York Gardens trees begin to fall after council wins High Court battle to evict protesters

Tree fellers have begun to cut down trees in York Gardens after protesters, who have occupied the site for over three weeks to save 413 of its trees, lost a High Court eviction battle on Thursday.

A number of trees have been felled, after security arrived to fence off part of the Winstanley and York Estate and barred people entry.

Campaigners, who have occupied Battersea’s York Gardens since Sunday 18 April, were evicted, after Wandsworth Council and Winstanley & York Road Regeneration won a possession order from the High Court yesterday.

Campaigner Ros Coward, aged 68, who acted as one of the defendants during the High Court hearing, said: “It was with absolute horror that I emerged from this meeting to find that the trees were already being felled.

“There is a wildlife crime being committed by the felling of these trees. There are birds nesting at the moment, there are bats roosting, we have evidence of that. And that is against the legislation to protect wildlife.

“I feel utterly heartbroken when I see the trees massacred like this. It does feel like murder. I do feel that trees do have more than a valuable place in our ecosystem.

“I wept when I saw that, I can’t believe it.”

BLOCKED OFF: Security staff stood outside the cordoned section of York Gardens and refused people entry

Four protesters, who refused to leave the occupation site, were eventually removed.

Under the regeneration, which is a joint venture between Wandsworth Council and housing developer Taylor Wimpey, a playground, nursery and tower blocks will be demolished to make way for three new high-rise buildings, ranging between three and 32 storeys.

Of the 2,750 homes, 35% will be up for social rent, London affordable rent or shared ownership, with the rest up for private sale or rent.  

While some Winstanley and York Estate residents welcome the upgrade, resident of 55 years and campaigner John Crickmore has rejected the plans. 

Crickmore, aged 57, said: “I’ve lived here all my life, Battersea-born and bred. The children have nowhere to play. We’re going back to when I was a child, when I had very little place to play. So we’ve gone back to the late sixties, where’s the progress?

“We’re going backwards in the name of profit. That’s what annoys me.

“This is a sanctuary for children. The government are telling us to go outside, they’ve closed the play area, now they’ve cut up the park as we’re coming out of lockdown. Where are the children going to go?

“Yes it is about the trees, but it’s also about York Gardens.”

Wandsworth Council, which has declared a Climate Emergency, has said it will plant 450 more trees under the project, which is set for completion by 2033.

FELLED: A section of trees in York Gardens have already been cut down despite protesters pleas to halt felling

A Wandsworth Council spokesperson said: “This comprehensive estate regeneration scheme will provide new and improved homes for existing residents and help the council play its role in helping to deliver the new homes Londoners need. 

“The regeneration programme also delivers new community infrastructure including a state-of-the-art leisure centre, a community centre, a library, a children’s centre and nursery, a new local office for Workmatch, a health centre and a new 2.5 hectare public park.

“It is also expected to create 88 permanent jobs for local people, 3,360 temporary construction jobs and an overall boost to the local economy of more than £207m.

“The plans were drawn up following lengthy and detailed consultation with estate residents and neighbours over a six year period.

“Every secure council tenant and resident council leaseholder will get a new council owned home if they want to stay on the estate. All social rent housing for existing secure council tenants will be built to meet their individual housing needs, eliminating over-crowding. 

“The scheme has been welcomed by local ward councillors from the opposition group who support the council’s vision of delivering better homes and community facilities in this part of Battersea and the scheme has also been approved by the GLA and the Mayor’s office.”

Wandsworth Council and Winstanley and York Road Regeneration have denied a wildlife crime has been committed and said an ecologist has monitored the trees to ensure there is no detrimental impact.

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