Planners approve felling of much loved trees despite pleas from residents and evidence of bat colony

By Rory Poulter

25th Dec 2021 | Local News

Controversial plans to fell trees in a 'wildlife corridor' near Twickenham Green have been approved despite fierce opposition from residents.

The decision was made by Council planning officials under delegated powers without any involvement from elected councillors.

The Friends of Twickenham Green (FoTG) and 50 residents had opposed the scheme, which is in a Conservation Area, with one describing it as 'wanton vandalism'.

A developer had applied to fell or cut back a number of mature and important trees on the site behind the Prince Albert pub, Hampton Road.

The application involved a plan to fell two Ash trees, a Cyprus group, a Sycamore and a Eucalyptus.

It also sought permission to dramatically reduce the height of a second large, mature, Eucalyptus, which is subject to a Tree Preservation Order (TPO), and reduce a Sycamore and Walnut.

A decision was posted on the Council website yesterday – Thursday – giving approval to fell five trees, while protecting the one which has a TPO.

Howard Roberts, who represents FoTG on environment issues, said: 'There were 50 objections on the site. Why has our council - in the year of COP 26 - sanctioned the removal of five trees that have civic amenity value?'

Residents were hopeful that all the trees would be protected after an investigation by the Habitats & Heritage group found 'significant bat activity' around the site.

This included common pipistrelles, with activity from early evening, which would suggest there is likely a nearby maternity roost.

The organisation, which is the leading environmental and heritage charity in the area, also has recorded Noctule, Leisler's and Daubenton bats on the site.

Residents and the Friends of Twickenham Green (FoTG) fear the removal of the trees is part of a piecemeal attempt to clear the site by stealth ahead of a planning application to develop the site.

Mr Roberts insisted the site was an important wildlife corridor, saying: "The site has been subject to ongoing wildlife surveys by Habitats and Heritage for the past three years.

"Aside from hedgehogs, amphibians, nesting bird sites, invertebrates (including stag beetles) the site has significant ecological value being home to a variety of species of bats."

Residents had hoped that the decision on the future of the trees would be passed to local councillors, rather than being dealt with by planning officials.

Among the many complaints to the council, one resident said: "Cutting down these trees would be an act of wanton vandalism, serving no purpose."

Another said: "This works looks to destroy trees in a Conservation Area causing massive detriment to the local area.

"The definition of a Conservation Area is with regard to historic and architectural interest in which there are legal restrictions on what changes can be made to buildings, greenery and street furniture in order to preserve the unique character of the place.

"Cutting down … beautiful and well developed trees including a rare and protected Eucalyptus is purely about being able to develop the site for profit at the detriment to the local community.

"All these trees are visible from the protected Twickenham Green and surrounding area. The council needs to decide if having a conservation area means anything or if any trees can simply be removed."

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