Upset residents say land beside the Grand Union Canal has been left looking like a “warzone” after trees were removed.
A mystery contractor has spent two weeks felling trees and clearing the vegetation alongside the canal in Hayes, which is land owned by the Canal and River Trust (CRT).
However the trust has denied it is uprooting trees and told Hillingdon Council a ‘third party’ was responsible, although it could not say who.
David Brough, chairman of the Hayes Town Partnership, said: “People are up in arms about it.
"The way the trees have just been hacked down is a piece of vandalism as far as I’m concerned.
“We value the canal and sensible pruning would have been fine. The trees were getting quite overgrown but what they’ve done is disgraceful.”
'Annoyed is an understatement'
The destruction has taken place next to Union House in Clayton Road, an office block which is currently being converted into flats.
Janet Gardner, Labour councillor for Botwell ward, is trying to get to the bottom of the issue.
She told getwestlondon: “The Canal and River Trust say they didn’t authorise the removal of the trees and it would appear that somewhere in the mix the council should have been overseeing the development in terms of landscaping.
"Its all very confusing; it could be that the developers have done it, perhaps thinking that the land was theirs.
“But whoever is responsible, it has made the area look horrible – the trees were mature and they were a natural screen from the buildings and they looked pleasant.”
She added that even when the culprit is identified, there will be little that can be done as any new trees that are planted will take time to get to a level where they provide a natural and attractive screen.
“To say I am annoyed is an understatement, something has been destroyed and cannot be replaced,” Cllr Gardner said.
No planning application necessary
Calls to Hillingdon Council led them to carry out an inspection of the site, but they are unable to act on the destruction as it's not a planning matter, nor do they have the powers to do so.
As the trees were not under a the protection of Tree Preservation Orders and not located within a Conservation area, it would not require an application to the Local Planning Authority.
Ken O’Keeffe, a High Point Village resident and vice-chair of the residents’ association, called the destruction “absolutely shocking and unacceptable”.
He added: “The minimum requirement to recover the situation will be to replace the trees like for like.”
The Canal & River Trust are still trying to find out who is responsible for the tree felling as it's not something that they were "aware of".
A spokesman for the Trust said: "It’s obviously a concern if trees are cut down alongside the canal without us knowing, so we want to find out who has done it and what their plans are for the ground.”