Forest Radio and the people who started it back in 2013 were also among the originators of the Save Our Square campaign set up in 2018 to oppose the overdevelopment of the town square, which in its original form would have involved the destruction of the avenue of lime trees and the building of four enormous tower blocks of "luxury" (meaning very expensive) flats, as well as the loss of one third of the open public space to a private commercial firm (Capital and Regional) to extend the existing shopping mall out into the square. In all more than 80 mature and healthy trees were to be removed in the process. The only open public space in central Walthamstow was to be sacrificed to boosting the Council's income from Business Rates and Council Tax from private housing.
As a result of the powerful campaign waged by Save Our Square (the highlights of which are here in our archives) the project was delayed by two years and a new proposal put before the Council, sparing all but two of the trees in the Avenue of Limes but increasing the height of the largest block of flats from 27 to 33 storeys, the same number as Centre Point in New Oxford Street, a size almost unimaginable in the context of our essentially Victorian town centre. Ironically today's Mail Online (28th January) carries an article telling us that Centre Point has joined London's growing list of empty luxury skyscrapers as the developers have given up trying to sell the apartments at their greedy and unrealistic prices. Is the London housing bubble at last beginning to burst, we wonder?
Yesterday, at the meeting shown here, the new proposals were rubber-stamped by our disgraceful and spineless allegedly "Labour" Council, just as the original proposals were in 2018. This was completely expected. Our Council is purely devoted to lining its coffers without the tiniest interest in what its electorate wants or needs.
Its commitment to the environment is a joke. Please don't be fooled by its claim that it will replace each tree it destroys with five more "elsewhere in the borough" (i.e. where there isn't a bus station, a children's play area and thousands of people trying to breathe). An independent Arborial Report comissioned by Save Our Square in August 2018 explained that: "New trees do not replace old trees. Replanting is an essential part of tree population management but it is very misleading to claim that a newly planted tree can 'replace' an existing mature specimen. Replacement suggests, like for like, or equivalence. However there is no equivalence when removing a mature tree and planting a young one. The ecosystem services of carbon capture, pollution mitigation,shading, air cooling, wind break, flood control, etc. are all vastly greater with a big old tree than any new planting. Replacement, if it is to mean equivalence, would require a planting ratio in the order of 100:1, and even then many benefits would still be missing for decades to come."
We can not hope to restate here the entire history of the attempts of local people to retain the only bit of green open space in central Walthamstow and their right to occasionally catch sight of the sun. It has been an ugly and depressing piece of bullying from people to whom we have entrusted the task of looking after our interests – the interests of the ordinary traditional residents who have always lived here. This process of clearing the less wealthy out of a borough is usually called "gentrification". I prefer the term "London Clearances" to stress its similarity to the Highland Clearances of the 17th and 18th centuries in Scotland. It no longer suits the ruling class of Britain to have poor people living where their forefathers have always lived. This borough is no longer for the likes of you and me.
If you haven't already seen it do please watch Nikita Woolfe's amazing film Concrete Soldiers UK on this site.
RUNNING TIME: 2 hours 54 minutes 5 sec. approx.