Locals were outraged as trees were felled at the Tidemill wildlife garden in Deptford, with development work beginning on the site.

Scores of bailiffs and police surrounded the garden as workers began cutting down trees before 9am yesterday, with many trees felled by early afternoon.

Campaigners and locals yelled at the workers, including “I hope you burn in hell.”

Plans between the council and Peabody include the demolition of the garden and 16 homes in Reginald House to make way for a 209-house development – with 117 of the homes to be let at ‘genuinely affordable’ rent.

This comes after a long dispute between the council, housing association Peabody and residents.

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The development will see an “new green open space” but campaigners wanted to keep the existing garden.

Save Tidemill Save Reginald campaigners occupied the council-owned garden for two months before bailiffs forcibly evicted them in October.

There has been a security presence at the site since.

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Resident and campaigner Ann Caron-Delion said the saga had “left a scar in Deptford.”

“We have all been crying our eyes out watching this happen,” she said.

Parent and garden-user Saira Khan said the space was a huge community asset to people like herself who do not have a garden.

“I am a gardener with a balcony but no garden,” she said.

“There is nowhere else like this.”

She said the community garden “brought people together.”

“We don’t have anywhere else to go,” she added.

Campaign spokesperson Heather Gilmore said she was handing a 3,000-signature petition which asks for plans to be redrawn to keep the garden to the council.

Councillor Paul Bell, cabinet member for housing, said: “The 104 additional social homes on the Tidemill development are desperately needed for people who have been on our housing waiting list for far too long. This scheme is a key part of our commitment to tackle the housing crisis in Lewisham.

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“The Tidemill development has been scrutinised since 2016. It’s been through a large number of consultations, stringent planning processes and the legal system several times.

“We have come to the end of what has been a long and thorough approval process, and we now need to move forward.

“For every day there is a delay to this scheme, an individual or family has to wait another day for a secure, permanent home of their own. We need to start building these social homes local people so vitally need.

“I appreciate some residents have had concerns about this development. We have worked hard to reassure them that, in our commitment to provide these social homes, we will continue to work with them and the community to deliver a scheme that will provide huge benefits for local people.”

A council spokesperson said 44 of the 63 trees on site will be removed and replaced with 55 new trees.

The classification of social housing now includes London affordable rent levels, according to council documents.