Mystery surrounds how a towering tree in a conservation area was hacked away at without permission.

Residents awoke last week to discover the lime tree at the entrance to the Children’s Contact Centre, in Pope’s Avenue, Twickenham Green, had been brutally cut back.

Initially believing the council was to blame, residents’ anger soon turned to confusion after officers confessed they had not authorised work to be carried out on the trees and had no idea who had done so.

The old tree stands near the entrance to the contact centre, behind Gifford House which has stood derelict since 2004, in Twickenham Green conservation area.

Any work on the trees in the site is subject to consultation and permission is needed from Richmond Council.

Teresa Read, who lives near the centre, said: “They [the council] don’t know who did it.

“There is now an awful view of Gifford House.

“I know they have been asking people if they saw anything.”

She revealed she had been told in a letter from the council that officers had not instructed or authorised any work on the tree and they had “very little information to go on at present”.

CCTV footage focusing on the centre is now being looked at to see if any light can be thrown on the situation.

The council said a prosecution could only be brought forward if evidence can be gathered about who carried out the work and under what instruction.

Councillor Virginia Morris, Richmond Council’s cabinet member for environment, said: “This lime tree’s branches were not cut back by the council and we do not yet know who did it.

“The tree is protected, so whoever was responsible should have applied for consent from the local authority.

“We share the concerns of neighbours about this unauthorised work and if anyone saw any identifying logos or phone numbers on the vehicles or clothing of the people carrying out this work, our parks department would like to hear from them.”

The parks department can be contacted on 08456 122660 or by emailing

*A public meeting on the redevelopment of Gifford House has been planned for residents.

Churchill Retirement Living are awaiting planning permission to convert Gifford House into 29 one and two bedroom flats.

The meeting will be held between 4pm and 7pm at the Holy Trinity Church, Twickenham, on Tuesday, October 26.