CAMPAIGNERS trying to save a number of Christchurch trees from being felled are celebrating after the scheme was narrowly thrown out by councillors.

Around 450 letters of objection were sent to Christchurch council opposing the application to fell seven trees – one bay and six sycamores – in the conservation area of Druitt Gardens.

The application from Renaissance Retirement Ltd follows a proposal by the developer earlier this year to build a retirement complex on the Cornfactor site, just next to the gardens.

Planning consultant James Cain, representing Christchurch Conservation Trust and other concerned residents, said the public were misled by the council justifying the tree works as part of the Druitt Gardens enhancement programme.

The meeting heard that such a programme did not exist.

He also raised the issue of the Cornfactor development, which was originally granted without any reference to these or other tree works.

“A cynic would say that this whole situation has been contrived quite nicely,” he said.

“The trees currently serve a number of purposes, providing a valuable green lung to the town, their stand alone amenity value in what is a well-used public space, accommodating biodiversity and visual screening to existing and future buildings.

“In addition, it would further erode the function of gardens as their original purpose which of course was as a gift for the people of Christchurch from Charlotte Druitt as gardens and a bird sanctuary.”

Robert Taylor, the managing director of Renaissance, said a proposed landscaping scheme would enhance that part of Druitt Gardens ‘for the benefit of all who use this facility’. The cost of the proposed replacement landscaping scheme is £50,000.

He added: “Clearly we are happy to provide this landscaping scheme because the residents will have a better outlook and so will all the people in Christchurch who use Druitt Gardens.”

Cllr Peter Hall, ward councillor for the town centre said if it was to go ahead, the council could be accused of committing ‘wanton vandalism’.

Proposing a rejection of the plans, he said: “In 1946 Charlotte Druitt left these gardens to Dorset County Council as Christchurch could not be trusted. Please let’s show that we can be trusted now.”

Tree preservation orders were requested.

'Gardens valued'

After the decision, Peter Fenning, secretary of Christchurch Conservation Trust and Roger Street, chairman of the CCT, as well as members of Trees for Dorset, said the decision ‘is a recognition of the reality that Christchurch residents value these gardens and will robustly defend them against encroachment’.

They added: “This tree felling application was basically a manoeuvre to get around the failure by the council to clearly present the developer’s intentions when the planning application was granted permission last summer.

“There was a lack of clarity and information in that decision.”

The organisation is calling for a Friends of Druitt Gardens group to be formed.