Mature trees by the railway line on Jubilee Way, Sidcup, have been cut down by landowner – who did not bother to consult the Council – despite them falling within the Sidcup rail linesides Site of Importance for Nature Conservation. This despite having lost three planning appeals in which he had sought to remove the trees and put up residential buildings.
Councillor June Slaughter, who was contacted by angry residents, reports that part of the strip of trees has been destroyed – completely flattened- between the end of Cherry Tree Court and the eastern boundary of the site, with both the trees themselves and all the understorey removed. The western half has not been touched: many of the trees on that part are affected by a TPO.
However, Mr Avery, of Denave Management Ltd, and the person concerned, must be aware of the site’s status as a SINC – since the fact was mentioned in the 2007 planning report. Although the Council has mistakenly still got Network rail down as the landowner in the 2013 SINC review draft, Mr Avery was in any case informed by Inspector’s statement on the appeal decision.
According to Cllr. Slaughter, Mr. Avery, whom she met on site, claims that the site was cleared because a culvert was blocked. She points out that dealing with the culvert would not have necessitated the devastation of the eastern end of the site.
SINCs have no statutory protection, and there is little that can be done after the event when owners seek to destroy wildlife or other features that might block planning permission and ease the passage of planning applications. In this case the principal grounds were the contribution of the trees to the character of the area. No TPO tree seems to have been affected and we are outside the bird breeding season. However, you should always think Bats when there are mature ivy-covered trees
We understand that a Council official had to hastily withdraw advice that it was OK for Mr. Avery to remove ivy from remaining trees to ‘assess their condition’, saying that the Council’s ecology expert had now pointed out that Bats may be present. He has now been urged by the Council not to do further works until a Bat survey has been completed. In fact the aforementioned appeal decision statement said there was ‘significant roosting potential for bats’ , that ‘there was reasonable likelihood that bats are roosting at the appeal site’ and that a bat survey should be done. Now, of course, we are moving into the hibernation season when Bats are less likely to be on the wing and so hard to detect until you’ve chopped down the tree.
All Bat species are protected and it is illegal to:
- Intentionally or recklessly disturb a bat in its roost or deliberately disturb a group of bats
- Damage or destroy a bat roosting place (even if bats are not occupying the roost at the time)
The fact that Bexley Council has still not signed off the SINC review over 18 months since close of public comments, and believes that allowing ‘development’ of 70% of a Grade 1 SINC strikes a fair balance between humans and other species, simply reinforces the impression that the powers that be in the Borough do not think SINCs or nature are important, and may encourage unscrupulous individuals to think that there will be no cost to themselves from this sort of behaviour.