Residents of the Bolney Meadow housing estate in Stockwell will tomorrow (14 February) attempt to preserve what is left of trees and plants cultivated over many years by a resident to “green” the estate.
People living on the estate, which is run by the Notting Hill Genesis (NHG) housing association, woke yesterday to find people digging up and removing plants and small trees.
They had been planted by resident David Sieferhi, who died from Covid in September.
He had spent more than a decade greening the estate. His plantings and were widely known, appreciated and cared for by residents.
The removals came after messages appeared on WhatsApp groups and Nextdoor on Friday saying NHG intended to dispose of the plants on Monday.
They encouraged readers to take plants “in David’s memory”.
An NHG contractor told residents on Saturday that they had been informed the plants were a hazard – encouraging rodents, and concealing needles and other drug paraphernalia.
Similar arguments were advanced before the destruction of a community garden in central Brixton recently.
Bolney Meadow residents said that a rental van made half a dozen visits to the estate to take away plants, greenery and soil.
One person used a wheelbarrow to remove an olive tree.
“The removals seemed like a free-for-all, with complete strangers turning up to grab whatever they could,” said one local activist.
“All this caused residents huge alarm and upset, not least as they then had to tidy up after the removal, which left massive disarray, with soil and damaged pots strewn over a large area.”
NHG workers are expected to arrive at 11am tomorrow (Monday, 14 february) to remove any remaining plants.
Residents plan to meet them to argue for the plants to be saved to preserve David’s memory and to maintain the “green oasis” that he helped to create.
One resident said: “David took his personal time, money and energy in improving the environment by introducing plants to communities that previously had high levels of anti-social behaviour.
“Our small community enjoyed and supported David’s work.
“It was us who signed petitions to have these plants here in the heart of where we live when NHG had no interest or care to improve our estates.
“NHG forced the majority of these residents to remove their flowers and plant from their balconies.
“We clubbed together and helped David to buy plant pots as well as plants. So effectively they belong to us.
“NHG should have the basic decency to consult us on any changes that affect us, the residents.
“How come the residents who actually live here did not get any notification but, via WhatsApp messages to specific groups, people were encouraged to come from all over Lambeth to take from those that live here?
“Even if NHG had good intentions, this was not the way go about it.
“We would have preferred for some of the plants, which are extremely valuable, to go to local schools, the Holy Family Convent and the children’s community garden, rather than affluent individuals’ homes.”
David’s sister Rosemary said: “It is with utter shock and disbelief then that I learnt this weekend that a call went out from the Notting Hill Genesis authorities for non-residents to help themselves to the plants, trees and flowers so lovingly cultivated by my brother for the children and residents of the estate.
“The utter devastation that resulted was nothing short of vandalism as people from outside of the estate entered it and took trees, pots and plants, even attempting to strip the local nursery of its flowerpots.
“I am not a resident of the estate but I shared the story of how the residents fought and eventually won the right to self-fund their very own beautiful haven of peace in the heart of the city with those that attended his funeral by means of a video.
“Friends as far afield as France (where I have lived for 30 years) as well as Spain, Africa the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and more were touched by the story.
“I am ashamed that, without any input from the locals, permission has been granted the whole thing to be razed to the ground – the plants my brother raised like his babies, to be incinerated.
“I was assured that the garden would remain in some form and that a memorial would be erected to remember the thousands of hours David dedicated to its upkeep, free of charge.
“I wish to lend my voice to those of the residents who wish to keep their a tiny oasis of green in in the city.”