simple and it looked quite powerful to have them up on the trees. There’s a willingness of people, that if it comes to the chop, citizens are ready to do non violent direct action.”

Campaigners posted “Citizens Tree Preservation Orders”, imitating the legal documents that councils can use to preserve trees from development.

Final plans for the Lea Bridge regeneration, which envisions towers of up to 22 storeys at the crossroads, are expected in summer this year after five years of consultation.

The council’s cabinet member for housing, Simon Miller, said it “respects residents’ right to voice their opinions and concerns about local developments”.

However, he argued the new homes would enable “more of our people to live green, sustainable lives locally” and noted the development will include hundreds of new trees, “specially selected to boost biodiversity”, as well as “green roofs and habitats for birds, bats, and invertebrates”.

He said: “The Lea Bridge Station sites have been programmed for redevelopment for many years. We will not support proposals unless there is assurance that there is no net loss of trees.

“Extensive engagement and consultation has been held with the community since 2016, in person and online, to ensure that residents have been able to have their say about plans for the Lea Bridge Station sites.”