• EDDC considers prosecution over Ottery tree felling

    11th April 2013 | News | Claire
  • PROSECUTION action is being considered by officials after more than a dozen trees were cut down without permission in a conservation area in Ottery St Mary.

    Fifteen trees, some thought to be up to 60 years old, which were growing on a patch of land south of Mill Street and west of the development of the convent, were felled at the end of March.

    The land is privately owned, but most of it is within a designated conservation area and therefore six weeks’ notice of any work to be carried out must be given to the council.

    A police spokesperson also confirmed that the disturbance of a badgers’ sett was reported to them.

    Badgers are protected between December and June.

    The spokesperson confirmed that criminal offences could have been committed if the sett is active.

    Their enquiries are ongoing and it is understood a police wildlife crimes officer recently visited the site.

    After residents raised the alarm to town, district and county councillor Roger Giles, a council arboricultural officer attended the site and found that 15 trees, including sycamores, silver birches, beech and willow trees, within the conservation area had been felled without prior notice being given.

    An East Devon Council spokesperson confirmed that consideration is now being given to the possibility of prosecution.

    He said council officials are working with police and an ecologist before making the decision to prosecute.

    Tree Preservation Orders have been placed on five of the remaining trees at the site: a beech to the west of the site, an ash on the southern boundary, an ash, a hazel and a laurel to the east.

    Cllr Giles said people were concerned the trees had been felled as part of the nearby development site.

    “This is a substantial number of trees which have been there for many years,” he said.

    “This is a green oasis right in the heart of Ottery and there is definite evidence of badgers – one resident told me she leaves food out for them and you can see their trail through people’s gardens.

    “At first the trees appeared to be laid across the entrance to the sett. That someone has come along and cut them down is outrageous.

    “I am pleased that swift action was taken by the tree officer who has afforded the remaining trees more protection and I hope that strong action will be taken against those responsible as a warning to others.”

    Nearby resident Anne Bridgman said: “We’re upset, partly because we weren’t informed – we only knew what was happening when men with chainsaws turned up.

    “Some of there trees may have needed to come down but there were others, for example three beautiful silver birches, which were felled.
    “More consideration should be given.”

    Another resident, Dave Hart, said: “The trees were absolutely beautiful, a gardener has been maintaining them for 20 years. These were mature specimens, in a conservation area, which have just been chopped down – it’s unbelievable.”

    The council spokesperson added: “The council would welcome an approach from anyone who saw the trees being felled or knows the identity of those responsible.”