Thanet Trees group campaign to halt felling on the isle

The Thanet Trees group held a well-attended meeting

Fears that the isle is being stripped of its trees has prompted a Thanet group to call for a dedicated council officer to be put in place.

Thanet Trees, which was set up in January 2018, says there are concerns that development at sites such as Westwood Lodge will see the felling of a large number of healthy trees.

The group met last Saturday (May 18) to discuss a plan of action.

More than 40 residents and district and town councillors Helen Whitehead, Pauline Farrance, Mike Gardner, Matthew Scott and Joanna Cornford attended the gathering at the community cafe The Kitchen CT9 in Cliftonville.

Thanet has one of the lowest tree canopy covers in the UK, at just 4.4% and the group says fellings are taking place at “an alarming rate.”

Spokesman Amelia Gregory said: “We have multiple concerns and issues that our energetic group have agreed to work upon. Of top concern is the lack of an official tree officer at Thanet council, who is able to help protect our trees.

“The planning portal on the website is woefully inadequate, difficult to use and often unavailable, making it incredibly hard to check up on trees that are protected with a Tree Protection Order (TPO). Despite repeated requests to check up on possibly felled trees which are meant to be protected by a TPO, emails are unanswered.

“Our questions about what has happened at Tivoli, where we believe woodland has been felled without an adequate wildlife survey, remain unanswered. An FOI request was submitted to find out how this previously council owned woodland was sold for development, despite having a covenant on it that stipulates it remain green community space for the people of Margate. The FOI remains unanswered.

“We question who is making decisions such as that to allow the felling of a veteran Horse Chestnut tree in full blossom last week at Councillor Simon Day’s house in Birchington, to make way for a one car garage. We are told  the lopping of one limb was deemed adequate by the tree surgeon responsible. Veteran trees are woefully rare in Thanet and should be protected as magnificent entire ecosystems.

“Our streets are littered with sad stumps where trees once stood. Kent County Council is responsible for street tree planting but do not seem to replace many of the trees that are felled.”

‘Within rules and guidelines’

Tivoli site co-owner Ernest Biela said: “The tree clearance at the site at Tivoli Road has been conducted entirely within the rules and guidelines laid down.

“Indeed David ( Watts -co-owner) informs me that he has had several meetings with police officers and council  officials on site, and there has been no objection to the clearance activities

“Although some people have raised objection to clearing the grossly overgrown site, many local people have also attended the site and brought their own tools to help the clearance. They have taken timbers away to use as raw materials for artistic creations in the increasingly expanding local arts scene.

“Having cleared the site, David is hoping to replant on site to yield produce for eateries to complement locally sourced seafood and enhance the local food scene with entirely Margate derived menus.”

Chestnut tree

Cllr Day says the tree at Mount Lavina was dying and in a dangerous condition. He also says the group is incorrect in the assumption that he was responsible for its felling.

He said: “The tree was brought to the attention of the residents of Mount Lavina by the neighbours who had had it inspected and were told it was in a dangerous condition. The management association then approached a tree surgeon to confirm this.

“The tree was confirmed as dangerous and dying and an application was made to the council to remove the tree. This is the point that the Thanet tree group should have made their comments.

“The residents then approached me to help as freeholder as they did not have the funds to have the tree felled. I agreed to pay if none of the residents objected to a planning application I made to add a garage to the end of the block of garages. (One person) objected to the application so the residents are responsible for felling the tree.

“The tree surgeon showed one of the Thanet Tree members the diseased part of the tree and let them take photos, these were not put up on their site.”

Cllr Day says the group filmed on private property and upset elderly residents and workers.

Westwood Lodge

Planning permission was granted, by appeal, in 2017  for development of  153 homes at Westwood Lodge in Poorhole Lane.

The original application in 2015 was rejected by Thanet council. Among the reasons for that decision was concern at additional pressure on Sandwich Bay protection area and: “The proposed development would result in a significant incursion of the built form into the green wedge, which would reduce the separation between settlements and result in a substantial loss of openness and established woodland habitat.”

Former TDC tree officer John Hammond submitted the view that: “It is obvious that there will be significant loss of tree cover in an area of Thanet that is desperately short of trees.

“During our visit there were many species of bird present, some of which were once considered common but are now increasingly less common due to the loss of this type of habitat. It is my opinion that the loss of tree cover on this site to development would impact hugely on the local bird population.”

