Protected trees felled in St Albans Conservation Area

PUBLISHED: 19:00 12 September 2011

Kimberley Road, St Albans.  Protected trees cut back.

Kimberley Road, St Albans. Protected trees cut back.

Complaints made to Council about conifers chopped down near St Albans hospital

AN INVESTIGATION has been launched in to the felling of protected trees in a Conservation Area near St Albans hospital.

Inner city residents were “devastated” at seeing six 35-foot-high conifers hacked down on a boundary line between Kimberley Road and Goldsmith Way late last month, and alerted St Albans district council.

A spokesman for the council has confirmed it is examining the felling and that it may take enforcement action, warning that people risk fines of up to £20,000 for unauthorised chopping down of protected trees.

Donna Soane, of Kimberley Road, said the owner of a property on the adjacent Goldsmith Way used a group of tree contractors to swiftly fell six tall conifers in the space of just over an hour.

She said: “The devastation is shocking and a huge shame.”

Donna alleged that when the resident was questioned about taking the drastic action he replied: “I wanted to improve my Sky reception.”

Another Kimberley Road resident, Jenny Wright, is also “devastated” about the trees being chopped down as for decades they provided a green screen between her home and the nearby hospital. But the building now looms clearly over her carefully tended garden.

In the mid-1990s the hospital, which owned the land at the back of Kimberley Road, planted a screen of conifers on its grounds, stretching the length of that street.

When the hospital was negotiating with Bryant Homes for the sale of part of its grounds which included the trees, residents asked for the conifers to remain to provide a screen and habitat for wildlife.

Planning approval given by the council stipulated the trees were to remain.

Earlier this week a council spokesman said conifers on that boundary line are protected because they are in a Conservation Area.

He added: “The council’s trees and woodlands team have received letters of complaint about some of these trees being cut down and will investigate and may take enforcement action; one option being to require replacement trees to be planted.

“However no decision has been made at this stage.”

The spokesman explained that cutting down protected trees is an offence and fines can be imposed on the owners of the land which the trees are on, and also on the contractors who cut them down if they fail to check if trees are protected before they begin work.

Fines can be up to £2,500 for unauthorised pruning or £20,000 for unauthorised felling of trees protected by either a Tree Preservation Order or Conservation Area status.

The Herts Advertiser was unable to contact the owner of the Goldsmith Way property.

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