Neighbour removing trees in Conservation Area

(33 Posts)
RaphaellaTheSpanishWaterDog Sun 26-Jul-15 22:05:11

Hi all,

I just wanted some advice please on what to do regarding this situation -

We have a new neighbour next door - in fact afaik they have yet to complete on the purchase and from what was said by them to DH as yet have only exchanged contracts, but the EA has given them the keys as the property is empty - and for the past week they have been cutting down established plants and trees (30' in some cases) with a chainsaw.

As a tree-lover (our own large garden is full of mature trees planted over the years since our house was built in the mid 1800s) I hate to see any trees cut down unnecessarily, but both our houses are in a Conservation Area with an Article 4(2) Direction, which I was led to believe meant you had to give six weeks notice to the council before doing any lopping/removing of trees over a certain size.

We bought our house at the end of 2014 so we're new to the area ourselves and don't plan to remove our trees, but know that because of the Conservation/Article 4 we'll need permission for things such as changing the colour of our (original) windows.

However, when DH mentioned the Conservation Area to the new neighbour - who seems very friendly btw - he seemed unaware that his new home fell within it and DH stupidly failed to explain the need for getting permission for certain works as our permitted development rights are removed so now he's gone in all guns blazing and is devastating the trees which (if ours are anything to go by) probably house many birds/other wildlife.....

I don't like the idea of 'dobbing him in' so to speak, but feel he should be made aware of the requirement of informing the council.....trouble is I'm too chicken to approach him myself and DH thinks we should mind our own business, plus he's cleared about a third of the large-ish garden already.

Morally what should I do?

TIA x

Ferguson Sun 26-Jul-15 23:26:29

Personally, I think Yes, inform the Council, but also tell him that you intend to.

OttiliaVonBCup Sun 26-Jul-15 23:30:28

I would be on the phone to the council first thing tomorrow morning.
Ignorance is not an excuse.
Tree killers give me the rage.

gamerchick Sun 26-Jul-15 23:33:02

Report his arse and let him get crucified.

Man I remember a tree that was lopped into in the street. The counc went wild trying to find out who it was.

We need trees man.

GraysAnalogy Sun 26-Jul-15 23:34:06

Report him first thing.

OttiliaVonBCup Sun 26-Jul-15 23:37:52

Can't believe he's not aware of the conservation area status.
EAs would have told this to all buyers, no way have not mentioned it.

funnyperson Mon 27-Jul-15 08:15:29

Ring up the council and preserve the relationship with the neighbours

senua Mon 27-Jul-15 08:25:49

As a matter of interest, who would be in trouble with the Council - the lopper or the landowner? (according to your DH the lopper isn't yet the landowner)

SoupDragon Mon 27-Jul-15 08:33:42

Why report him before telling him he needs permission to remove the trees?

He might be under the impression that the conservation area thing only applies to the house.

senua Mon 27-Jul-15 09:22:32

<mutter mutter grumble grumble>

If you want a question answering, do it your self:
" Anyone who cuts down, uproots, tops, lops, wilfully destroys or wilfully damages a tree in a conservation area (if that tree is not already protected by an Order), or causes or permits such work, without giving a section 211 notice (or otherwise contravenes section 211 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990) is guilty of an offence, unless an exception applies. The same penalties as those for contravening an Order apply."
And
"If a tree in a conservation area is removed, uprooted or destroyed in contravention of section 211 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, the landowner has a duty to plant another tree of an appropriate size and species at the same place as soon as he or she reasonably can. The same duty applies if a tree in a conservation area is removed because it is dead or presents an immediate risk of serious harm. The duty attaches to subsequent owners of the land."

So both existing and soon-to-be neighbours are liable.

anythingforaquietnight Mon 27-Jul-15 09:47:36

As well as the issue of this being a Conservation Area this is peak nesting season. They should not be cutting anything down between 1 March and 31 August unless it is absolutely necessary. In that case a survey should be carried out to assess the number and type of nests before a decision is made to as to whether to proceed

This makes me so angry.

Extract from this website tells you how to report a wildlife offence:

"If you suspect an offence is/has been committed in relation to wild birds or a protected species then report the incident to your local police force.
Ask for the case to be investigated by a Wildlife Crime Officer (WCO) if possible and ask for an incident number so you can go back to them if needed.
If the offence is on-going report it to the police by telephoning 101."

I would also contact the RSPB for advice. There are contact details and an online form for reporting a suspected offence against wildlife on this page.

This is covered by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The RSPB website states it is an offence to "intentionally or recklessly disturb any wild bird listed on Schedule 1 while it is nest building, or at a nest containing eggs or young, or disturb the dependent young of such a bird."

RaphaellaTheSpanishWaterDog Mon 27-Jul-15 11:24:50

Thanks guys, your wisdom and thoughts/suggestions are much appreciated.

Well, the neighbour is not there today and DH is disinclined to go ahead and report him without having a word with him first - especially as he feels responsible for not informing him that his house is part of the Conservation Area/Article 4 when he had the opportunity a couple of weeks back. Instead he thinks we should alert him to the situation when next we see him there.......

I do feel terrible about the birds - if it's anything like our garden we get masses of them - and personally love trees, but tbh many of the houses in the road are relatively new builds (1970s onwards) and I'm not sure if they give a fuck have conservation area status, as they always seem to have the tree surgeons in!

