DJ Chris Moyles joins Highgate tree war

FURIOUS Highgate residents have accused a developer of ‘garden-grabbing’ following an allegedly illegal attempt to “decimate” a prized woodland area.

Their anger has been sparked by proposals to cut down mature 80ft trees to squeeze two modern flats on the same site as a Grade II listed Victorian villa in Archway Road.

But scores of local homeowners – including Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles – have slammed the plan, protesting that the trees provide a vital shield from the noise and pollution of the busy main road they live next to.

They also claim it is a prime example of garden grabbing – the much-criticised practice in which developers try to cram ever more houses into green suburban areas.

In a letter to the council objecting to the unpopular scheme, which was submitted to Haringey’s planning department last month, Mr Moyles wrote: “At present, this garden with its protection to both myself and other Highgate residents, will be decimated if the proposed construction is to go ahead in its current guise.

“Not only do I object to the loss of this natural landscape and wildlife habitat which is greatly appreciated in such an inner city setting, but also as a figure in the public eye, I am particularly concerned that such a development could have a detrimental effect on the privacy and peace which I hugely value, and which was intrinsic to my decision to move to Highgate in the first place.”

Mr Moyles issued a further warning that by lopping down the trees and reducing people’s privacy the developers were increasing the risk of burglaries.

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However, the firm behind the development, Loromah Estates Ltd, appears to have paid little heed to the pleas to preserve the trees.

So determined was the company to get rid of the towering sycamore trees that they sent workers along the Friday before last to destroy them.

Witnesses said they watched in horror as deep cuts were made to the base of four of the condemned trees, which will effectively kill the large timbers off.

Residents have branded this action as unlawful because they say the trees are protected within the Highgate conservation area and one of the sycamores in particular is subject to a Tree Preservation Order (TPO). They were outraged again this Tuesday when men armed with chainsaws arrived to cut the trees down.

A council officer on the scene even took the unusual step of intervening to stop the destruction, but was apparently ignored.

Keith Gold, who lives in one of the neighbouring properties, said the developer’s determination to push on with their plans regardless was “morally bankrupt”. He said: “They haven’t followed due process, they haven’t followed the consultation that was due and to take out the protected tree just proves all the worst things you think about property developers.”

Much of the disagreement surrounding the chopping down of the trees has stemmed from the matter of the TPO. This order prevents the “felling, lopping, topping, uprooting or otherwise wilful damage of trees” without the permission of the planning authority. In an email sent earlier this month, Matthew Gunning, from Haringey’s planning and policy development team, reminded the developer that one of the sycamores is protected by a provisional TPO but Lissa Napolitano, from Loromah Estates, denied any of the trees was subject to a TPO saying “the felling of all four trees is legal”.

She said they needed to be removed because they were causing subsidence to an adjoining property.