Villagers in St Tudy say they fear several mature trees are at risk unless Cornwall Council acts quickly to protect them.
Planners have already approved proposals for 19 new homes at Oak Park, but the value of the trees, and the question of how best to protect them, appears now to have divided officials at Cornwall Council.
Local residents are pressing for a formal Tree Preservation Order (TPO), fearing that several oak and ash trees will be damaged during construction of the houses.
An arboriculture report, considered as part of the planning application last year, called for the trees to be preserved, albeit with some pruning and crown reduction to reduce shading. The trees are a mix of ash, sycamore and oak.
About a dozen trees are involved; some are individual, mature trees and some form part of a hedgerow, interspersed with hazel and blackthorn.
In February, the then forestry officer, Simon Proctor, wrote: “Because the trees contribute so well to the character of the local landscape, because of their size, form, colour, and texture I would judge (on balance), that they are suitable candidates for a TPO.”
But Mr Proctor left Cornwall Council in April and officials have now rejected calls for a TPO. The arboriculture report, which accompanied the original planning application, also called for special protective measures during construction, including special screens.
Ultimately, the views of experts such as Mr Proctor are considered only ‘advisory’ to the planning process and in the event of a conflict of opinion, those of development officers take precedence.
Local residents accept that the site has long been earmarked for housing, but insist the expert opinion about the value of the trees should be respected. One of them, Julie Clark, said: “We need a Tree Preservation Order because otherwise the development will completely change the existing landscape. There’s an ancient Cornish hedge, some of the trees there are more than 100 years old. If necessary, the housing scheme should be redesigned.”
Another resident, Diana Eastlake, agreed: “The ridiculous thing is that the Forestry Office said this site was suitable for a TPO,” she said. “And if they are suitable, then that’s what should happen.”
Resident Paul Brown added: “These trees might be a tiny part of the global picture, but each in its own way contributes to helping to slow climate change and global warming. The trees also help soak up a lot of water and help prevent flooding.”
Property developer Philip Mutton said he had no intention of felling the trees.
Cornwall Council confirmed that it had considered its forestry officer’s advice, but rejected calls for a Tree Preservation Order. In a statement the council said: “Because of the location of the trees, it is considered that whilst the retention of the trees is desirable, the trees would not have such significant public visual amenity value that any loss would significantly harm or detract from the overall character and quality of the area such that a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is appropriate.”