HOMEOWNERS in cliff top properties have taken it upon themselves to cut back young trees without council permission – to enjoy the sea views.
Young elm trees, which would in future protect the stability of the ground on Cliff Parade, Southend, were hacked back by three men with chainsaws at the weekend in an apparent bid to improve the view from homes.
The damage extends about 150metres along the cliffs where pavements are showing signs of damage, possibly due to the instability of the cliffs.
Carole Mulroney, councillor responsible for the environment and planning, said the council had been left to clear up the carnage left by the residents.
She said: “There appears to have been some sort of misunderstanding. The people that were doing it were under the impression they had permission.
“I am looking into this with officers and working on the appropriate steps to take.
“This has caused a real issue and we have got to clear it up before we look at what to do next.
“People can’t just take things into their own hands. There are issues over social distancing and public liability insurance. There is no evidence they took any precautions and were not wearing protective equipment.”
Mrs Mulroney added: “It happened over the weekend but I got in touch with the out of hours team to see if they could do something to stop it. After about four years it will regenerate but in that particular area we have to be very careful.”
A video posted by a resident on the Once Upon a Tree Facebook group shows the extent of the damage to dozens of young trees and shrubs.
A spokesman for the group said one of their members saw people hacking down a vast area of scrub, including young trees, at Cliff Parade.
They added: “Seemingly without permission or due care for council policy or the environment.”
“These natural habitats are essential for our wildlife, stabilising the subsoil to prevent soil erosion and cliff slippage and helping with environmental factors in line with the climate emergency and the council’s new tree policy to increase Southend‘s tree cover to the minimum of 15 per cent required for coastal towns.”