A council that has spent nearly a year trying to fell a tree claims the cost to taxpayers of keeping it standing has risen from £400,000 to £1 million.

Haringey Council took down scaffolding around a 123-year-old plane tree in Oakfield Road, Stroud Green, on Sunday (March 19) after a High Court judge agreed to hold a judicial review over its future.

The case revolves around two homes in Oakfield Road that currently have ongoing claims with insurance companies Aviva and Alliaz dating back more than a decade.

The insurance companies last year claimed that subsidence issues in the homes were caused by the tree and, working with loss adjusters Crawfords, said the tree needed chopping down.

In a highly complex case the council sought an injunction against Haringey Tree Protectors Ltd (HTP) and 'Persons Unknown' in December to ban them from protesting around the tree to stop it being felled.

District Judge Alistair Redpath-Stevens adjourned the case in December after it emerged the households had each put in complaints to the financial ombudsman over their insurance companies' handling of the issue, and he wanted to wait for the ombudsman's report.

That hearing was due to be decided at Clerkenwell County Court on March 15 - but the council took possession of the tree "in a show of force" three days earlier amid disputed claims protesters were trying to occupy it.

On the same day, one of the neighbours with subsidence issues, Andrew Brenner, unexpectedly lodged an injunction against Haringey not to fell the tree, which the council tried to have dismissed in the High Court the following day.

But judge Dan Squires KC accepted Mr Brenner's injunction and set a hearing date for March 29.

In April 2022 the council put a notice on the tree saying it faced costs of £400,000 to the insurers if the tree was not felled. The figure was repeated in December.

But a Haringey Council spokesperson said on Friday the cost of not chopping the tree down had risen to £1 million, but did not say how it reached this figure.

They said: “We have been fighting to save this tree since the original claim was made in 2015 and had no choice other than to look to remove it before the judge’s decision. 

"If the tree remains, the latest estimations tell us the council risks facing an 
insurance claim of up to £1 million, which would be better spent on delivering key frontline services. 

They added: “The judgement today in the High Court to take this to Judicial Review shows the magnitude of this decision and the challenge faced by boroughs up and down the country with the same dilemma.  

"It is wrong that councils are having to make the choice between saving a tree and paying huge sums of taxpayers’ money or felling a tree so the insurers do not have to pay for tree damage cover."

The spokesperson also said that scaffolding erected around the tree at 4.30am on March 12 was "to prevent any unauthorised occupation" and "ensure we were able to fell the tree in a safe manner". It was dismantled on Sunday.

Ham & High: Neighbours living in and around Oakfield Road expressed anger at Haringey Council occupying a tree in the early hours of March 12 with no warning and for no reasonNeighbours living in and around Oakfield Road expressed anger at Haringey Council occupying a tree in the early hours of March 12 with no warning and for no reason (Image: Clive Carter)

The council has consistently refused to answer why it took possession of the tree without informing residents, nor why a letter sent by head of parks Simon Farrow, on March 12, "falsely" claimed "people have begun to install climbing ropes and other items in the tree" to justify sending 18 security guards to occupy it.

Former Highgate councillor and Stroud Green resident Clive Carter said £1 million was a 'high' increase, adding: "what will it rise to next?"

He said: "Last week Haringey appeared to try to bounce the County Court into giving the council a green light to fell the Oakfield Road tree. It backfired. The case has now ricocheted into the High Court for decision.

"Haringey's removal of their scaffolding and guards reflects the sting of bad publicity and possibly a realisation that one week's high cost of round-the-clock security could now extend for many weeks. 

"The whole fiasco ought to raise many questions."