DEVELOPERS who took the axe to trees people living near their site in Trowbridge thought were protected were acting within their rights, as permission had been given for the felling, Wiltshire Council has confirmed.

After people living on Wiltshire Drive held up works to trees on the Newland Place site opposite their homes for several hours yesterday, Cllr Toby Sturgis, Wiltshire Council's cabinet member for development management, said: “The developer is carrying out the removal of one silver birch as outlined in the original planning application for development. They are also reducing two silver maples to promote healthy growth so they can be retained.

“We are committed to working with communities and developers to ensure trees are retained where possible and are managed in a way which promotes tree populations and healthy growth. We want more trees, not less, and this development also includes the planting of hundreds of new trees.”

Yesterday, local Tony Barber was the first to contact the Wiltshire Times, saying:

"There are tree surgeons out there taking down a silver birch right now.

"I could not believe it because the trees are subject to a Tree Preservation Order imposed when the development got permission.

"One of my neighbours is across the road having words with them right now. The trees are surrounded by a wire fence which has signs on it saying they are not to be touched. The workmen say they have their orders.

"It's outrageous, we are being told trees are good and we should be planting more of them and here they are cutting these down."

Wiltshire Councillor Andrew Bryant, whose Drynham ward includes the land, said: "It is right the trees have TPOs on them but this work has been passed by the council. The two maple trees with a TPO on are being pollarded to six metres and the silver birch and whitebeams are being removed because they are at a precarious angle.

"I have spoken this morning to the council's arboriculturalist who says the company doing the work were asked to send letters to local residents and he fears that they have not done that.

"The majority of planning decisions these days are delegated to officers. It's possible it (the decision to carry out work on the trees) did not go to committee."

A spokesman for Newland Homes said: "As far as Newland Homes are concerned we have satisfied all the conditions of the permission for these works.

"We have in fact only carried out the minimum amount of work. The purpose of these weeks is to protect these trees and help them have a healthy life.

We are putting 250 new trees in this development as part of our development masterplan. It is all being done carefully.

"We were not obliged to notify anyone. It was not our company's responsibility."