St Albans Conservation Area tree destroyed by contractors

A RESTAURANT has been accused of mutilating a plane tree to such an extent that there will be no option other than to fell it.

The London Plane tree in the garden of Kamillo’s Restaurant at the junction of London Road and Marlborough Road, St Albans, has been a local landmark for years.

But after work to cut it down was stopped by officers from the district council’s trees department, it has been left in a sorry state which it is unlikely to be able to recover from.

One of the local tree wardens, Eric Roberts, said : “It was huge, probably about 60 to 70ft high, and it made a statement on that corner.

“I am a bit outraged to say the least and it is a sorry saga. London Road has lost a magnificent specimen which must have been there for many years because of the size of it.”

Contractors were cutting down the tree last week when a member of the council’s trees department drove past and saw what was happening. He told the contractors to stop work because the tree was in a conservation area and they told him they did not need permission.

Mr Roberts said: “The tree has been left so mutilated that it will have to come down and all we can hope is that the council insists on new planting.

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“My view is that the contractors are remiss and they should be exposed. They should be fined as well as well as the council insisting on replanting. It is sad – it just looks ridiculous now.”

Heather Cheesbrough, head of planning at the council, confirmed that the work had been stopped and that no permission had been granted for any work to be carried out on the tree.

She said the council had requested further information from the occupier of the site and the contractors in order to ascertain whether or not there was a case for the tree to be removed.

Ms Cheesbrough explained that written notification had to be given to the council prior to work being carried out to trees located in a conservation area and measuring more than 7.5cm in diameter and 1.5m from the ground.

She added: “It is an offence under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to carry out work to a conservation area-protected tree without six weeks notice being given in writing to the council. Once notice has been given, the council will either give permission for the works to go ahead or issue a preservation order protecting the tree.”

Kamillo Bendahman, owner of the restaurant, said that they had decided to cut down the tree because the branches were over the roof of a neighbour’s property and the roots were going underneath which meant that the neighbour had not been able to get building insurance.

He maintained that a previous landlord had permission to cut down the tree 10 years ago and the restaurant had thought that meant they could still do it. “I didn’t realise it that permission was only for two years and you have to apply for it,” he said.