FURIOUS residents have hit out after workmen began to demolish woodland near their homes, saying it could have been prevented had Northumberland County Council put a preservation order on the trees.
Conservation consultant Ken McDonald approached Alnwick Town Council in November 2010 to ask for the copse of oak, sycamore, ash and cherry at the western end of the former Thomas Percy Middle School to be preserved.
The buildings at the site have since been demolished and will be replaced with around 15 homes.
Councillors agreed to approach officers at County Hall to ask for a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) to be placed on the woodland, but the authority refused, stating that because it owned the land, such measures were unnecessary.
But workmen have now moved on to the site to upgrade underground pipes, which has resulted in trees being damaged and, in some cases, completely knocked over. Others have had rubble and earth piles next to their trunks.
Mr McDonald, of Green Batt, said: “We’ve spent the last 18 months asking the county council to protect this important wildlife haven, but they repeatedly refused. They said it was unnecessary as the wood was already under their care and that they would never permit any development to take place in the wood. What has since happened shows how wrong they were.”
Town councillor Sue Patience, who raised the initial TPO request on behalf of Mr McDonald, said: “We’ve asked the county council for an emergency TPO because of what has happened. We don’t want to stop any essential work being carried out in that area, but that’s why we needed a TPO there, to ensure that more care was taken during any development.”
Alnwick’s county councillor, Gordon Castle, said: “This needs to be investigated to see how much damage has been done.”
A county council spokeswoman said: “We are looking into this matter to establish what damage has been caused and will then be discussing it with the operator.
“This could have occurred whether or not the trees have a TPO, as utility operators are able to carry out certain types of work without the local authority’s permission – so long as they follow the approved code of conduct. The decision was taken not to place a TPO on these trees because they were felt to be sufficiently protected through being in the council’s ownership.”