A public outcry has greeted the clearing of trees and bushes in what has been called ‘the stuff of nightmares’.
A Tockwith field, off Southfield Lane, has been cleared of unprotected trees and bushes by owner Evans Property Group, and villagers have said they are ‘heartbroken’ at what they are calling ‘heavy-handed’, ‘100 per cent destruction’.
Though no planning application has yet been submitted, this month Evans representatives spoke to residents of proposals as part of a consultation which could see up to 80 houses built on the site.
Plathy Frias-Curran, who lives in Tockwith, said: “It was a very endearing place for a lot of people and I am not the only one that is outraged about what has happened.
“They could have been a lot more sympathetic and left the bigger trees to show respect for what was there.
“I am not against progress and building houses, I know people have to live somewhere, but I have a huge problem with how they have gone about doing this. It is the stuff of nightmares.”
Local resident Julie McVeigh likened the clearing process to ‘scorched earth’, and Caroline Alliott said the area was ‘decimated in a day’.
Marston Moor Coun John Savage (Ind) said there was nothing the council could do, as there were no protection orders trees removed.
He said: “Evans were a bit naughty and should have notified somebody. From my experience, they are not a bad company to work with. I think it was an absolute oversight.”
The company did submit an application to Harrogate Borough Council for an environmental impact assessment screening option, and the council’s principal ecologist concluded that the clearing of scrubs and trees was an ‘unfortunate’ decision on land that was designated a ‘red traffic light for ecology’ in 2010 due to its ‘rich mixture of habitats’.
The report goes on to say it was ‘inappropriate and premature to clear this land’ before a planning application was submitted and before ecological surveys were undertaken, which would be required before an application could be supported.
Alan Syers, of Evans Property Group, said there were no trees of any quality or scale on the field, and that the site contained a small number of bushes that were overgrown.
“We have absolutely respected the areas of protected trees, which we are required to do,” he said.
“We also carried out an ecological assessment of the site to make sure there were no further protected trees or anything else of any merit.
“The land is within the ownership of Evans and individuals or companies have the right to do what they wish within their own land. There is no requirement to consult with anybody. We have carried out the work on the land and there have been some very positive comments from the community about that.”
The prospect of house building on the land is also causing concern, as an adjacent field is proposed as the site of 121 houses from Linden Homes and residents say the addition of 200 houses to the village would ‘ruin’ it.
Ruby Morris, who has lived on the estate for 35 years, said: “It is a lovely little village and now we are going to be over-run by houses.
“The doctors’ surgery isn’t going to take it, and I don’t know what about the school.”
Rachel Claughton said: “The two proposals are too large and will change the whole personality of the village from a rural idyll, where everyone looks out for each other, to that of a small town.”
Coun Savage added: “We need houses, of course we do, but that could mean 400 extra cars and the road they go out on is very narrow. Traffic can get quite messy there and if there are going to be more cars leaving past the school in rush hour it is going to be pretty different to say the least.”
Linden Homes did not provide a comment.