Belfast people 'despair' after council remove 200m of Hawthorne trees in bird nesting season
People across South and East Belfast are in "despair" after around 200m of native Hawthorne trees were removed during bird nesting season.
He says it's further highlights the need for an independent environmental agency to hold authorities to account.
The East Belfast representative told Belfast Live: "I have been inundated with complaints from residents overnight about this.
"There is almost a feeling of despair and anger which links into the wider issue of the cutting of trees along the Lagan. People think that there's no consultation, nobody knows what's going on.
"People are seeing this and it's horrific looking.
"As a Green, I think there's huge reputational damage here. We are the custodians of this city.
"I have reported this to the PSNI as a potential wildlife crime - I want clarity on the matter particularly around consensus to disturb breeding birds. It's not just about you're not allowed to cut nests down - you're also not allowed to disturb those sites, at, in or near them.
"We need clarity here. I am livid. I am so angry at this because something has gone on and there has been no communication.
"It is a beautiful site. In terms of biodiversity it's one of the most important sites in South and East Belfast and people have gone up there in the last 48 hours and just seen clearance. I've spoke to a number of people and they are gutted and they are upset.
"My understanding is that this was preparatory works done for the extension of the greenway. As councillors we had no advance knowledge - nothing.
"From what I'm being told appropriate assessments and checks were carried out by relevant qualified people to make sure there was no disruption to nesting sites. But I have still made a report to the PSNI.
"We're asking for assurances that no further work is going to take place. We are going to meet officers up on site to make sure there are lessons here.
"This is a community that had to deal with the Lagan trees coming down and there's a bit of trauma. People are feeling helpless.
"I just think there's a disconnect and a lack of communication between the council and the people. The public are years ahead of organisations such as council and DfI on their expectations of environmentalism.
"People are moving rapidly and the basic level is that organisations such as council, DfI and government bodies stating, 'we are planning to do work and this is what we're doing'.
"They are saying there's no disruption but I have asked for the PSNI to investigate. They are putting a wildlife protection officer on it and I have asked for independent scrutiny of this.
"If people think huge organisations can go ahead and do their own thing, then how can you expect buy-in to environmentalism, sustainability and biodiversity?
"This is a highly sensitive site and it is already dealing with the Hamptons application and it goes back to a lot of local people being gravely concerned about this.
"It's an area of outstanding natural beauty and one of eight woodlands left in this part of the town and here we are just, business as normal when this city council has already declared a climate and biodiversity emergency.
"How do you replace this? I am really angry here at the lack of foresight.
"Government bodies need to be having conversations with citizens."
All scrub cutting, hedge cutting, laying and coppicing operations are banned by DAERA during bird nesting season - which is March 1 to August 31 - to avoid harming birds, their nests and eggs.
Any such work can be considered a criminal offence under Wildlife (NI) Order 1985.
A Save Our Lagan spokesperson said this recent removal of trees in Belfast has resulted in the "loss of a 200m by 6m swathe of mature, dense and bird and insect-rich hedgerow destroyed along the Lagan in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty".
Since the trees have been cut down in May, they have questioned whether this is "an offence"?
"Two sections either side of the already under pressure Hampton Park development have been removed, possibly to link Galwally and Annadale avenues with a 'Greenway'," they added.
"The Galwally site damage is particularly provocative as the chippings from the destroyed trees were strewn on a bluebell patch."
Bluebells are protected in Northern Ireland through The Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985.
A statement from Belfast City Council said: “Council is currently progressing plans for Phase 2 of the Lagan Gateway project, building on the success of Phase 1, which included a new pedestrian and cycle bridge, connecting Stranmillis to Annadale. This next phase will see the development of additional connections from Lagan Lands East at Annadale through to Belvoir Forest Park, to further encourage and enable more sustainable travel.
“Site investigation works were planned to be undertaken at Lagan Lands East to inform the final designs for Phase 2. Unfortunately, these required the removal of a small area of hedgerow, in order to enable these essential works to be carried out.
“These plans were developed with a certified ecologist, and inspections undertaken, in accordance with the relevant legislation, to ensure there were no active nests within the small area of hedgerow which has been removed.
“Council has agreed to pause the planned site investigation works, in order to undertake further engagement around this project.”
A PSNI spokesperson said: "Police received a report of trees being cut in the Annadale Embankment area of south Belfast this afternoon (Friday 13 May). Enquiries are ongoing."
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