‘More than 100 trees and saplings’ removed from nature reserve

By Joe Coughlan, Local Democracy Reporter 

Residents are fighting against a developer after dozens of trees and saplings were removed from a nature conservation area.

Willow Tree Park Stables in Grove Park, Lewisham was historically used to teach children how to ride horses. Locals claim the landowner has now ordered diggers to come and remove scores of trees. Lewisham council said the trees were dead, fallen or too small to be protected.

Barry O’Donovan, 64, has lived beside the stables for nearly 23 years.

He said: “Rather than removing rubbish, they seemed to deliberately push it into large piles to make it look unsightly and to make it look like housing would be more attractive here.”

The landowner, Aim Land Limited, sent an application to Lewisham council in 2019 to replace the existing stables with a new barn, stalls and track around the perimeter of the site for riding.

The site as seen with construction diggers present (Picture: Friends of Willow Tree Wetlands Community Group)

The council refused planning permission for the project in 2020.

Lewisham Council documents from February 2020 state that the area was a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation and that a Tree Preservation Order was made on the space in 2012.

A Lewisham council spokesman said: “The owners will be legally required to plant new trees to replace the dead/fallen trees.

“We have carried out an extensive number of site visits in the last week to investigate the works taking place, which primarily involve the clearing of rubbish and debris. Any works taking place mustn’t negatively impact wildlife and habitats or violate the Tree Protection Order.”

PWA Planning, on behalf of Aim Land Limited, was approached for comment but had not responded at the time of publication.

Pictured top: Barry O’Donovan has lived beside the stables for nearly 23 years (Picture: Joe Coughlan)

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