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Vigil held as West Hampstead trees ‘worth half a million pounds’ are cut down by developers

PUBLISHED: 12:01 14 February 2014 | UPDATED: 12:23 14 February 2014

Masked and unmasked campaigners outside Ballymore sales office in West End Lane mourn the loss of trees cut down as part of new development. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Masked and unmasked campaigners outside Ballymore sales office in West End Lane mourn the loss of trees cut down as part of new development. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

A last-ditch attempt led by Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson to save more than 30 trees from being chopped down has failed as developers refused to abandon their plans.

The mature trees near West Hampstead Overground Station - said to be up to 50-years-old and worth £500,000 - were cut down as part of the West Hampstead Square residential development.

Masked campaigners rallied together on Saturday (February 8) to hold a vigil outside Ballymore Group’s sales office in West End Lane, representing the more than 850 people who signed an online petition urging the company to leave the trees alone.

The group had reached the end of a long campaign that drew the support of West Hampstead resident and actress Emma Thompson.

Speaking on the plight of the trees, the Oscar-winner decried the “vandalism and ecosavagery” of the developers and dismissed claims that trees would be easily replaced.

“The seedlings that Ballymore are planting across the development will be pruned and heavily managed, in fact they could be likened to caged animals,” she said.

“No way can they simulate the beauty and intrinsic worth of wild, mature trees.”

Residents have argued the trees add to the “soul and character” of West Hampstead, and are also an important tool to block out noise from passing trains.

Camden Council said because the trees are not within a conservation area or covered by a tree preservation order, which would protect them from being cut down, they were identified for removal in the planning application.

Ballymore Group could not be contacted for a statement.

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