Several trees in a rural part of Kenilworth on land rented by a county councillor have been felled this morning (Thursday May 17), to the fury of nearby residents.
Leaseholder of the land Cllr Alan Cockburn had a heated exchange with a nearby resident and a Warwick district councillor opposed to the felling at lunchtime today.
The trees, on the north side of Rouncil Lane from Rouncil Farm to Roundshill Farm, were given Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) in October last year to protect them from felling.
But landowner Christine Archer, Alan Cockburn's sister-in-law who rents the land to him, was granted a 'thinning licence' from the Forestry Commission to cut down 46 dead trees. The licence takes precedence over any TPOs.
The felling began this morning, and no nearby residents were warned. There were also no signs on the public footpath near the trees informing the public about the work.
Rouncil Farm owner Ray Tebby was angry at the felling. He said: "What a complete waste of time for the council to get the TPOs. All that cost only to be overruled by the Forestry Commission. This is totally wrong."
Ray's son Joshua was on the scene this lunchtime along with Warwick district councillor Susan Gallagher, who had lobbied for TPOs to be put on the trees in the first place.
Cllr Gallagher said she was 'furious' when she heard the news. She added: "Rouncil Lane is known for its oaks. This is leafy Warwickshire. To be taking out 46 trees is outrageous."
And Joshua was concerned about the impact on wildlife, adding: "It's going to ruin the summer now for the birds."
While they were on site, Cllr Cockburn turned up. He said: "We've got a licence from the Forestry Commission to fell these trees. The contractors said they will do a visual inspection to see if to see if there's birds nesting. If there's birds nesting, they won't fell the tree."
But Cllr Gallagher and Joshua argued over the felling with Cllr Cockburn, claiming that some of the trees felled were not dead and the thinning licence was being abused.
Directly addressing Cllr Cockburn, Joshua said: "Thinning is taking the rubbish out - the gnarly little things lower than the big trees. They've taken all the big ones out. You've said it's thinning to me, and it isn't."
When asked if the felled trees were going to be sold, Cllr Cockburn said he did not know.
No more felling is due to take place today, although it could start again tomorrow.
Cllr Gallagher also said a wildlife officer from Warwickshire Police was due to visit the site later tonight.
The Forestry Commission have been contacted for comment.