Regeneration or Degeneration in South Acton?

Vicar joins Residents to ask "Who cut down our trees?"

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Photo: Malgorzata Czerwinska

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Residents of South Acton were shocked last week when they returned from work to find that 23 healthy, mature trees around the Recreation Ground - known locally as the ‘Rec’ had been chopped down. They are now calling for an inquiry after they claim that all planning applications relating to the regeneration of the South Acton Estate emphasise tree protection. They say the planning application states that ‘a small number of minor trees may be removed, and that every attempt will be made to minimise the loss of trees’.

The Revd. Brandy Pearson, Associate Vicar of Acton Green, told us: "At a time when people and organisations worldwide are struggling to protect the environment - including our own government and the Greater London Assembly - I am shocked to see mature trees cut down with such utter lack of care and for no discernable immediate reason. As well as providing shade and beauty along the line of the railway, trees soak up pollution from the air, and are an asset to any community. All those who use the Rec, children and adults alike have had an important resource stolen away from them. Whoever is responsible should be ashamed of themselves."

We spoke to Malgorzata Czerwinska, a resident and member of South Acton Residents Action Group (SARAG), who told us of her dismay at discovering the destruction of the trees. "The trees outside my kitchen window facing the new development were on the planning permission papers as staying there. I checked this hundreds of times myself, visiting Ealing Council Planning Department to check."

Malgorzata continues: "A power station was planned on Stanley Road which I opposed. It was built nowhere near the trees because of opposition to the original site. Then, when the huge new planning application went forward for the blocks to be built at the back of the rec, I made photocopies of the drawings which showed the future of the trees. At least 5 trees were shown clearly providing a screen between Woolf Court and the new development. Three of them are already gone - in fact there were a total of 23 trees cut down in 1 day."

The residents have been making efforts to save the trees since a year ago when some of the other trees were cut down. Malgorzata told us: "Ealing Council knew all about it. The Regeneration Office knew, too. Everything looks different now. It looks as though the trees were never there. It's a huge loss for us."

The Rec has been on the site since 1889 and is much-loved by locals. The majority of the lost trees were from an area of land, previously railway sidings, which SARAG claims has been an integral part of the Rec for well over 30 years, and should therefore be protected. SARAG has repeatedly demanded to see proof that anyone has the legal authority to build on it. Their website states: “This latest action underlines SARAG’s demand for an urgent inquiry into Ealing’s plans for the South Acton Neighbourhood”.

Malgorzata calls the tree-cutting an act of "wanton vandalism - I wonder if Ealing Council plan to change their logo from a majestic tree to a forlorn tree stump. I tried contacting Ealing Council, Ealing Homes and the South Acton Regeneration Office on the day, but no one knew anything about it.”

South Acton Residents Action Group (SARAG) is now asking “Who authorised the destruction of these trees on 4th March?”

We have contacted Ealing Council to ask for their comments, but as yet none have been offered.

March 14, 2008