CAMPAIGNERS are fighting to save historic trees disappearing from a riverside landmark in Winsford.

Residents were saddened to see Lawson cypress trees being felled at a new housing development in New Road on Thursday.

Only two mature trees are left on the land, known locally as the Greedy Pig site, and the community is calling on developers to keep them.

Lane End Group and Weaver Vale Housing Trust is transforming the site after winning planning permission last year to build 46 affordable homes on the site.

A further 27 apartments are set to be constructed in the second phase of the scheme.

Cheshire West and Chester Cllr Mike Baynham said: "My immediate concern is that there may be birds nesting in the trees and if that is the case they are legally protected.

"We are trying to see if we can get a tree preservation order.

Only two mature trees are left at the Greedy Pig site

Only two mature trees are left at the Greedy Pig site

Only two mature trees are left at the Greedy Pig site

"A report commissioned by the developers Lane End says that the trees are in 'good form and vigour' with no defects. Removing them to plant other trees just doesn't make any sense."

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The trees were planted in 1960 by Winsford Urban District Council as part of a formal garden beside the former local rates office.

Resident John Malam said: "These trees are in one of the most prominent locations seen by thousands every day and provide a habitat for a wide variety of nesting birds.

John Malam says the trees provide a habitat for nesting birds

John Malam says the trees provide a habitat for nesting birds

John Malam says the trees provide a habitat for nesting birds

"A plan to replace them with orchard trees such as apples and pears is not acceptable. This junction is one of the busiest roads with fumes from cars and lorries. There is also a risk to anyone picking fruit from speeding vehicles.

"These trees are mature and form part of a green corridor that takes people from the river up to the park and into the town centre.

"It would be great to keep the last two trees and place an information panel there to explain the history of the site, Town Bridge, the moorings for salt barges and the Weaver Navigation."

Mum Laura Whitehead said:"I don't think any tree should be felled without legitimate reason. These trees are much loved by many in Winsford.

Campaigners fight to stop mature trees being felled

Campaigners fight to stop mature trees being felled

Campaigners fight to stop mature trees being felled

"This is not an isolated incident but is a national problem made possible by the Conservative government planning laws from 2011 that have limited the powers of local authorities and communities to protect areas that have a strong community or wildlife value.

A spokesman for Lane End Group said: "We had permission to remove the trees we felled. A non-material amendment has been submitted to the council regarding the two remaining trees and it is now with the planning department.

"We prides ourselves on our work in the community and are members of the Considerate Constructors Scheme. Through our social enterprise, New Beginnings, we do a lot of work in the community and have done so already on our sister site less than a mile away in Rilshaw Lane."

Cheshire West and Chester Cllr Gina Lewis, who represents Over and Verdin, said: "The Greedy Pig site was identified in the Winsford Neighbourhood Plan for development, with a number of options considered.

“Trees are being removed on the site for the development and I expect whatever option was developed they would have been removed.

“CWAC has a policy of replacing any trees which have been removed with at least two others.

“I sit on the planning committee. We are aware of the concerns of some members of the community at the loss of this space and trees but the land was sold to the developer.

“However, as members of the committee, it was not possible for us to vote to refuse the developers' application as there were no planning reasons to do so. We are bound by the legislation set nationally and locally.

“As a long time member of the Woodland Trust, I support the council's policy for replacement trees. I regularly question at planning meetings how trees and hedgerows removed for development will be replaced.

“Extra conditions are sometimes included in planning applications to ensure the right kind and maturity of trees and hedgerows are used."

Deputy mayor and Cheshire West and Chester Cllr Nathan Pardoe, : "CWAC ensures trees are preserved where possible.

“If trees have to be removed for development, as with the Greedy Pig site, two trees must be planted for every tree which is removed.

“Councillors who sit on the planning committee use conditions like this to ensure trees are planted.

“These conditions only go so far and I hope local MP Edward Timpson listens to the concerns raised by campaigners.

“Mr Timpson should lobby the Government to include better protection of trees in their proposed changes to the planning framework."

MP Edward Timpson said: "Local councils, not central government, determine planning applications that concern ancient woodland and veteran trees.

"It is absolutely right that the national planning policy framework sets out that 'development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats (such as ancient woodland and ancient or veteran trees) should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons and a suitable compensation strategy exists.'

"This will ensure that these irreplaceable areas are not lost for future generations.

"I know the Government is committed to enhancing protections for our precious environment, as set out in the 25 year environment plan. The framework reinforces environmental protections, including by requiring local councils to improve biodiversity, and that way improving air quality.

"I am confident that the framework and reformed planning system will continue to protect our ancient woodland and our aged and veteran trees for decades to come."