ALLOTMENT holders have been left disgusted after hundreds of trees were cut down and left lying on the ground a day before an order to protect them came into force.

The trees at St Mildred's Road allotments, Hither Green, are believed to be 20 years old and were introduced to reduce rain runoff. They have since become a haven for wildlife in the area.

Paul Olding, 38, of Pitfold Road, Lee, said: "I arrived on February 25 to see notices concerning a tree preservation order made by the council that came into effect on February 23, protecting the trees behind our allotments.

"It's something I wholeheartedly applaud for the reasons stated in the order.

"However,at that moment I also saw that virtually all the trees behind our allotments had been felled."

Mr Olding, a biologist, believes around 50 trees were cut down on February 22 - the day he had last visited the site and one day before they would have been protected by law.

He said: "The nub of the matter is who did this? What's in it for them?

"Whoever destroyed the trees should be made accountable for their actions, even though it appears they may have taken place prior to the start date of the preservation order.

"I've written to the council to demand that whoever paid for the destruction of the trees be taken to court, charged with criminal damage and made to fully replant the area within the next three months."

A spokesman for Lewisham Council said: "The order is provisional and is not confirmed.

"It is an offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot or wilfully damage or destroy a tree protected by the order.

"If anyone wishes to object to, or make comment on, the order being made permanent they should do so in writing to reach the council before the 5th April 2012.

“The tree works carried out prior to the making of the order would not necessarily have constituted an offence.”