THE axe will fall on 19 trees near a contentious Lymington site earmarked for development, after councillors reluctantly opted to fell them.
Despite seven of the trees at Lower Pennington Lane being healthy, members of New Forest District Council’s planning committee gave them the chop after hearing they would succumb to disease in the future, and leaving them may affect the growth of other, native replacement trees.
“I’m very sorry to see trees come down,” Cllr Sue Bennison said. “But I reluctantly feel as though we have no alternative but to allow this.”
Replacements would be planted, and members granted chief planning officer Claire Upton-Brown the power to impose extra conditions. She said that would allow NFDC to monitor the replacements work and step in and launch enforcement action if necessary.
The plan by Hayden’s Arboricultural Consultants was controversial because the trees are close to the site known as Site 6 in New Forest District Council’s Local Plan.
It was ratified for development by NFDC despite complaints by the Pennington and Lymington Lanes Society and the Lymington Society – and both groups as well as neighbouring residents were opposed to the felling.
The application by Hayden’s – which was commissioned by Belco Holdings – claimed 10 Monterey pine, six Monterey cypress, and an English oak, elm and horse chestnut should go to “mitigate” health and safety problems and “promote longevity in retained trees”.
But opponents revealed fears the plan could be a “smokescreen” in relation to the creation of access points to the site and for more housing. They requested some of the healthy trees, including a cluster of young elm trees, be kept.
Pennington district councillor Andrew Gossage believed the plan was “excessive” and urged it be refused so the applicant could come up with a revised plan. He also noted one of the trees had fallen recently and, luckily, had not caused any injuries.
However, tree officer Hannah Chalmers advised against keeping any of the trees and suggested replacing them with 10 sessile oaks and nine Scots pines.
Leaving some trees, although healthy, could obstruct the growth of the native, replacement ones and was also not good horticultural practice, she said.
Also, if the trees were simply left to die and removed, there were restrictions which made it harder for the council to enforce replacements – which could cause gaps in the screening of the site.
Because the area is subject to a woodland tree preservation order, all the trees there were afforded protection automatically, she assured the committee.
Members eventually voted 11-5 in favour of the plan.