A row has broken out over whether trees should be chopped down to allow more light to reach solar panels.
Havant Civic Society is objecting to plans to fell a horse chestnut and sycamore tree off East Street, in Havant, by arguing that the trees are already helping the environment by being there.
But LiveLink, a company that has moved into the former Town End House building, which was previously occupied by Hampshire County Council, is arguing the trees should come down.
A statement from the company says that cutting back the two trees would allow sunlight to reach the panels for longer, as well as reducing the risk of long-term damage to the building.
The planning application also includes proposals to fell three nearby ash trees and another sycamore.
All the trees are protected as part of the St Faith’s Conservation Area.
In a letter to Havant Borough Council, Christopher Evans, from the civic society, said: ‘The applicants’ stated intent to install solar panels on the roof of the building may well be laudable but does not, to our minds, justify the felling of two mature trees.
‘There is no suggestion that the trees are in a dangerous state and we fail to see why crown reduction or thinning would not suffice to achieve the applicants’ desire to let in more light. The two trees mentioned we regard as an asset to the area, not only for their own intrinsic beauty but as an environmental resource, providing both a habitat for wildlife and absorbing carbon dioxide.’
Havant resident Ann Buckley said: ‘I support renewable energy but I am opposed to the felling of these trees. This is an important site on the Hayling Billy Trail which is a wildlife corridor.’
The applicants state: ‘We are in the process of installing PV solar panels on many of our roofs in order to reduce our carbon footprint. We are trying to do things right and have consulted tree surgeons and risk assessment experts as well as the solar panel installers.
‘We have been advised that we need to remove two trees (horse chestnut and sycamore) near the building to allow more sunlight to reach the solar panels for longer, to reduce the long-term risk of damage to the building and to create access and escape routes all round the building, including for disabled people.
‘We need to regularly cut back either side of the car park areas which are encroaching on the bays and obscuring the floodlights.’
Replacement trees further away from the building would be planted. The council will make the final decision.