Published: 14:05, 13 September 2019
| Updated: 14:06, 13 September 2019
Police have become embroiled in a row over tree felling after dead animals were reportedly discovered in a woodland beauty spot.
Officers are investigating concerns surrounding coppicing work on a site south of the A28 between Fairview Gardens in Sturry and Westbere Lane, in Canterbury.
The Forestry Commission has confirmed the work has been strictly carried out in accordance with an approved tree felling licence it issued to the land owners, Bellway Homes.
But Antonie van den Broek, who lives in Westbere, claims wildlife has been “decimated” on the site, which is known as Two Fields.
“Local residents report seeing a fox den destroyed, complete with decapitated foxes’ heads, plus crushed snakes and other reptiles, he said.
“The clearance started in the middle of the two fields and progressed towards Fairview Gardens, which meant wildlife was pushed, within remaining vegetation, towards this residential area, cutting them off from the remaining block represented by the second field.
“A better way would have been to undertake the works in the opposite direction so that mobile reptiles and mammals had the opportunity to escape to the remaining field closer to Westbere.
“Needless to say, residents in Westbere and Sturry are very upset by what has occurred.”
Diane Cleavely, who has lived in Westbere for 32 years, says she is devastated by the felling.
“This is supposed to be a Green Gap woodland,” she said.
“It has been home to a great number of nesting birds, short-eared bats and reptiles - which are both protected - mammals, rabbits and a few foxes.
“The song of blackbirds, woodpeckers and owls at night could be heard throughout the year. Now it is totally silent. There is nothing.”
'No more than 30% of the trees have been removed' - Bellway Homes
Police have confirmed they received a report regarding the removal of the trees on Tuesday, September 3.
A spokesman said: “Enquiries are ongoing to establish whether any offences have taken place.”
Bellway Homes says the work has been carried out under an approved tree felling licence issued by the Forestry Commission following discussions lasting 10 months.
No more than 30% of the trees have been removed, said spokesman Sasha O’Neil, with none felled in the conservation area.
“In addition, an officer of Canterbury City Council attended the site on the first day of works and confirmed everything was acceptable,” she added.
She says the felling started in mid-August, after the end of the bird nesting season on July 31.
“A visual inspection was carried out prior to commencement of the felling activities to ensure that no ‘late nesting’ was taking place.
“This inspection established there were no active nests in the location prior to commencement of the coppicing.”
Ms O’Neil says Bellway is unaware of any evidence of reptiles being injured or killed, “other than unsubstantiated allegations posted on social media”.
“This is not a construction site and the coppicing works have been carried out in strict accordance with the Forestry Commission’s felling licence,” she said.
“The death of any wildlife is distressing to all, but we are simply unable to comment on the tragic death of the fox in question, other than to say that foxes are naturally cautious animals and we believe that they would instinctively flee the sound of any approaching plant.
“I would also comment that the plant in question is noisy and slow moving.
“Furthermore, all applicable works took place above ground and no underground habitats were affected during the coppicing.”
The Forestry Commission has visited the site since the works were carried out and says felling has been carried out in accordance with the approved licence.