Council approves water works tree removal following outcry over vegetation loss

Trees can be removed from a southwest London waterworks site and designated green space, the local authority has concluded.

Image: Bill Boaden (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Image: Bill Boaden (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Seething Wells, a Victorian water treatment works on the south bank of the Thames within the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, is designated as Metropolitan Open Land, but remains in private hands.

Contractors began site work in autumn 2018 to preserve the integrity of the river wall, but these drew concern, reported in the local press, due to the resulting loss of vegetation, which one resident said left it "looking like a war zone".

The council alerted police after receiving reports of a mechanical excavator on the site, while council officers attended to check whether the works required planning permission.

"The contractors said they had been told not to remove any trees, only smaller vegetation such as shrubs which do not require planning permission," the council said in a statement.

"As a result, the council did not find sufficient evidence that established trees had been removed."

The owner then notified the council that they intended to remove certain trees, whereupon the council issued a Tree Preservation Order to protect them.

A formal application for the tree work was submitted in February 2019, including a structural engineer’s report which stated that the trees in question either have caused, or will cause, damage to the site, including the river wall and the boundary wall and railings.

Based on the report and evidence provided, in April the council permitted the removal of the trees, on condition that the works were carried out by a qualified arboriculturist or tree surgeon in accordance with BS:3998 2010, the British Standard for tree work.

But it said: "Any evidence of the habitats of protected species of wildlife being destroyed on the site is a matter for the Metropolitan Police as, if this is the case, it is illegal."

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