Wildlife crime unit to investigate complaints of Tivoli tree felling

Trees felled at the Tivoli site

Kent Police’s wildlife crime unit is investigating complaints that trees in Margate have been felled during nesting season.

The ‘Bird Nesting Season’ is officially from February until August. Felling trees while there are birds nesting – without checking – is an offence.

Members of the Thanet Trees group have lodged complaints about trees being cut down at woodland at the end of Tivoli Park Avenue. The area was previously a community garden and had become overgrown. It is used by dog walkers and links Tivoli Woods and the woodland on the former railway line, creating a wildlife corridor.

The land was sold  by Thanet council as part of its asset disposal programme in 2017, fetching  £155,000 at auction. It was marketed as offering potential for development, subject to all necessary consents.

The Thanet Trees group says some 40 trees have been felled during nesting season and apparently without professional equipment or safety provisions. They are also questioning whether licensed vehicles were used.

A group spokesperson said: “It appears this work has been undertaken mainly at weekends with hand saws. This has been reported to the Wildlife Crime Unit and Thanet council. We have struggled to confirm Tree Preservation Orders on the site, both temporary, from last year, and dating back to 1952.”

The group says the work means a loss of yet more communal green space and isle tree cover, which according to a 2014 survey stood at only 4.4% for Thanet – putting it on a par with the City of London, the 7th lowest in the country.

The spokesperson added: “This is an example of TDC’s ongoing disregard for our communal green spaces and trees in particular. Many small parcels of land are being sold off at bargain prices for possible development, mature trees are not adequately protected and street trees continue to be felled at an alarming rate. They are almost never replaced.

“The inability of our council to create a Local Plan has contributed to the issue, with no overarching strategy for the maintenance and preservation of green spaces and no acknowledgement of the value of trees, both urban and rural. At a time when we are warned of crashing insect populations and the huge loss of wildlife across the UK within just half a century, why does TDC have no policy in place?”

The group say the Tivoli site was covenanted to the Borough of Margate in 1923 for public park and/or recreational use but it is not clear whether the covenant is still valid. They also say members have discovered that it is the site of a Roman villa containing multiple frescos, which was partially excavated in 1924 by Arthur Rowe – who bequeathed many historical finds to Margate.

Thanet Trees say they believe the land could have valuable community use with possibilities for
an outdoor forest school, a community forest garden with allotments and cafe, or as part of a heritage attraction for the Roman Villa.

Private ownership

However, the site is privately owned since the auction sale and it is understood that permission was given to clear the area by the council’s planning department although preservation orders on perimeter trees means they must not be felled.

The land is listed on Land Registry as being under the ownership of businessman Ernest Biela and David Watts.

The Isle of Thanet News has contacted Mr Biela for a response to the complaints.

A Thanet council spokesperson said: “The land at Tivoli Woods is privately owned. There is a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) in place for the trees fronting Tivoli Park Avenue, which prevent them from being felled. Other trees on the land are not subject to such an order.  Any complaints about the felling of protected trees will be investigated by Planning Enforcement.”

The wildlife crime unit says area is not designated as Site of Scientific Interest and the trees do not have  TPOs. However, the team could look at the disturbance of nesting birds under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

A site visit is being arranged but the unit does not have the power to stop tree felling, only to advise on it.

A Kent Police spokesman said: “Kent Police received a report of a number of trees being felled in Tivoli Park Avenue, Margate on 10 March and officers from the Rural Task Force are making enquiries to establish whether any criminal offences have taken place.”

It is understood a council team has visited the site today (March 18) and say trees covered by preservation orders have not been cut down.

Complaints have also been made about tree felling at Northdown Park Road.

Find  the Thanet Trees group at https://www.facebook.com/ThanetTreesUK

9 Comments

  1. The complete lack of regard for wildlife, nature and local tree stocks in Thanet by this council and previous councils is disgusting. Every single council member who has supposedly represented Thanet should be ashamed of themselves because none of them have done anything to halt the environmental terrorism that is taking place in Thanet. Rather than bickering and scoring cheap political points they should be working together to stop the environmental catastrophe that is happening in Thanet.

  2. Kathy could you please send this to John Finnegan on SWRA (Salmestone Ward Residents Association) page . Many thanks in advance.

  3. Those trees at Tivoli Park Avenue, Margate have been hacked at by non-professionals without public liability insurance on the open woodland.
    The Northdown Park Road site where almost all the mature trees have been felled is at the old Laleham Gap School (originally Laleham House School) on the corner with Northumberland Avenue. The developer has permission from TDC to build 70 odd houses there after demolishing the lovely old mansion house that was part of the School. Hardly any trees left forthe birds now.

  4. Aside from the tree felling aspect of this article, it is appalling that TDC has even been allowed to sell this land as it was “covenanted to the Borough of Margate in 1923 for public park and/or recreational use” although you write that “it is not clear whether the covenant is still valid”. Surely that should have been clarified before the land was even sold. No doubt it is another piece of land which was left to the citizens of the Borough of Margate at a time when no-one could have foreseen that the Borough of Margate would become Thanet District Council. There should be a law ensuring that when there is a change such as this, that all previous legacies are still honoured. Yet again, it makes me ashamed of the way our councillors and those TDC employees in planning perform their duties. I also wonder if the person who is planning on building homes now on this land realises how often it is subject to flooding. I wouldn’t want a house there if it were given to me!!

      • There is no need to be rude just for the sake of it. I assume that you are trying to say that houses will be built there. Well perhaps you want to live in an envronmentally unfriendly concrete jungle, spawing and consuming your way to the extinction of the planet, but many of us know that reducing trees is not only a threat to widlife, but oxygen levels. and to learn that only 4.4% of thanet has any woodland is shocking since it was not so long ago covered in woods. Westwood, Northwood and people like you – woodentops.

  5. So sick of this council, nice refurbishment for there office while my rates go up, also paying off a 3 mil court battle they lost for my e export, now clawing back all there losses by sell g off the land.
    even of found guilty we tax payer foot the cost.

  6. Apart from the environmental aspects, it’s a crime that this land was sold off for a mere £155k! The developers are probably laughing their socks off!
    As for the covenant on the land (and other covenants made in Thanet), these should be collectively gathered, recorded and consulted on as a matter of course before any development is even considered. They are too conveniently dismissed or not even checked apon before decisions are made. A quick £155k top up of the coffers at the expense of a facility for Thanet’s future.

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