If the Forest City cares about trees, why is a developer allowed to knock hundreds of them down for a subdivision development in southwest London?
That’s a question Jenna Goodhand is left wondering, after she and a group of activists stopped Sifton Properties from bulldozing roughly 500 pine trees in one of the city’s designated tree protection zones.
Goodhand is the director of The Hive, a community working space surrounded by Sifton’s property. She sent a letter to city councillors Thursday morning asking that they revisit development plans that are getting underway at the site on Wharncliffe Road, across from Bradley Avenue.
“It’s the Forest City. A lot of the councillors, they do speak pro environmental, as though they care about the environment and trees in our city,” said Goodhand, emphasizing that she wants councillors to be upfront about their priorities.
“If this isn’t really important to you just say … ‘development and subdivisions are more important than tree development.'”
Goodhand and a group of activists mobilized Monday, and stood around a large patch of roughly 500 pine trees to block them from being knocked down. That day, Goodhand says people from Sifton came twice to discuss alternatives. They haven’t made moves to cut the trees down since.
“It was really impressive, they don’t owe us anything,” Goodhand said.
“This is their land, it’s not The Hive’s property where the trees reside, it’s just beside us and we enjoy them.”
The city’s tree protection bylaw protects “distinctive” trees that are 50 cm in diameter or more, and trees in mapped locations called tree protection areas. The trees Goodhand and activists are striving to protect are in one of those very areas, but urban foresty manager Jill-Anne Spence said they’re only protected until a development is approved.
“We hand off the tree requirements to the development process,” Spence said.
“Within the development process, there would have been a tree assessment and a tree protection plan.”
City officials say Sifton Properties has followed those processes, and are legally allowed to cut the trees down.
The development, and The Hive, are both in Coun. Anna Hopkin’s Ward 9. She said she’s been in contact with Sifton, and is pleased to hear they’re going “above and beyond” by considering moving the trees.
But she thinks the city could strengthen tree protection bylaws, and recognize them as having greater value.
“It’s almost like an asset to our city, that trees should be regarded as, as opposed to being in the way.”
Goodhand, meanwhile, is even wondering if the two plots of land could be purchased from Sifton and kept as green space.
“Maybe this is the beginning of something where every subdivision development plan has to be more aware of the fact that we as citizens are not okay with this.”
“We may not save these trees, but I think what we’ve begun now will save trees in the future.”