Islington Tribune - by PETER GRUNER Published: 5 September 2008
The London plane trees outside the national newspaper’s Farringdon Road offices are set for the chop
Guardian’s top writers in fight to keep it green
Paper’s environmental heavyweights wade in as office move threatens Farringdon’s trees
LEADING environmental journalists working for the Guardian have spoken out in a row over plans to axe 10 distinctive London plane trees outside the newspaper’s offices in Farringdon. The paper’s environment editor John Vidal and green columnist George Monbiot have both objected to the scheme, which they argue will destroy a vital green lung.
The 70 year-old mature specimens, said to be all in robust health, are due to be removed by the new owners of the building. Axing the trees is part of plans to create a new office shopping complex when the paper’s offices move to King’s Cross next month.
Mr Vidal, who has signed a petition with 220 colleagues, said: “Almost everyone in the building is very upset about the threat to these trees. We’ve watched them grow and they are now truly substantial and important in the concrete desert of Farringdon Road.”
George Monbiot said: “I’d like to see trees left standing and I hope that these London planes can be saved. Trees in cities particularly are a big public asset because they keep the streets cool, and provide a break from the grey.”
Mayor of London Boris Johnson, himself an Islington resident, has indicated his interest in the issue. He has the powers to “call the scheme in” if there is sufficient protest.
An application to bring forward the front line of the building by five metres will be considered by the council’s south area planning sub committee later this year. It will mean the felling of the trees and residents can object.
But protesters fear that the scheme could get the go-ahead because a similar plan was submitted by the Guardian itself in 2005 approved by Islington council though it never went ahead.
Islington planning officers have told the developers to scale back the proposed nine story project but admit privately that they may not have powers to object to the felling of the trees.
The Save the Farringdon Road Planes campaign was launched by Islington resident Meg Howarth, who says she has the support of everyone in the area including staff at the nearby offices of the Arts Council of Great Britain. It also has support from the Tree Council. Ms Howarth said with the signatures from the Guardian, they have collected more than 1,000 names, “all opposed to the wanton destruction of these wonderful trees.”
Islington’s Green Cllr Katie Dawson said she hoped Islington’s planning committee will refuse the application.
She added: “It’s ironic that the Guardian – a staunch defender of the environment – has allowed this scheme to go through. As it is still their building, they could at least have objected.” But a spokeswoman for the Guardian said the office had been sold off to Irish firm Trinity Biotech and all inquiries should be directed to them.
Islington Council’s executive member for the environment, Lib Dem councillor Greg Foxsmith, said: “The council will seek the retention of trees. “We have more trees per street mile than anywhere else in London and we want to keep it that way.”