Community campaigning raises £12,000 to green Portland Road

In our bankrupt borough, money doesn’t grow on trees… but it can certainly help buy some, as a community initiative by residents in Woodside has amply demonstrated, culminating with a celebratory planting day this month

Dig that: a contractor places a Portland Road maple in its new home

“What are you doing to my tree?” Chris Peskett shouted down the street.

It was March last year, and volunteers from Trees for Streets were out and about in South Norwood, putting “I’m a sponsored tree” labels on a tree that Peskett had donated.

Twelve months later, and Peskett and Trees for Streets were popping champagne corks on Portland Road after a day in which a community-run campaign had raised nearly £12,000, crowdfunded from local businesses and residents, resulting in the planting of 18 trees along one of the busier suburban streets in the borough.

Peskett is a retired teacher and community volunteer. “A formidable character,” is how one of the Trees for Streets people described her.

Trees for Streets say, “Portland Road is a busy polluted retail street, with a mixture of cafés, newsagents, hairdressers, gift shops, trades, a leisure centre and some residential. It wouldn’t be unfair to say that it could do with a little extra TLC. Over the years the local community have been working on small improvements to make it a more pleasant centre for the neighbourhood.

Impressive: trees don’t come cheap, but the £12,000 was raised in just a few weeks

“Chris was keen to find a way to get a lot of trees planted down Portland Road – her community group had already planted up around the front of the South Norwood Leisure Centre.”

Helped by the People for Portland Road community group and We Love SE25, the crowdfunding campaign was set to last 12 weeks. More than 150 separate contributions were received, bringing in £11,985.

This would cover the creation of new tree pits, the trees themselves and the ongoing maintenance – including regular watering.

Richard Edwards, Croydon Council’s hard-working and under-resourced tree officer, had become involved, as he was needed to organise the tree pits and choose and order the trees – maples, because they are hardy enough to prosper in what might otherwise be a hostile environment. And they also provide a splash of colour in their autumn foliage.

Community champion: Chris Peskett

But beyond that essential assistance and official permissions, this greening of Portland Road was entirely a community initiative – run by residents and local businesses. The council did not instigate it or provide funding directly, and elected councillors played no part (well, not until they showed up for the photo-op on planting day, as they do…).

Trees for Streets say, “If you’d like sponsor a tree in your street, or, like Chris, do something on a different scale altogether, just search for your council on our website or drop us a line at”

And we’re in the final days of a “plant a tree, get a tree for free” offer from the Mayor of London.

With a deadline of the end of March 2023, if you sponsor a tree, the Mayor will sponsor one additional tree in the borough in a priority location. So hurry…

Read more: How street trees make roads safer

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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