Developer ignores poplar demand

IT WAS not the promised air-raid siren that woke us up yesterday morning, but the incessant whirr of a police helicopter.

The eco-protesters down the road from our house in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, promised that when the bailiffs came to evict them we would be roused by a klaxon. In the end, it was the drone of a police surveillance unit, just hovering and watching, that shattered our tranquillity.

All winter, along with our neighbours we have given money and signed petition forms in support of the eco-warriors trying to stop the felling of 56 poplar trees in a public park adjoining the River Thames.

The issue was simple: Fairclough Homes had built luxury townhouses on the private land behind the trees; in order to sell them as having "river views", down the trees had to come. The local council, in a fit of madness, agreed; and down they must come.

These are trees in Canbury Gardens, a quiet, peaceful stretch of river bank close to Kingston town centre. My children play there. Stand in my road and look towards the river and the trees are there, where they have stood since anyone can remember, a splash of nature amid an encroaching urban landscape. Not for much longer.

Yesterday, at an estimated cost to the local council of pounds 500,000, a huge police and security operation swung into force. Its target was our heroes, people who have made us feel embarrassed and more than a little ashamed these past few months; who, while we cosied up in our warm, snug homes, were prepared to camp out, to live in tree houses, to dig tunnels, to save our poplars.

Not their trees, notice - most of the protesters are not from Kingston, but are veterans of similar campaigns at Newbury and Manchester Airport. This one, though, is different: those efforts were about stopping a road and a runway, which at least would be used by everyone; this is about saving some trees so that some well-off people can have a better view.

The madness that has gripped elsewhere yesterday descended on our own patch of suburbia. At first light, a flotilla of police and security guards in rubber dinghies sailed up the Thames and landed on the area where my five-year-old likes to play football.

Joined by back-up support - "120 police and 140 private security", said Kingston under-sheriff John Hargrove, in charge of the operation, proudly - they erected security fencing all around. The public river walk was cordoned off, nobody could get near the trees.

Then they started the slow, laborious ritual of hauling the protesters out, one by one. In all, seven people were arrested. More, surely, will follow, as they begin the serious task of clearing the tunnels and bring in the "cherry-pickers" to get them down from the trees.

These events have their own rhythm and strange, twisted, language. Everything was being done for our "safety" and the safety of the protesters, we were told. They kept saying it over and over again. But we were not consulted. Nobody asked us what we thought about the trees; nobody listened when thousands of local people signed a petition asking they be saved; nobody wondered if we minded paying for yesterday's insanity.

Behind the guards with eyes too close together who looked as though they had been bussed in for the two or three days of the clear up, stood a security man brandishing a video camera. When asked what he was doing, he said he was filming because they liked to learn from each protest, to get it right next time.

And there will be next times - for our own safety, of course.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Jeremy Clarkson
people
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own