Treehouse falls to M11 bulldozer: Sheriff of London wins 10-hour battle for chestnut at George Green

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The Independent Online
PENSIONERS hurled abuse at the police, children cried. Above them young men dangled from a tree. Beneath the bare branches saws, hydraulic platforms, megaphones and a bulldozer were used to evict temporary residents of a 250-year-old chestnut, the symbol of opposition to plans for an M11 link road.

The tree - at George Green, Wanstead, east London - has been occupied since June. Shortly before dawn yesterday police, acting on behalf of the Sheriff of Greater London, arrived after the High Court granted the Department of Transport a possession order. Nearly 10 hours later the last man left his branch.

People from the neighbourhood mixed with environmentalists, many veterans of the M3 protests at Twyford Down in Hampshire. Three hundred jeered as police battled to possess the tree; one man, balancing in the branches, tipped excrement over an officer. Others clung on as sheriff's officers sawed off branches before dragging struggling men on to the platform.

Frequent scuffles disrupted the tight police cordon, at one point four officers deep. But at 1.20pm the last chestnut treehouse dweller was moved out and the bulldozer moved in. As the first branch was ripped off a roar of disapproval went up. A drummer beat a mournful tattoo. Shortly afterwards there were more struggles as police removed about 50 people lying in front of vehicles heading towards four other occupied trees.

Ten people were hurt, including a security man run over by the platform, and 17 arrested.

Chief Superintendent Stuart Giblin, in charge of the operation, said: 'Our job is to back up the sheriff in enforcing the eviction notice . . . How they are removed is not our responsibility. I consider the operation a success.'

(Photograph omitted)