Harpenden woodland torn down to make way for homes

Disgruntled residents Jean Rapier, Julia Townsend and Bryan Rapier on the footpath where trees and b

Disgruntled residents Jean Rapier, Julia Townsend and Bryan Rapier on the footpath where trees and bushed have been cleared without permission - Credit: Archant

BUSHES have allegedly been ripped up to make way for a planned new development at a public woodland area in Harpenden turning it into the “entrance to a dump”.

For the last three years local residents have given up hours of their time to restore a communal open space between Aldwick Road and Grove Avenue known as the Greenway Spinney.

Now they have been horrified to discover mature trees have been trimmed and holly bushes removed by what is believed to be a nearby home owner, who submitted a planning application last week to build two semi-detached houses.

Julia Townsend, of Grove Avenue, said: “I am disgusted that anybody can turn up at a public area that is jointly owned by the public authorities and just indiscriminately chop down trees for their own gain.

“It looks really unsightly. It looks like the entrance to a dump now.”

Members of Friends of Greenway Spinney (FOGS), the group who assist St Albans district council (SADC) in looking after the area, said previous attempts to tamper with the woodland had been rejected by planning bosses on preservation grounds.

They maintain the developer did not have permission to make alterations, and are against plans to build new houses on Grove Avenue, which are yet to be considered by the council.

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Brian Rapier, chairman of FOGS, said: “We are certainly not pleased about it [the application], the Spinney is highly valued and everybody in the area loves it. I am sure people are going to be very angry.

“If they successfully seize land it is a dangerous precedent. We have to see how the situation develops but obviously we want to make sure there is no encroachment on the publicly owned land and we want to see the hedges restored.”

Pupils from Grove Infant and Nursery School also visit Greenway Spinney on a weekly basis as part of a national initiative.

Deputy headteacher Sara Prince said: “We have a teacher who takes them out there in all weathers and they do a significant part of the learning week in the Spinney so for us it would have a huge impact.

“If it was altered it would have a very negative effect on our ability to provide a really worthwhile part of the curriculum.”

SADC has confirmed the area where vegetation was reportedly removed is the responsibility of a private landowner but said they were aware of local residents’ worries.

Cllr Teresa Heritage, portfolio holder for planning at the council, said: “I share the concerns of residents that valuable trees and bushes have been lost and I will do all that I can to ensure that the byway is not encroached upon by any forms of development.”