Published: 06:00, 17 February 2021
Campaigners have made a last ditch plea to a council to halt work, after construction of seven homes on open space got under way.
Elizabeth Rose, from Painters Ash, Northfleet, described the removal of trees to make way for the development in Constable Road as "absolutely devastating."
But the leader of Gravesham council says the seven affordable, one-bedroom bungalows - which will go to elderly people or those with disabilities - are needed, especially as there are more than 2,500 people on the borough's housing waiting list.
Elizabeth, who lives in the road, believes the council did not communicate effectively in regard to the plans for the green space which is surrounded by Cotswold Road, Chiltern Road and Constable Road.
The 45-year-old said: "I am extremely anxious and extremely upset.
"I can't speak for all the locals, but I can for most of them, and they are extremely upset about what is happening as well.
"I understand we need housing, and I know people need homes, especially the elderly and the vulnerable, but for the sake of seven people they have devastated a village green that brought a lot of happiness to the locals, especially at times like these. It was so upsetting to see all the trees go.
"My son's grandfather planted those trees over 30 years ago for the council, so it is particularly poignant for me. It is absolutely devastating."
The project will see seven affordable, one-bedroom bungalows built with a parking space for each.
A planning application was submitted by the council in August 2019. It received 107 objections.
A summary from officers said that none of the issues raised warranted the scheme's refusal, and it was approved in February 2020.
The application described how the proposal would develop 33% of the green space, with improvements to the remaining 67%, including tree planting and a better children's play area.
Elizabeth, who is a maintenance worker for Thames Water, added: "During the pandemic, the green has been a lifesaver for young and old alike, giving a nice space to come and relax, play, walk, sit and enjoy the trees and wildlife, ride bikes and, last week, go sledging.
"In the Spring the cherry trees delighted with their beautiful pink blooms and were a welcome relief to come home to at the end of a hard day at work.
"On Monday, February 8, contractors turned up and cut down all the cherry trees and over half the silver birch.
"This is a place where many starlings would congregate before performing their murmurations over the estate.
"Air ambulances have landed on several occasions to aid elderly residents.
"There is so much building going on in Gravesham at the moment. We feel that the loss of this green space to seven houses is completely unnecessary.
"We don't know why this type of single occupancy accommodation can't be incorporated into the new estates that are cropping up on brownfield sites all across the borough."
Painters Ash ward councillor Emma Elliot (Con) said: "Residents are heartbroken by the unwillingness of Gravesham council to listen to their pleas.
"As we speak the trees are coming down in preparation for the works. This has got to stop.
"We fully recognise the need for housing, but this is neither the time, or place to do it. I ask the controlling Labour group to come here and meet with residents to witness their strength of feeling."
"This has got to stop"
Leader of Gravesham council, Cll John Burden (Lab), believes the development is crucial in delivering his promise of 1,000 homes in the borough for the most vulnerable in society.
He said: "The council has a commitment to provide housing for the homeless and those on the waiting list.
"In the last budget, I announced plans to build 1,000 properties in the next three to four years, starting last year and we are well on our way to doing that.
"These are seven bungalows, and I think there has been some mixed-messaging put around on Facebook.
"These bungalows are for elderly people or people with disabilities, people who are in desperate need of a one-storey dwelling.
"We are re-planting both hedges and trees, and we are going to be renewing, with new equipment, the children's play area at the top of the hill.
"We are only using around 20% of the entire area for the bungalows and we've got a housing need of over 2,500 people on our waiting list.
"We are committed to helping local people. Yes, we are having to build on that small part of the green, but the rest of the area will be improved and enhanced for the local people.
"People need a home. People need security of somewhere to live. But they also need a safe environment, so we're trying to do all that for the local people, while keeping the politics out of it.
"This is about helping local people. It's more important than the politics."