Trouble is, from what he said to DH, the tree removal is just the start and he plans major external building work in the next few weeks - for which he obviously isn't planning on getting permission either......but that's another story for another place......

Regarding the EA, without wishing to 'out' myself, the neighbour bought his house at auction with minimal EA involvement afaik - would info regarding the conservation area not have been in the legal pack though?

atticusclaw Mon 27-Jul-15 11:31:29

DH's relatives took down one established tree in a conservation area and were fined £8,000 by the local authority.

However I would say that if your DH is inclined to speak to this new neighbour he should do so in a very careful way. The neighbour may well tell him to f off and will then know immediately that it is DH who has reported the offence to the Council.

Personally I'd tell the Council (without leaving your details if possible) and let them deal with it.

DoreenLethal Mon 27-Jul-15 11:36:02

Just pick up the phone and speak to the conservation officer. They will make a visit and see what's what.

OttiliaVonBCup Mon 27-Jul-15 11:41:59

Don't faff around with neighbour.

I agree that he'll know it's you if your DH starts tying to talk some sense into him.

birchwoods Mon 27-Jul-15 11:46:54

As mentioned by a pp, your neighbour is also v likely to be breaking wildlife law by carrying out the work during the bird nesting season. Report him to the Tree Officer at the council and also your local Wildlife Crime officer if he continues after you've informed him of these restrictions.

iamEarthymama Mon 27-Jul-15 11:53:49

It's not your responsibility to tell. Him!
Do the right thing and report to the relevant authorities as mentioned up thread.

ChrisQuean Mon 27-Jul-15 11:55:52

Don't faff around with talking to your neighbour. Report them now to the conservation officer at the council

They probably know exactly what they are doing, because their solicitor would have informed them via the local authority search result that the property is in a conservation area.

They are cutting now in order (I can practically guarantee it) to allow for some sort of redevelopment. Would some of the trees be the the way of a possible extension??!

RaphaellaTheSpanishWaterDog Mon 27-Jul-15 13:53:11

Thanks again all.....

I think DH is reluctant to report to council/CO as he fears a potential dispute when we come to sell (planning this within the next 1 - 2 years) but I guess whatever we do could open us up to issues there.

Is it possible to report these things anonymously, d'you think?

Regarding the redevelopment point, I don't think that's his intention - most of the trees are along the bottom or lower side boundaries. It's a shortish (70'?) but wide (120'?) garden and the house has already been (over) extended imho with little potential for further expansion, but I could be wrong. I think it's more that he wants maximum football kicking space for the DC.....

It's such a shame when new owners rip stuff out before living with it for a while.

HowD Mon 27-Jul-15 14:08:48

This guy will develop the property and run. Report him.

GardenDragon Mon 27-Jul-15 15:24:54

I don't think reporting your neighbour for a violation of the conservation area status would be counted as a neighbour dispute when you sell the house. Your neighbour would be in dispute with the council, not you. Otherwise anyone who objected to a neighbours planning application would have to declare it as a dispute, which would put people off objecting when it is in fact their legal right. I would just phone the council myself it I were you, do you need to get permission from your DH?

ChrisQuean Mon 27-Jul-15 15:54:44

It might not be an extension to the house, but if there is or could be a side access, could it form a building plot in its own right?

I'm in a conservation area (also central London) and if you could get planning permission to develop the land at the bottom of the garden, it could make a lot of money

Some (dodgy) relatives of DH's chopped down a number of lovely old trees in their large back garden for this very reason, claiming innocence and then that the trees were diseased and dangerous (they weren't). The neighbours objected and it eventually prevented planning being granted.

zipzap Mon 27-Jul-15 16:17:40

Also - you don't have to even frame it as a dispute (although agree with previous posters that say they don't think it's a dispute). You just have to ring up the council as a concerned neighbour and enquire about the ins and outs of the situation as you thought one thing and it seems your neighbour either doesn't know or care, so could they confirm what the status of the conservation area is and the trees, etc etc. Then if he should have had permission you can ask the council to deal with it.

The other thing though I'm amazed about is that your old neighbour has given them permission to do this when they haven't finalised contracts shock

It's one thing to do some measuring up in advance to order curtains or sort out where you think you'll put your furniture - completely different to start chopping down trees, particularly if they're covered by legislation.

The new owner will be able to claim that when he bought the house, the trees had already been chopped down, sidestepping the fact that he was the one that did it. The old owner might be the one that gets stuck with any fines if there are any for allowing them to be chopped down.

It also sounds like you need to get the council down there sooner rather than later as he knows enough about conservation orders to be chopping down as much as he can as soon as he can while he can claim ignorance and get the trees down. He's going to get as many as possible down before anyone can stop him.

If the neighbour says anything about the council turning up, just be friendly and say that you were happy to help, it's always good to get confirmation of what's the right way to go about things rather than fall foul of the regulations and end up with fines later on isn't it and be convinced that you've done him a good turn.

Tobiasfunke Mon 27-Jul-15 17:21:22

I definitely wouldn't talk to the neighbour directly- there is more chance of it ending up as a neighbour dispute if the guy takes exception to you interfering . This you would have to declare if you moved. A phone call to the planning people enquiring as to whther your new neighbours have permission to cut down all the trees in their conservation garden is not a complaint it's an enquiry. This will be enough to alert the planners. Do it asap so they don't do anything else.

DancingHat Tue 28-Jul-15 14:43:29

That's a good way of framing it Tobias

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