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Anger after developer breaches planning conditions and damages trees in Harlesden

PUBLISHED: 11:00 13 July 2020

Residents fear trees within a Harlesden development site have been damaged. Picture: Elisabeth Blair Arata

Residents fear trees within a Harlesden development site have been damaged. Picture: Elisabeth Blair Arata

Archant

Neighbours in Harlesden are demanding the council takes strong action over a developer which has damaged trees.

Residents outside a development site in Harlesden want the trees properly protected. Picture: Elisabeth Blair ArataResidents outside a development site in Harlesden want the trees properly protected. Picture: Elisabeth Blair Arata

Oliver St James is building two private homes on a strip of land between Connaught Road, Acton Lane and Greenhill Park which is bordered by “a mini forest” of 15 trees, 10 of them protected.

The developer has been told to carry out “remedial measures” on damaged tree roots by the Brent Council. The council said it is writing to the company to “demand an explanation” and that it will consult with its legal team and make a decision about how to proceed once it has a response.

Elizabeth Blair Arata, who lives nearby, said: “The trees have been damaged and we cannot change that. We feel the council needs to take more concrete action.

“Whether the breach was intentional or due to professional negligence, the developer must be taken to task, ie prosecuted and fined for the significant damage done.”

Oliver St James director Kevin Sexton initially told the Times that “damage to any tree is a speculation”, but he has since said: “We were the ones who contacted the council and arranged for a tree specialist report to be carried out, which we then sent to the tree officer at the council.

“My understanding from the report is that the trees are not badly damaged and it’s only a few that may have had the roots touched and will all recover over time with monitoring which we are planning to do and keep under review.

“All the trees are around the surrounding perimeter of the two houses we are building so have no impact on the build so it is not in our interest to cause them any damage, we want to keep them all as they give privacy to the development.”

In 2016 a 16m sycamore tree was chopped down and Ms Arata said: “Three separate residents witnessed a professional company come in and take down this tree.

“A resident would not have had access to the site, nor been able to afford the cost of such a job.”

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Mr Sexton denied any suggestion that his company removed the tree, saying: “We have no evidence of who removed it and did this but it is most definitely not in our interest to have removed it and did not do so, we want all the trees to remain around the perimeter.”

He also said that, despite claims by neighbours, neither the council nor the company “has come across any bats or hawk habitat in this area”.

“There were no historically reported habitats for bats or hawks to our knowledge,” he said.

A spokesperson for Brent Council said: “When planning permission was granted we put in place stringent conditions to protect the trees on this site.

“We were subsequently notified that the applicant had begun works without meeting these agreed conditions, damaging the roots of a number of trees.

“We take the protection of trees very seriously, especially those with preservation orders on them.

“We will be writing to those responsible to demand an explanation.

“It is a criminal offence to damage a tree which is under a preservation order. Once we have their statement, we will consult with our legal team and make a decision about how to proceed. In the meantime, we’ve ordered the developer to carry out remedial measures on the affected trees.”

Neighbour Zac Schwarz said: “The idea that a local developer has damaged iconic trees in a residential area just really upset me.

“It’s like having a mini forest in a little quiet bit of Harlesden, a bit of magic, and all different houses back on to them.

“Maybe it wasn’t intentionally done, maybe it wasn’t malice, if you’re doing building work near amazing trees you do not damage them in any way and if you do you have to pay the consequences.”


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