Croydon Council’s ambivalent approach to environmental protection has been called into question once again after the destruction of trees in Waddon. Photos: PETER BALL
What began as a spontaneous, one-woman sit-down protest yesterday ultimately failed to save a set of much-admired, beautiful mature trees from destruction by Croydon Council.
Most of the trees were oaks, and some estimated to be at least 100 years old.
The incident has raised again serious questions about the council’s policies on protecting trees and its seriousness about dealing with the climate crisis and issues surrounding the destruction of our natural environment which contribute to global warming.
The protest first began soon after 8am outside the Minster School on Warrington Road in Waddon, as council contractors arrived to fell the street trees. It was the first day of the autumn half-term, so the work had obviously been planned by the council for some time, to be outside the summer months and while no children are on the school site. But according to locals, there had been precious little, if any, consultation with residents.
Grace Onions, well-known locally as an environmental activist, was called by her 80-year-old neighbour (“in distress”, according to Onions). The trees were on land inside the perimeter of the church school.
Onions told Inside Croydon: “I spoke to several of the people carrying out the work and it seems that it was authorised due to subsidence. Some oaks of considerable age have been destroyed – clearly over 100 years old.
“I did not know what to do. I simply sat down.
“For more than an hour I was undisturbed, until the police arrived.
“All staff were polite and answered almost all of my questions about the tree roots, if there were any other possibilities that could have caused or exacerbated the subsidence.
“There may have been discussions at the school regarding underpinning the school structure. From what little information I can find, destroying the trees was the option that most appealed to them,” Onions said.
“Some residents along Warrington Road received a letter allegedly written by some of the school children, but I live 100 yards from the school on an adjoining road and heard nothing. Until, that is, the sound of chainsaws this morning.
“‘They’ said that they will replace the trees. Where? When? How many? Will they be mature trees that can support the wildlife that needs them? Who will ensure that they grow and thrive?”
Onions has raised questions about whether the destruction of the trees may have been because of building works carried out at the school in the past decade – adding classrooms to the side and on top of the original building – which may have adversely affected the load-bearing of the school structure.
“Is it not common for a building to ‘settle’ over a period of years when additional floors are added?” Onions asked. “Could this also be affecting the subsidence?
“The trees may have to take some of the blame but if they are not the sole cause, then the problem will not go away. Almost every year there seems to be work on the school roof during the summer.”
Onions was clearly badly upset by the experience yesterday.
“The trees are gone. Destroyed. And with it, another little piece of our children’s inheritance.
“They cannot be replaced in the lifetime of those who carried out or authorised the devastation.
“Croydon Council has declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency – why are they authorising the destruction of things that have been proven to clean our air? Surely school children need clean air too? Buildings can be built in a few years but trees that benefit our environment and provide habitat for wildlife take decades to grow to help us.
“It’s way past time our council took more of a long view of our environment. Or do they think that they will move somewhere nicer, maybe with trees?”
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