Friday, 14 August 2009

I'm sure Grahame Park didn't choose this

While I was consorting with labour movement activists and treehuggers on the Isle of Wight, in the campaign to keep Vestas, the UK's only wind turbine blade factory, open, I should have got some tips on direct action techniques, involving tripods and lock-ons and such things, because, while I was looking the other way, Barnet council has vandalised Grahame Park open space and cut down all the trees.

I knew this was in the wind, but I didn't think hard enough about it. I'd heard of plans to make Grahame Park open space 'smaller but enhanced'. Unless they were planning to replace it with an acre of pristine rainforest, this sounds like bullshit and, to judge by the destruction wrought there in the last week, it sure looks like bullshit.

I found out that the plans are happening now as I took the 204 bus to Colindale tube station, laden down with tent and sleeping bag on my way to the Isle of Wight. All the trees sliced down and being thrown into a shredder that was spitting them out as sawdust. The only thing I can compare this sight to in its effect on the human spirit is the disgusting meatgrinder in the Pink Floyd "The Wall" video. A woman on the bus was talking to her children: 'That's one of the saddest sights I've ever seen.'

If I were into self-harm I would be kicking myself at not kicking up a fuss about this. Barnet councillors, Tory particularly, are forever boasting about how they respect and defend the green belt. I'm all for that, but far more than that I'm for respecting, defending and extending the small green spaces that make life tolerable in neighbourhoods like Grahame Park.

Such spaces aren't defended. It seems they are utterly disposable. Yes, residents were 'consulted' about the plans for 'estate regeneration', which actually seem designed simply to build more houses in an already cramped area. But consultations like this are often just a sheaf of plans in an office somewhere 'available for inspection'. The politicians and developers don't actually go out knocking on doors and say, 'hey, we're going to cut all the trees down, and make a smaller park to be shared by more people - how does that grab you?'

They don't do it because they know what the answer will be.

A lot of people that don't live there sneer at Grahame Park but for the most part all I see is a lot of people in a small space doing the best that they can to get on with their lives and get on with each other. It is a testament to working-class forbearance that there aren't far more social problems in places like Grahame Park than there are.

It would have been better had developers 'Choices for Grahame Park' regenerated the estate, without building the new homes, and spruced up the park that exists. What's been done is a gross act of violence to a community and I predict it will have repercussions for years to come. How can you expect young people to respect and value nature and the environment when they see less and less of it, and only see it subject to the depredations of money-grubbing housebuilders and short-sighted politicians?

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