Council slammed for 'wasting taxpayers' money after sending as many as 10 security guards to put up a fence around a 120-year-old tree that residents are trying to stop being cut down
A council has been slammed for 'wasting taxpayers' money after sending as many as 10 security guards to put up a fence around a 120-year-old tree that residents are trying to stop being cut down. Haringey council took possession of the tree in north London at around 4:30am on Sunday morning, despite uproar from activists and residents. By sunrise they had erected scaffolding around the tree in the middle of a residential street, creating a protective wall to stop protesters getting close by. Between 10 and 12 balaclava-wearing security guards have been deployed to patrol the imposing fortification and keep protesters at bay. They now guard the structure, with some perched on a watch tower built into the tree, observing the whole street from above. Activists clashed with Haringey council when plans emerged that the tree would be chopped down over claims it was causing subsidence. Haringey Tree Protectors (HTP) occupied the plane tree in Stroud Green for almost a year after a court ruled it could be felled. Haringey council erected the barricades in early on Sunday, sealing off the surrounding area with barriers and deploying security officers. Paul Powlesland, a barrister and tree campaigner visited the site on Monday and was shocked to see the heavy-handed approach. He said: “There were about 10 to 12 security guards there. “It is a very weird situation, with the watch tower they built. It did feel very eerie and strange and a bit intimidating. “There was no one there trying to break in or anything. “It’s deeply sad that we’re losing many beautiful and veteran trees unnecessarily because insurance companies want to make a profit.” On Twitter he wrote after seeing the fortifications around the ancient tree: "I visited the Oakfield plane to witness Haringey Council taking the urban warfare component of the war on nature to a whole new level. "Eight security guards ringing the fencing and guard platform up in the tree: jaw-dropping to see this Orwellian and destructive waste of taxpayers' money." Haringey council said it took the measures to stop protesters climbing up the branches and trying to stop it being cut down. A spokesman for the authority said: “Senior officers have been on site and believe additional ropes are hanging from the tree. “The council has exercised the authority granted by the court order by taking physical possession of the tree to deter and prevent illegal occupation. “We appreciate that some disturbance and inconvenience may have been caused by this action, but we hope residents will understand the necessity of this work, and to do so unimpeded. “We will make every effort to keep further disruption to a minimum.” The row began last year, when insurance company Allianz blamed the tree for being the primary cause of subsidence to a property and demanded the council chop it down and admit liability for £400,000. Haringey Tree Protestors (HTP) mobilised over 120 activists to guard the plane tree from the council worker’s chainsaws. Demonstrators insist there is no evidence for Allianz's claims, who are working through loss adjustors Crawford & Company. The council took the group to court to gain possession of the tree and sought an injunction to arrest protestors. Clerkenwell County Court gave the council possession, but rejected the authority's injunction request and deferred the hearing until this month. The protesters stood by the tree since last May 1, with some even scaling the tree with hammocks to continue the guard overnight. Describing the scenes surrounding the tree back in 2022, HTP campaigner Giovanna Iozzi said people were coming from as far as Ealing and Croydon, south London, and weathering rain to save the tree. She said at the time: "Ninety nine per cent of the houses’ owners are supportive, including in the houses that are supposed to be affected by it. They completely understand what we are trying to do."