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Special branches? Police stop tree chopping in Regent's Canal over wildlife concerns

PUBLISHED: 16:45 19 May 2016 | UPDATED: 16:46 19 May 2016

Conservation plea: Ian Nelthorpe, Anita Masih, Alicja Mrowinska, Chris Gordon-Coker and five-year-old Moses Nelthorpe (Picture: Ken Mears)

Conservation plea: Ian Nelthorpe, Anita Masih, Alicja Mrowinska, Chris Gordon-Coker and five-year-old Moses Nelthorpe (Picture: Ken Mears)

Archant

Police have told developers to wind their necks in and stop lopping branches off trees beside the Regent's Canal conservation area due to the nesting swans and bats.

The neighbours with some of the felled branches (Picture: Ken Mears)The neighbours with some of the felled branches (Picture: Ken Mears)

Neighbours in the Union Wharf flats overlooking the canal were outraged last week when workmen began cutting the trees on the bank across the water.

They had no idea developers A2Dominion were set to carry out the work, and although the company had no obligation to tell them, it is considered good practice to do so after giving the town hall notice.

And the work didn’t sit well with police, either, who shut down the operation after being called by the angry neighbours.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, it is illegal to damage, destroy or obstruct access to nests of swans and bats.

"The nesting swans have been there for years right under the trees. Whenever friends come to visit from the countryside they can’t believe this is here in the middle of London."

Chris Gordon-Coker

And Hackney’s wildlife officer said a conservation survey was needed and if work were to continue without it, A2Dominion could face prosecution.

He told the Gazette: “All work is now being halted whilst a secondary survey is completed.

“They [A2Dominion] state the work being done was simply surgery to make the trees safer, with minimum disruption. But to prevent further issues they will await the results of the survey.”

Union Wharf homeowner Chris Gordon-Coker, 53, who works in the diamond industry, said he was at a loss as to why anyone would want to destroy the oasis: “It’s very rare I get out of my chair and raise my voice but why would you want to get rid of one of the few areas where trees cover the canal?

“The nesting swans have been there for years right under the trees. Whenever friends come to visit from the countryside they can’t believe this is here in the middle of London.”

The City Wharf development is described on its website as a “pocket of calm alongside the secluded canal”.

Steve Michaux, group director of leasehold services said the work was “routine tree pruning”.

He said: “We obtained consent from Hackney Council, and actively engaged with RSPB, prior to commencing to ensure the work was safe and sensitive to the local habitat.

“In addition to this we are working closely with the local police ecology team and Bat Conservation Trust to provide necessary works without causing any harm to the bats.”

A council spokesman said the developers had notified the council in advance of work on the trees, adding it was not necessary to inform neighbours but was “good practice to do so”.

“The council cannot prevent or refuse works to trees in conservation areas purely on ecological or wildlife protection grounds,” he said. “This is outside the remit of our responsibilities when managing trees generally.

“This is administered under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and is enforced by the wildlife officer of the Metropolitan Police. We were not aware of the decision to stop the work. However, we are now intending to meet with the developers next week to discuss the next steps following the latest police directions.”

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