Felling of trees causes dispute in Ashill, near Watton

Ashill parish council chairman Richard Leighton is unhappy with Bennett Homes. Pcture: Ian Burt

Ashill parish council chairman Richard Leighton is unhappy with Bennett Homes. Pcture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

A row has broken out in a mid-Norfolk village after developers felled a group of trees believed to be more than a century old.

Bennett Homes was granted outline planning permission back in 2006, to build 25 homes off Dunnetts Close in Ashill, near Watton.

A detailed planning application is yet to be lodged with Breckland Council, but the developers have started to clear the site, including the removal of some large ash and oak trees.

People living in the area and the parish council have said the trees were between 100 and 150 years old and should not have been taken down – but the developers have said the trees were of 'poor quality' and there were no tree protection orders on the site.

Parish chairman Richard Leighton said: 'They were very nice trees and Breckland's tree officer had come and said he thought there should be a tree preservation order on them, the next thing we know the developers had come along and took them down.

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'People who live in the area are really upset. They have lived in the area for a long time and seen those trees. They were the only ones of that height and age in the area.'

Bosses at Bennett Homes stressed they had not contravened any planning regulations.

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Managing director Edward Parker said: 'The outline planning permission obtained by the parish council themselves states that no development shall commence until reserved matters have been approved.

'However, the removal of trees is not considered in planning terms to be development.

'It was inevitable that the removal of some trees would be necessary and we are a little surprised that the parish council has objected to the tree felling, as it had already obtained outline planning permission itself before selling the site, in which a road for access is clearly marked where the trees were located.'

A Breckland Council spokesman confirmed Bennett Homes had not contravened any planning restrictions and that they were awaiting a full planning application from the company.

Are you fighting development in the area where you live? Email kate.scotter@archant.co.uk

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