UK: A Greenbelt forest much loved by Gypsies is destroyed without a permit

A farrier who is facing prosecution for illegally felling trees in the
Green Belt says he would do it again. Philip Gray, 37, cleared more
than 70 trees behind his home in Bridge Lane, Virginia Water, without
applying for planning permission. He intends to create a horse riding
centre with a public footpath on the site even though Runnymede
Council slapped a High Court Injunction on him, preventing further
work, that he has subsequently breached.

“I took advice from a tree
surgeon and we considered most the trees to be dead, diseased or
dangerous,” he said. “Unfortunately there were some trees that were
healthy, but were obstructing ditches and water courses on the site.”
Mr Gray, who owns stud farms in Chobham and Pirbright, bought the land
in September 2007, which backs onto Fernbank Farm, where he has lived
for three years. He said: “The land was getting an enormous amount of
interest from gypsies and I was concerned they would try and build a
camp there so I bought it. Even since, they have made me offers for

He began work in November, felling the self-seeded silver birch,
alder and oak trees, before the council took action with the
injunction later that month. Mr Gray, hopes to appease the council by
offering a public footpath through his land, giving residents from
Lyne and Longcross a “safe and scenic” route to Virginia Water station
and by replanting the site with more trees than were felled. He said:
“I don’t believe I have breached their notice. I feel with a planning
application imminent, maybe they will see fit to view it before any
action is taken.” A nearby resident said she had no objection to the
plan but added: “It’s very naughty he has just gone and chopped so
many trees down. You just can’t do it without permission.” A Runnymede
Council spokesman said it was monitoring the site and still actively
considering prosecution for Mr Gray’s failure to comply with the
injunction. However, Mr Gray stands by his actions and said: “I would
carry on the same because l believe my activities were lawful within
the Green Belt.”

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