Neighbours celebrate stay of execution for Walthamstow tree

Walthamstow neighbours have banded together to save a ‘wonderful’ tree from being felled after concerns over subsistence were raised.

Cleveland Park Avenue, which cuts between Hatherley Road and the town’s high street, is known for its characterful trees, the people living there say.

But after subsidence issues were identified in the Victorian townhouses, insurers recommended Waltham Forest Council chop down one of the beloved Turkish hazel trees – much to the dismay of residents.

Resident David White said he had been told late last Thursday evening (April 4) that the tree would be cut down the following morning.

He had been prepared to chain himself to the Turkish hazel if needed, but he said it didn’t go that far in the end.

He added: “If the guy had said the death warrant had been signed, we’ve got to chop it down, then I’d have locked myself to the tree and said: ‘Nope, not yet.’”

Instead, the concerned resident got in touch with the local authority, which has a policy in place to preserve trees wherever possible.

Rather than being chopped down, the tree was given a stay of execution and pruned in line with insurance requirements. It will be monitored for any further issues over the next year.

David continued: “It’s certainly been given a harsh haircut, but if it survives, that’s a great thing.”

He recommended residents across London adopt a similar approach and challenge the need for a tree to be cut down, adding: “Building insurers will see there’s been damage to a building and point to the tree.

“They’ll say to the council that this must happen otherwise you’re liable for costs, and public services are really stretched at the minute.

“By all means, notify your insurers – but also notify [the council’s team]. We’re just lucky we managed to get through to [the council] that morning.”

Fellow resident David Hollingsworth added there was a national trend of insurers “demanding a tree be felled outside the house” when councils have “limited funds to contest these things”.

The trees are a key part of the road’s identity, he said, and a popular sight with commuters.

He added: “A lot of people walk down that aisle road because it’s a cut-through to the station or the tube, and when we’re out gardening they often comment on how much they love walking down just because of how green the trees are.”

There are also plenty of environmental benefits, with David White adding: “They’re all the same species and mature. They’re wonderful trees: we love them and they’re important for shade and transpiration.”

Clyde Loakes, the council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for the environment, said: “We have worked with our tree officers to try one last option in this case.”

The flora along the road is looked after by members of the Cleveland Park Residents’ Association, which was awarded a Certificate of National Distinction by the Royal Horticultural Society in 2018.

Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter