Takeley residents have accused Uttlesford District Council of engineering a “cover-up” by failing to clearly disclose why a developer has been given permission to haul down trees in the village.
Described as an area of natural beauty by the community, the trees screened residents’ houses from a new development by Countryside Properties.
Natalie Sullivan, 36, of Orchid Close, which backs on to the development, slammed the council’s handling of the case.
She said the authority’s elusive behaviour was “disturbing” and that confusing information from officers had “enflamed” the situation in the eyes of residents.
“We feel there are two issues at the moment – the first that we were told before any groundwork was done that no trees would be cut down. That upset people when the opposite happened,” she said.
“But the more concerning, underlying issue is to do with honesty and integrity. It’s incredibly difficult to find anything out and the deeper we’ve gone the worse it’s looked because there has been so much of a cover up.”
Had the council owned up to it being a “genuine mistake” – and admitted the trees should not have been torn down – residents would have been appeased, Ms Sullivan said.
UDC initially insisted there was a landscaping agreement in place with Countryside Properties which included the need to coppice the trees in question so that newly-planted ones could grow into a thicker woodland and offer a better shield for the houses which back onto the new development for 41 homes.
But Ms Sullivan, who has the backing of other residents, including Mike Barlow, of Brewers End, claims to have received mixed messages from UDC’s planning department about any such landscaping agreement.
“The trees were our main gripe but the situation has actually become more enflamed because now we’re seeing something that looks disturbingly like a low-level conspiracy that we cannot get to the bottom of,” she said.
After a UDC planning officer visited the site yesterday (Wednesday), the council finally acknowledged the tree-cutting had not been done as it should have been.
A spokesman said: “Countryside Properties have removed all the trees/landscaping on the boundary of the site and the public footpath that runs to the east of the site.
“This area was meant to be coppiced with planting in-between, which is not what has occurred. The planning/enforcement teams are now in communication with Countryside and the residents adjacent to the site to resolve the situation.”
Countryside’s Sarah Blake said: “In regards to the landscaping scheme at Friar’s Place, Countryside is delivering everything in accordance with the approved planning permission, and the specification of planting is being adhered to.
“The saplings that will be planted during the planting season will of course grow and mature, and we will continue our regular dialogue with local residents and the local authority on this matter.”