A CONCERNED resident called the police after he saw builders fencing off a wooded area in Benfleet.

Keith Little, 66, of Downer Road North, was horrified when he caught builders cutting shrubbery at the end of his road – some of which is protected under a tree preservation order.

Mr Little called the police about noon, concerned the builders’ actions were illegal.

A PCSO attended the incident, but said no criminal offence had taken place as none of the plants removed were subject to the order.

Mr Little fears developers could soon take over the site.

He said: “I saw the land grabbers working on the land yesterday morning and called the police, as it is considered a criminal offence to cut down trees protected under the order.

“The land is under threat from a person claiming to be the owner and the residents of Downer Road North are preparing for battle.”

It is not clear who the owner of the private land is, as it has not been registered.

Mr Little said a family from Suffolk had temporary possession of the land and reportedly ordered builders to begin work.

It is not known what could be built there.

Castle Point Council confirmed to Mr Little that only parts of the land were protected by the tree preservation order.

Mr Little is starting a campaign to bring the entire area under protection.

He said: “I feel this is the start of another battle against those who are happy to destroywildlife habitats and the pleasure we gain from green belt land for their own selfish profit.

“Shame on them. We are ready for the fight.”

Conservative councillor for St Peter’s ward Bill Dick said: “The council does not own the land and therefore cannot do anything about it.

“The problem is we don’t know who the owner is and to expand the existing tree preservation order the owner needs to agree.”

A police spokeswoman confirmed a PCSO attended the incident on Wednesday afternoon and gave advice to those involved in the dispute.