However, the Planning Inspectorate decision states Thanet council’s case was weakened by a lack of a 5 year housing supply plan. On the issue of green wedge the inspector found: “further loss of trees within the site, and the introduction of additional dwellings, would be partially visible. However, as the woodland visible along the northern and eastern site boundaries would be largely retained its distinctive landscape qualities would not be prejudiced.”

The plans, submitted by Westwood Cross Developments Ltd, would mean the felling of 150 Category C sycamore trees. However, the proposal also includes plans for the planting of 450 trees of native species, including semi-mature specimens.

Work on the development is yet to take place.

Thanet Trees say the woodland acts “ as the lungs of Westwood Cross,” and want to see the Planning Inspectorate decision challenged, pointing to the launch of the Urban Tree Challenge Fund  by Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who said more trees must be planted across the UK to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Ms Gregory added: “Trees are vital for fighting climate change. They absorb carbon dioxide, release oxygen and improve air quality. They provide essential biodiverse habitats for wildlife. Trees cool the air, offer shade and help reduce flooding. They are beneficial to our mental health, reducing noise and stress. Thanet Trees demand that we must plant more trees and protect our increasingly rare trees and woodlands now. “

Cllr Day has been asked for comment.

Find Thanet Trees on facebook here

17 Comments

  1. TDC doesn’t care about trees shrubs grass veges ect, the more that’s removed the more money they save.

  2. TDC doesn’t care about trees shrubs grass veges ect, the more that’s removed the more money they save…………………….

  3. TPOs are all very well, but unfortunately if a true is felled illegally it can’t just be reinstated as is. When it’s done, it’s done, and even if a fine is forthcoming, it doesn’t replace something that has taken a lifetime or more to grow.

  4. We all need to get involved in this so please go to the Facebook page Thanet trees and ask to join do your bit too thanet and all belongs to us and you

  5. Totally agree with this campaign. You only have to look at the felled trees that are stacked up on the old Pfizer site to the devestation that is going on

  6. No legitimate councillor would stand by and let this annihilation of our last remaining wildlife and tree stocks continue.
    The majority of Thanet Councillors clearly couldn’t care less about green spaces, trees or our rapidly diminishing wildlife. Other than greed, ignorance and a lack of morals I would like to know under what guise councillors are continuing to decimate the last remaining areas of beauty and refuge for wildlife in Thanet. The contempt for wildlife and trees shown by Thanet councillors is disgusting and just proves they have no moral compass or ethics.

  7. Fat chance. As if Thanet District Councillors ever cared about us, the people who fund them, or our environment! They forget, time after time, that they are supposed to represent us, not the businesses who make tons of cash from destroying our area and then take it away to their off-shore bank accounts!

  8. TDC not having a tree officer is pure contempt on the people of Thanet who want action to stop the felling of beautiful healthy trees that are just coming into leaf. Thanet has a very low tree canopy compared to London and the rest of the Country so wee should be finding places to replant what is removed and save the magnificent trees we have left.
    Maybe residents can stop trees being felled outside their properties by challenging the contractors. In most cases they are removing the whole tree when lopping and pruning is sufficient so there is planned carnage out there which must be stopped.

  9. If TDC had run the finances of the council which they have been doing so badly properly in the past they wouldn’t have had to sell of all the pockets of land for peanuts with the so worded guise of subject to meeting all requirements can be built on. Hence all our trees will be chopped down regardless of how old they are or if they have disease or not they don’t give a monkeys of nesting birds or bat’s or even anything that doesn’t give them money to cover up mistakes from the past and sheer wasteful management. The thing is with a tree it takes a lifetime to grow to reach maturity in native trees. We have just elected a new council and they need to show us that they will be more caring for the woodland and all creatures birds need trees bat’s need trees insects need trees and we need trees they give more live to this planet than imagined. TDC get your act together and listen we need trees.

  10. Yet again the Kent county council highway maintenance have arranged to have the lime trees in northdown way cut on 13th June, tomorrow right in the middle of the nesting season and whilst the sap is still rising. If they needed doing so desperately why are they not being done in the autumn.

    • This should be prevented *immediately* if this hasn’t happened yet! The problem with most tree-related issues especially regarding TPO fellings is that ‘the deed’ is usually done before it can be halted!

    • Hi we are trying to check this out as real can you verify for us please because we cannot find any notices thanks

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