Jason Flemyng Shows Support for Battersea Tree Protest

Putney actor backs attempt to save 100-year-old poplar

Jason Flemyng showing his support for the protestors
Jason Flemyng showing his support for the protestors


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March 5, 2021

Protestors trying to save a 100-year-old tree which is threatened with felling have received celebrity support this week.

Jason Flemyng, the film star who was born and live in Putney went along to the site of the protest at York Gardens, Battersea on Monday (1 March).

On arrival he found that security staff had been preventing food and water supplies to be delivered to the protestors who had occupied the tree to prevent it being cut down. Jason reappeared a few hours later bringing a package of food, which security staff did allow to be hoisted into the tree.

Jason said, ‘Trees take hundreds of years to grow and seconds to cut down. In an ever-expanding metropolis it is difficult and expensive to develop around living trees, but we owe it to our kids to let them play under the branches of urban green spaces and not in barren concrete pens.”

The much-loved tree, visible from all around the estate, was due for felling on 22 March to make way for the laying of a new electric cable. This is just the beginning of a planned redevelopment of the Winstanley and York Road estates by Wandsworth Council and Taylor Wimpey, which means that 124 of 173 trees are marked to be chopped down, mostly large mature and semi-mature trees.

Local residents and XR Wandsworth members say the cable could be diverted to spare the tree. ‘We need to get to a place where developers see mature trees the same way they see roads or listed buildings – as something they have to plan around rather than destroy,’ said XR Wandsworth member and local resident Joe Taylor.

Mary-Claire Mason of the Wandsworth Tree Warden Network said, ‘This tree symbolises life and hope. It is so much more as is any tree than just a tree. And now there is a live nest in this tree – it would be criminal to cut down this nest. If it is destroyed hope is lost for Wandsworth residents of a greener future, it will become increasingly grey than black.

"The Council ignored its own expert arboricultural advice in giving consent for this tree to be removed - it can be accommodated. Wandsworth Council again privileged developer’s plans over trees as in the past. In so doing it goes against its claim to be green and its policies of sustainability which purport to protect mature trees and increase tree cover in Wandsworth are meaningless words. "

One of the protestors who had been living in the tree has spoken out about “dedicating” his life to protecting trees and how he manages to eat, go to the toilet and even work in them.

Marcus Carambola, 32, is a musician and teacher who climbed into the tree with two other protestors on Monday 22 February.

Marcus Carambola, 32, in the tree in York Gardens
Marcus Carambola in the tree in York Gardens. Battersea. Picture: Anthony Jarman

Marcus told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that as soon as he heard the tree was going to be felled he quickly packed up his things and joined other tree protectors to scale the tree before the sun rose.

“We didn’t have very much notice,” he said.

“But from going to tree-protection camps lately I’d had a list of things that I needed to pack for such instances ready. When I heard the call out, I just followed the list and packed what I could, you know, a hammock, a pillow, a harness and warm clothes, and so forth.”

When asked about how he managed to get time off work, he said he was “privileged” to have “some flexibility” in his job.

“I mean, if you dedicate your life to protecting a tree, then it has all sorts of implications on your regular routine. You have to shift and have other people taking over your regular duties and all that stuff. So that was quite a bit of effort.”

However he said he was still able to continue with some of his work in the tree.

He came down from the tree on Wednesday 3 March at 12pm, passing the baton to his friend Bradley, ‘who’s really well and happy and committed to staying for as long as it takes’.

Marcus says his friend isn’t daunted by the prospect of being alone in the tree. He describes him as ‘a very spiritual guy, who looks at it with a meditative mind-set and is looking forward to reading a book on The Secret Life of Trees that he’s just been given’.

Marcus added, ‘It’s been a wonderful time, an emotionally intense time, to see so many people coming together on the ground and online over this issue. These people have now been given a voice. If the tree had simply been cut down last Monday, this wouldn’t have happened.

He says he hopes his actions, and those of other activists, will increase pressure on politicians to pass the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill, a private members’ bill introduced by the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas last year.

Protesters in a 100-year-old black polar tree in Battersea to save it from being cut down
Protesters in a 100-year-old black polar tree in Battersea to save it from being cut down

A spokesperson from Wandsworth Council said, “This site is needed to provide 136 new council homes for our residents on low incomes and in housing need, especially those currently living in cramped and overcrowded conditions.

“No-one wants to see mature trees lost but sometimes it’s sadly unavoidable, despite our best efforts in this case to find a suitable alternative solution. However as part of the regeneration scheme we are planting around 450 new trees around the estate and providing a new 2.5 hectare public park so that residents have newly created green outdoor space to enjoy.

“To ensure Wandsworth remains one of London’s leafiest and greenest boroughs we constantly plant new trees. Over the past three years we have planted more than 1,200 in our streets and parks and this winter planting season another 750 are being added.

“Overall we look after more than 50,000 trees in our streets and open spaces. We take these important responsibilities seriously and will only agree to a tree being lost if there is no alternative and only if a greater number are planted as replacements.”

A spokesperson from the Met Police added, “Police are aware of an ongoing protest on private property in York Gardens, Wandsworth in relation to the removal of a tree.

“Police have been called several times in relation to this incident and are monitoring the situation.

“At present, no police units have been deployed to this location.”

Written with contributions from Sian Bayley - Local Democracy Reporter