• Outdoors Outdoors

Locals outraged after man commits 'tree massacre' and illegally cuts down protected forest: 'Utterly barbaric'

"I still find it quite emotional walking in and seeing it like this."

"I still find it quite emotional walking in and seeing it like this."

Photo Credit: Friends of Cator and Alexandra

Residents and nature lovers in London were left devastated after a man was caught conducting some unauthorized tree surgery. 

What happened?

According to the BBC, police arrested a man in south London in June 2023 for felling 131 trees in Cator Park in Bromley without permission.

The trees had been put under a protection order after local conservation group The Friends of Cator and Alexandra discovered several trees had been cut down, and a sign was placed on the park gates warning that the trees were protected for the next six months.

However, that didn't stop this chop-happy individual, whose actions were described as a "tree massacre."

As CPRE London detailed, the person conducting the work was the park's leaseholder, who told The Telegraph his family had owned the land for 15 years. He claimed he was felling the trees to make room for a sports center, but no such work had been approved by the council. 

"I still find it quite emotional walking in and seeing it like this," Sarah Counsell from the Cator Woodland Action Group told the BBC. "We were all completely devastated — it's utterly heartbreaking. This place is very special to this community, and what they've done here is utterly barbaric."

Why is this vandalism so upsetting?

In a city like London, where green spaces aren't so accessible, parks like Cator are important to the environment and the local community.

Cator Park is a popular site for dog walkers and for families looking to enjoy a little patch of paradise in an area dominated by concrete. The removal of trees will diminish that experience. 

Meanwhile, the park would have helped combat the heat island effect, a phenomenon that occurs in large urban areas. Concrete, brick, and asphalt absorb heat and release it into surrounding areas, causing temperatures to rise a couple of notches. Parks, grassy patches, and woodland spaces absorb heat and trap it, helping to keep neighboring communities cool. 

As temperatures continue to rise because of human-caused global heating, the presence of trees and greenery is becoming more important to mitigate these effects. 

What's more, Cator Park has been described as being of "nature-reserve quality" by countryside charity CPRE London. It has played host to kingfishers, tawny owls, and woodpeckers, boosting biodiversity in the area. The removal of trees will impact these bird populations. 

CPRE observed that some of the trees cut down were 20 to 25 years old. The organization said that a single mature oak can support as many as 2,300 species. 

What's being done about the Cator Park destruction?

Sadly, Anna Taylor from CPRE London told the BBC that she expected it would "take decades" for the area to fully recover. 

But in August 2023, CPRE began a campaign to improve the prospects of the area. A Tree Preservation Order is now permanent on the site, meaning the felling of trees would be considered a contempt of court, with possible punishment including a spell in prison.

Bromley Council has also contacted the landowner to replant trees that were lost on the site and to provide compensation.  

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