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'Gang' of workmen cut down protected tree by Gallows Hill Lane, Abbots Langley
A 50 foot oak tree in Abbots Langley protected by a preservation order has been chopped down by workmen who "hid their faces as they left the site".
The tree was felled on Tuesday after nearby residents witnessed a "gang" of workmen enter the site.
The site, formerly an extension to a Gallows Hill Lane garden, is located between the back gardens of the lane and Hazelbury Avenue. This area of 0.4 hectares is a green oasis that supports a wide range of flora, insects, birds, small mammals and reptiles.
A developer applied on four occasions to Three Rivers District Council to build luxury houses on the site. The first application, made in 2009, was refused on several grounds including failure to meet national and local planning policies. Further applications followed in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Three Rivers also turned these down for a number of reasons including cramped and contrived layouts, and because a group of protected trees blocked the line of a new access road to the proposed estate. In all four cases the developer appealed to the national Planning Inspectorate who upheld the Council's decisions.
Nearby residents who witnessed the incident inspected the cut down trunk and branches. George Johnson, of Hazelbury Avenue, said it "gave a clear indication that a very healthy tree had been sacrificed".
Julie Hughes, Principal Landscape Officer at Three Rivers District Council, said: "The oak tree was protected by a Tree Preservation Order, we are aware that the tree was removed on Tuesday, October 9 and that we are currently investigating the matter."
Mr Johnson said a survey was paid for by the developer in 2009 which suggested that the oak could be dangerous, but an assessment carried out by a Three Rivers officer as recently as October 4 indicated that it was safe.
He said: "When challenged, the gang claimed that they had authority to carry out the work and asserted that they were doing so because the council would not do the work itself and hid their faces when a photo was taken as they left the site. Three Rivers later confirmed that no application had been made to work on any of the protected trees on the site and had not approved any such work."
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