By Francesca Casonato
Residents are sleeping in tents and occupying a green area to stop town hall officials axing two trees which are more than 170 years old.
The protest is taking place in Moremead Road, Lewisham, where three lorries arrived at 7:30am on September 14 to fell the oaks, with an official from Lewisham council, which in June 2021 issued the order to cut the trees down following a subsidence claim made in 2017.
The campaigners, who were informed only the night before about the arrival of the lorries, decided to take turns and occupy the green area under the two oaks.
Their petition to stop the felling has now more than 62,000 signatures.
Aiga Maras, a resident and mother of one, said: “Three trucks came down and we were sitting under the trees. A council representative came and called the police, who asked us to move. So we closed off an area around the trees and established a squatting site.”
Ms Maras and six other people occupied the green area to make use of Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977, which makes it an offence to use violence to enter into a site.
She said: “The council representative said that they were going to court to ask for an injunction. We’re gonna keep occupying the place and protecting it until everything is shut down. ”
Diana Grigaliunaite, a 33-year-old resident, took part in the protest and already spent one night with her partner in a tent under the two 170-year-old oak trees.
She said: “We spent the whole night, from 9:30pm-6am. They said they could come and cut them down at any time, without giving any notice, so we stayed there just in case.”
Diana explained that her daughter, aged 6, and her son, aged 14, were very upset about the council’s decision to cut the trees down.
She said: “Those trees are truly the heart of our community. Our children always play there. My daughter was so sad when she saw the lorries coming, she asked me to go outside and shout at them not to cut the trees down. I spent the night here for my children and for the whole community. We are gonna try to stand our ground for as long as possible.”
A Lewisham Council spokesperson said: “Unfortunately, we have been left with no option but to remove two trees in Moremead Road. We recognise the concerns of some residents and will be working with them to select the species of the new trees that will be planted to replace those removed. In the meantime, we will proceed with the removal as planned, taking all the necessary steps and precautions to ensure that this can happen safely and smoothly.”
The petition is here: https://www.change.org/p/lewisham-council-save-our-oaks