RESIDENTS’ anger at plans to develop land next to Moor Lane has intensified after the council started chopping down trees in the area.
Westfield householders were informed by the council in a letter received on February 27 that eight trees on Balfour Avenue and one on Quartermaine Avenue ‘need to be felled imminently’.
By 4pm the next day the trees had been removed, with motorists now driving along a stump-lined ‘avenue’.
The trees were axed to allow planned road-widening works as part of plans to enable the development, which has not yet been approved, of land north of Moor Lane.
More than 160 people have registered objections to developer Evolution’s proposals submitted last month to build 371 homes, and many view last Thursday’s mass felling as a sign that the Moor Lane development is a ‘done deal’ as the trees had been cut down while plans were still under public consultation, which ends today (March 7).
Westfield Common Residents’ Association chairman Bill Corney said: “I am very unhappy they chopped down the trees and I’d like to remind the council that the public consultation on the planning application is still underway.
“This premature felling of the trees is a disgrace and further demonstrates the contempt that some officials at the council have for the due planning process and resident feedback.”
Mrs Sarah Bennett commented on the council’s planning webpage: “I object to Woking council’s autocratic management style.
“Letter delivered on the 27th stating trees along Balfour Avenue to be felled. Trees felled by 4pm on the 28th without planning approval. Seems WBC think its a done deal – do we live in a democracy?”
Council chief executive, Ray Morgan, revealed the trees were cut down last Friday to avoid birds nesting in them.
And he insisted the council were within their rights to remove them when they did. He said: “The borough council obtained planning approval forhighway improvements in the Balfour Avenue area.
“The approval provides for the widening of the highway and this cannot be done without the removal of the trees we have felled.
“They have been cut down now to avoid birds nesting in them, which could have resulted in a significant delay to implementing the highway improvements.”
The council received planning permission for three access points on Balfour Avenue, Westfield Way, Newlands Avenue and Quartermaine Avenue to the reserved land at Moor Lane on January 31.
Councillor Derek McCrum, who is on the planning committee and lives just a stone’s throw from the condemned trees, moved swiftly to distance himself from the decision.
He said: “Everybody believes I knew in advance but the fact is that no councillors knew about it before it was too late.
“When I saw the email, I told the council I was unhappy with the decision but it was too late to prevent anything.”
He added it was not a political statement on his part and that he is concerned above the lack of consultation the public received.
Cllr McCrum expects the application lodged by Evolution to come before the planning committee next month.
Evolution –a partnership between Kier Property and Thames Valley Housing – hope to build 27 one-bed homes, 122 two beds, 154 three beds and 68 four-bedroom homes.
Westfield residents main objections concern the density of the project and that only one access point, via Balfour Avenue, to Wesfield Road has been proposed.
The determination date for the plans is May 8.