The owners of an orchard site in Cheddington earmarked for a housing development have done nothing wrong in clearing the land despite planning consent not being granted yet.
Upset villagers contacted police and council officials last week believing the site owners had jumped the gun in removing many trees.
However, Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC) and Thames Valley Police have confirmed that no breach occurred, although AVDC has since arranged a Tree Preservation Order for the remaining trees.
Since 2017, many villagers have been protesting against the planning application from Manlet Group Holdings to build 35 houses on the privately owned land, arguing that wildlife would lose its home and infrastructure would not cope.
However, on Monday, February 11, villagers were shocked when they saw bulldozers arrive in the field.
Resident Amy Kennedy, claimed: “There was quite a lot of large machinery, chainsaws, diggers, and workmen from W.E.Black.
“But the planning application has not been approved yet?! Have they [the developers] got rid of the wildlife so we can’t complain? People have special memories of the orchard and the Scouts always have their firework display there.”
But it has emerged that the felling was not connected to the planning application.
Eric Gadsden, director of W.E.Black Ltd, said: “This has nothing to do with planning. The orchard is privately owned by two individuals and we were instructed to clear the site because the trees are diseased and their life has expired. We are doing it for them before nesting season begins.
“The council [on February 11] tried to block the entrance to the site but Thames Valley Police - who were excellent - arrived and confirmed that the council were not in a legal position to sign a temporary stop notice.”
An AVDC spokesman said the council had received numerous planning enforcement enquiries about the site on the afternoon of February 11. He said: “Officers attended the site immediately, and to protect the position of the council and that of the owner/developer, it was agreed that works would cease whilst enquiries were made as to whether there was a breach of planning control.
“Enquiries continued on the morning of 12 February, and ultimately, we concluded that there was no breach of planning control.
“The trees and ecology on this part of the Cheddington Orchard site are not formally protected and did not require any permits for work or felling. Although there is no planning permission, the clearance of the site did not constitute development in itself.
“AVDC has since reviewed the site and subsequently made arrangements for a Tree Preservation Order which prevents any further felling or work to the remaining trees. This information has been communicated to the site owner and developer.”
A Thames Valley Police spokesman, said: “An officer attended the scene and it was concluded that no crime had been committed.”
A spokeswoman for Manlet Group Holdings, said: “The works undertaken were confirmed not to be in contravention of anything.”
If you would like to view the planning application, please click on the link below and enter this code: 17/00832/AOP.