Field maple trees on Howland Street.
The field maple tree on the left is due to be chopped down as part of the redevelopment of the Network Building. (Update: both trees are now to be felled. See editorial note below.) Photo: Linus Rees

Property developer Derwent London has submitted the first part of its management plan to Camden Council for the demolition and rebuild of The Network Building on the corner of Howland Street and Tottenham Court Road in Fitzrovia.

Not content to just demolish the building, along with seven flats that are less than 20 years old, they plan to remove two trees from Howland Street and Whitfield Street, because they are in the way. Public trees on public land.

In the way of development. An ornamental pear of Whitfield Street. Photo: Linus Rees

“1 x tree along Whitfield Street, and 1 x tree along Howland Street along the site frontage need to be removed,” states the plan — drawn up by contractor Keltbray — submitted to the council which has already approved the demolition of the building.

Derwent however intend to replace the two trees with 13 new ones. So that’s ok, then?

Well, no it is isn’t.

The whole premise of this hideous development is to pull everything down and construct a shiny new building. That is a huge environmental cost in a climate crisis. And an irony since the architects — Piercy and Co — are signatories to Architects Declare.

On completion of the new building, there will be some modest improvements to the public realm on Howland Street and Whitfield Street. But these improvements could easily have been done — and with little cost — without having to demolish the whole building.

The trees are nearly mature and flourishing, particularly the field maple on Howland Street. It takes time, money and energy to plant the trees and water them, and more energy to chop them down. All that effort is being wasted.

Our street trees get a bad enough time as it is. We don’t need these rich hooligans adding to the problem.

Camden Council recently sent out an email to community groups asking for their help in improving legislation to protect existing trees.

“In 2019, Camden declared a climate and ecological emergency and held the UK’s first Citizens’ Assembly on the climate crisis. Trees are an essential part of the fight against climate change. Whilst planting new trees is essential, we also need to protect the ones we have,” wrote Elizabeth Beaumont of Camden’s planning team in June.

I quite agree.

Chopping these trees down is an act of eco-vandalism along with the eco-crime of demolishing the building. Just like the demolition of this building, it shouldn’t be happening.

Update, 29 July 2022: This morning the wrong tree has been cut down. The field maple tree across the road was felled. As I report this the other field maple tree is being cut down along with the other tree due to be felled. So three trees are being felled to enable this redevelopment of the Network Building. My understanding is that this additional vandalism is due to the gross incompetence of Camden Council officers. This is yet to be confirmed but I will contacting Camden’s press office about this incident and reporting back next week. And I will be asking for replacement tree of a similar size.

The field maple tree on the left was due to be felled but a tree across the road was chopped down by mistake. As a result both trees will be felled. Photo: Linus Rees.
Sawdust. A perfectly healthy semi-mature field maple tree felled by mistake. Photo: Linus Rees.
Logpile. Photo: Linus Rees.
Howland Street after both field maple trees were felled. Photo: Linus Rees.

Details of trees to be removed

Howland Street north side

Number Of Trees1
Sequence19
Scientific NameAcer campestre
Common NameMaple – Field
Inspection Date13/07/2022
Inspection Due Date2025/2026
Height In Metres9
Spread In Metres6
Diameter In Centimetres At Breast Height23
MaturitySemi-mature
Physiological ConditionGood
Capital Asset Value For Amenity Trees£3,804.59
Carbon Storage In Kilograms68.7
Gross Carbon Sequestration Per Year In Kilograms4.1
Pollution Removal Per Year In Grams121.3
Field maple on Howland Street. As listed at https://www.camden.gov.uk/trees

Whitfield Street

Number Of Trees1
Sequence37
Scientific NamePyrus calleryana ‘Chanticclere
Common NamePear – Chanticclere
Inspection Date13/07/2022
Inspection Due Date2025/2026
Height In Metres7
Spread In Metres3
Diameter In Centimetres At Breast Height15
MaturitySemi-mature
Physiological ConditionGood
Capital Asset Value For Amenity Trees£1,213.66
Carbon Storage In Kilograms24.1
Gross Carbon Sequestration Per Year In Kilograms2.3
Pollution Removal Per Year In Grams24.8
Chanticclere pear on Whitfield Street. https://www.camden.gov.uk/trees

Howland Street south side (felled by mistake/gross incompetence)

Number Of Trees1
Sequence21
Scientific NameAcer campestre
Common NameMaple – Field
Inspection Date08/07/2022
Inspection Due Date2025/2026
Height In Metres9
Spread In Metres6
Diameter In Centimetres At Breast Height21
MaturitySemi-mature
Physiological ConditionGood
Capital Asset Value For Amenity Trees£2,596.33
Carbon Storage In Kilograms44.9
Gross Carbon Sequestration Per Year In Kilograms3.2
Pollution Removal Per Year In Grams68.3