131 protected trees felled in ‘devastating attack’ on Bromley park

At least 131 protected trees in a Bromley woodland loved by dog walkers and wildlife watchers have been destroyed.

The trees in Cator Park, Beckenham, were mostly oaks, and were chopped down by workmen on Saturday morning with chainsaws, despite being covered by a Tree Protection Order (TPO).

Nearby residents said the first they knew of the activity was the sound of chainsaws from inside the park.

Drone footage shows some of the damage (Video: Michael Shilling/CPRE London)

Regular users of the park managed to gain access and told the workmen that they were breaching a TPO.

The police were called and they warned the workmen to stop, but then left and the work resumed. It was only after the second visit that work was finally stopped, with one man being arrested and cutting equipment seized.

Residents reportedly blocked a low loader from trying to access the site through the public park by blocking the route with a car.

Countryside charity CPRE London is working with Bromley council, the Forestry Commission and the Environment Agency to establish what laws and regulations have been broken.

The charity’s director, Anna Taylor, said: “This is a devastating attack on our environment, biodiversity and frankly, the community.

“This is a much-loved area. It is normally a very tranquil space, set back from the road, where people go to spend a bit of time away from it all. Tragically, the TPO didn’t deter the crew from felling these protected trees. It will take decades to restore.”

A note left at the ‘crime scene’ as at least 131 trees were felled (Picture: CPRE London)

The land is privately owned and was purchased by its current owners – registered to a firm based in Singapore – for £10,000 in 2013.

But it is also designated as Metropolitan Open Land by Bromley council, giving it the same status as green belt land.

Many of the trees felled were about 20 to 25 years old. It is a haven for wildlife including woodpeckers, owls, kingfishers, egrets, slow worms and stag beetles.

A spokesman for Bromley council said: “We are aware of this very sad incident, which can only be described as environmental destruction, where 131 protected trees have been destroyed.

“This was a thriving young woodland that was valued by many locally and we are now investigating what has happened here.

“This is a serious matter, with anyone who is found guilty of committing an offence which contravenes Section 210 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 being fined up to £20,000 at a magistrates cor an unlimited fine at crown court.

“We are grateful to residents who have already come forward to help with that investigation, which is at its early stages.”

A spokesman for the Met said: “Police were called on the morning of Saturday, June 10 to Cator Park, Beckenham, over a dispute relating to the felling of trees that were alleged to be under a protective order.

“Officers responded and spoke to a man, aged in his 30s, advising work to cease.

“Officers returned after they were informed that the felling had continued. One man was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and taken into custody. He was later released on bail.

“A number of items of tree felling equipment were seized.”

Pictured top: A felled tree in Cator Park, Beckenham (Picture: CPRE London)

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