Back in 2015 a large number of mature trees were felled and a large garden cleared in anticipation of development plans for a block of flats being submitted.
All mature trees in the Conservation Area are automatically protected and Merton Council needs to permit their felling.
No permission was given for an act that the landowner later described as an “embarrassment”. The photo shows before and after images and the garden has now been cleared by a digger to bare earth.
We joined with local residents in asking Merton Council to take action against this blatant breach of planning safeguards.
The response was to deal with the issue as part of the decision on the planning applications subsequently submitted to develop the garden site. Merton’s Tree Officer emailed in December 2016 that “I have written to the owner about this matter, and he is now aware that the council expects new replacement trees to be planted.”
In the event two planning applications were submitted. These included the statement that “This occurrence is an embarrassment to the applicant and all involved with developing the proposals for this development and something that we all wish to put right as part of the development process.”
One application was never progressed and the other was turned down in late 2019 after two years of consideration.
Imagine the dismay, therefore, when we asked Merton’s Tree Officer what action was being taken to put right the wrong done to the trees in 2015 and were told that “the power to enforce tree replacement is time limited to 4 years, and as this time has now expired no further action in the form of enforcement can be taken.”
We have asked our ward councillors to look into the issue. There is every impression of officers asleep on the job and allowing the wilful loss of mature trees just as Merton Council announces a climate and ecological emergency. A simple calendar reminder to take action if the situation had not been resolved would have served to ensure the enforcement deadline was not missed.
There is one potential silver lining. A new application has been submitted for the site. While the proposed flats are too large and develop too much of the site it does provide an opportunity for the owner to put right the wrong and for Merton Council to insist on trees being provided equivalent to those that were lost.
We ask you to join us in watching what happens next.
Read our full representations on the latest development for the garden of 8 Preshaw Crescent Land behind Preshaw Crescent – January 2020