Police investigate “ecological vandalism” after illegal destruction of woodland

Cllr John Winton at the woodland site in Glenrothes where trees have been destroyed. (Pic Steve Brown).
Cllr John Winton at the woodland site in Glenrothes where trees have been destroyed. (Pic Steve Brown).

Police are investigating “an appalling act of ecological vandalism” which has seen a swathe of woodland close to homes in Glenrothes, illegally chopped down.

Around 25 mature oaks, maples and sycamore trees, some as much as 30 years old, have been unlawfully hacked to the ground, on land in McTaggart Way, in the leafy suburb of Pitcairn, north of the town centre.

Gerry Gillespie, a consultant professional tree inspector for land management company Greenbelt, told Gazette the destruction amounted to “ecological vandalism”, adding that to restore the lost leaf area would cost in the region of £18,000.

“It’s illegal to fell trees on another person’s land or cut back beyond your legal boundary,” said Mr Gillespie.

“Such felling or excessive cutting may place other trees at greater risk of being windblown or diseased.

“Some of these trees were 30 years old and their loss will greatly impact the local environment.

“It could also harm local wildlife, which depends upon such habitats for shelter and food.”

Greenbelt, who manage large parts of the town’s woodland on behalf of the Woodland Trust, have faced criticism in the past from both residents and Glenrothes councillors over aspect of how woodland areas across the area are maintained.

A spokesaman for Greenbelt confirmed that it would only undertake tree felling as part of a woodland management plan due to the increased risk of collapse.

“Disturbingly, this act of vandalism has taken place not long after we recently received two complaints about tree encroachment at McTaggart Way,” added the spokesman.

Clenrothes councillor John Wincott, Fife Council’s spokesman for environment and transport said the destruction was a blatant act of vandalism that, if carried out in some form in the town centre, would cause widespread outrage.

“This is a really upsetting incident and I have received complaints about this from Greenbelt, the woodland management company, and a local resident, who is particularly upset,” said Cllr Wincott.

“I am at a loss to understand why anyone would do this.

“This raises questions not just about the vandalism, which is bad enough, but also about safety.

“Any responsible woodland worker would know not to cut down trees like this, so how competent was this person? What safety precautions were taken?

“And how were the local residents protected from possible harm or property damage?

“We cannot have someone with a chainsaw just cutting down trees in a public area with no regard for safety or the law.

“I have spoken to Police Scotland and understand that their enquiries are ongoing and I hope they find this person before they do any more damage, or worse.”

Police Scotland has confirmed officers are continuing to investigate the incident.