The lead protester behind a three-week occupation to save hundreds of trees in Battersea’s York Gardens will face a hearing at the High Court and possible eviction.
Dmitri Barsoukov, 57, who is protesting against housing development plans on the Winstanley and York Road Estate that would see 413 trees felled, will be tried remotely by the High Court tomorrow morning at 10:30am.
The Mayor of Wandsworth and lawyers for the Winstanley and York Road regeneration project brought the legal action by issuing a claim form for the possession of property, and if the occupiers lose they will face eviction from the site.
Barsoukov said: “The only thing we can do is climb higher, to fortify the structures. We’ve got more people staying.
“We’ll make it as difficult as possible.
“We were expecting it, but they only hand delivered this yesterday afternoon giving us absolutely no time to prepare.
“So far we don’t even have a lawyer, it is very uncertain.”
Protesters in hand-built wooden palettes have occupied the site since Sunday 18 April to take a stand against the regeneration plan, which is a joint venture between Wandsworth Council and housing developers Taylor Wimpey.
The protesters, who are supported by XR Wandsworth, initially thought the plans would see at least 124 trees cut down, but after reading planning documents, discovered the total number of trees to go would be significantly higher at 413.
An anonymous protestor said: “We will resist to preserve our standing mature trees because it’s what is helping us to breathe. There are so many trees. They are just so hypocritical to cut them down in a Climate Emergency.
“There’s a lot of people with a lot of passion here to stand up against this atrocity. Even if they come to cut them down, when they cut them next, we will be there and we will resist that too.”
Campaigners have claimed the occupation is legal under Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1997, which makes forced entry into the premises a criminal offence.
2,750 new homes are expected to be built by 2033 under the Winstanley & York Road Regeneration plans, which would see the creation of three tower blocks, ranging between three and 32 storeys.
Of the new housing units, 35% will be affordable, and 484 families currently living on the estate would be rehoused under the scheme, which some Winstanley and York Road Estate residents welcome.
While those behind the regeneration project promise around 450 trees will be planted as part of the new-build along with a 2.5 hectare public park, protesters argue it will take years to compensate for the destruction of hundreds of mature trees, which includes horse chestnut, willow, cherry, and sycamore among a wide-range of other species.
The protesters have already called on Wandsworth Council to halt the works and felling, claiming it will exacerbate air pollution on the site, which is situated next to the busy York Road.
Barsoukov was issued a Community Protection Notice in mid-March after protesters tried to prevent a black poplar tree on the estate from being destroyed.
During the campaign, one protester occupied the tree’s branches for three weeks, before it was cut down.
A spokesperson from Winstanley & York Road Regeneration said: “York Gardens is an important regeneration scheme that will provide many hundreds of much-needed, new affordable homes across a wide mix of tenures, as well as a number of additional community benefits such as a new public park.
“Many existing trees have been retained as part of the development and it will also benefit from extensive planting of new trees, resulting in a net gain across the lifetime of the regeneration.
“The approved planning permission for York Gardens provides new housing up front for existing estate residents, avoiding the need for them to move elsewhere and maintaining the sense of local community.
“By creating the new park in the centre of the new estate, more residents can easily and safely enjoy its benefits.
“An application has been made to the Court for possession of this area of land and we hope for a swift and peaceful conclusion to the matter. This will enable us to progress with building the new homes that are much-needed in the area.”