A property mogul chopped down four protected trees in the garden of her multi-million Chislehurst home to make way for a swimming pool and summer house.

Merle Joseph, 53, pleaded guilty to the uprooting and wilful destruction of four trees in a conservation area - one pine, two sycamores and a horse chestnut - at her home on Camden Way.

Miss Joseph, who bought the palatial house on a private road for £1.55 million in 2007, was building a summer house and swimming pool at her property in August 2017, Bromley Magistrates' Court heard.

According to prosecutors, she was told by a tree officer that she would need the council's permission to chop down the trees, but did so without notifying or gaining permission from Bromley Council.

One of the buildings being constructed was originally close to the house's boundary, so it was eventually moved.

But, when it was moved, one of the protected trees blocked it from view - so it was subsequently cut down.

Miss Joseph, sporting a cropped hairstyle with shaved back-and-sides and piercings on her lips, spoke only to confirm her name, date of birth and guilty plea.

Laura Phillips, prosecuting for Bromley Council, said: "Miss Joseph has been the owner of August House since 2007.

"It is within a conservation area, and prior to this offence it counted in it more trees than it does now. Those trees are all protected by the council.

"This offence took place in August 2017, while building work was being carried out, to build a summer house and a swimming pool.

"Those trees were removed to make way for the building work and to stop the view being restricted.

"No notification was made to the council, as is required by law.

"She had had a conversation with the tree officer, who told her that she needed to notify the council, so at least she should have been aware that there was more she needed to do.

"We are saying that her culpability is a lot higher than she claims it to be.

"Miss Joseph argued that the purpose of the building work was so provide extra living space for her mother, who was living with her full-time.

"But it was luxury buildings being constructed, a summer house and a swimming pool.

"One of the buildings was originally situated closer to the boundary of the property, but it was then moved.

"The move meant that one of the trees had to be moved, as it was in front of the building blocking the view."

While Miss Joseph admitted removing the trees, the dispute between her and the council was over whether or not she believed that she was entitled to do so under planning regulations.

The case will now go to a Newton Hearing in which although guilty, she will argue the circumstances of her breaking the law are not as the prosecution outline.

After a brief adjournment, chief magistrate Stephen Cole rejected defence lawyer Richard Saynor's request to refer the case back to a single district judge.

Mr Cole said: "We have read the details of this case in detail a number of times.

"We fully understand the issues and see no reason for this case to return to the district judge."

As Miss Joseph sat motionless in the courtroom, he added: "I must now tell you that if you fail to attend, the hearing will proceed in your absence."

Planning documents from Bromley Council - dated February 2018 - show that a number of Miss Joseph's neighbours voiced their dissatisfaction with the August House development, with several citing their anger that the protected trees had been felled.

Brian Lockyer, whose house backs onto the development, wrote to the council: "Numerous mature trees have been felled along the August House side of our boundary thus increasing the visibility of the vast, aesthetically-repugnant elevation.

"It is almost warehouse-like in scale and can be viewed from most of the rear windows. The mature trees on the August House side of the boundary are a significant loss, especially as they would have helped shield the eyesore of the structure.

"Having felled these large trees, 'hiding' this grotesque structure in a sympathetic way seems impossible."

Another, Jim Minto, added: "I am very concerned that protected trees have been felled without permission to make way for this eyesore.

"I am concerned that lavish swimming parties will be held in the summer which could cause noise and disruption to the tranquil life currently enjoyed by myself and other residents."

Hannah Akinluyi, a neighbour, said: "Numerous mature trees have been felled along our boundary thus increasing the visibility of the vast elevation.

"Had the trees not been felled, they may have compensated for the sheer scale of the south elevation."