CAMPAIGNERS have launched their own legal challenge over the felled trees controversy at a Christchurch beauty spot.

And their move has prompted the postponement of a key meeting of councillors tonight.

Four trees were cut down in Druitt Gardens last month, just weeks after councillors voted to put preservation orders on them.

Renaissance Retirement, who have permission to build a retirement complex on the adjacent Cornfactor site, say the trees were damaged on two separate occasions during an archaeological dig.

PA full, internal, inquiry was ordered by Christchurch Council following stinging criticism from residents, campaigners and Dorset County Council’s own tree officer.

The inquiry findings were due to be discussed at a special audit and scrutiny meeting at Civic Offices tonight.

But the legal challenge, by local businessman and campaigner Alistair Somerville Ford, who is seeking a judicial review in the High Court into how the whole issue has been handled, has forced the council to defer the meeting.

A council statement said: “Late on Friday, the council received notification that an application for a judicial review has been made regarding the planning application for the Cornfactor site, however the grounds for the judicial review have not yet been received.

“In the absence of these detailed grounds, it would not be prudent for any meeting which has a bearing on these legal proceedings to take place at this time.”

As reported in the Echo on Friday, the council’s internal report outlines a catalogue of errors during the controversy.

A legal assessment of the planning permission granted to Renaissance was ‘flawed’ in relation to tree issues, the report adds.

'Council acted irrationally'

James Cain, a planning expert at Coles Miller, handling the review for Dr Ford, said: “A claim for a judicial review against the issuing of the recent planning permission at the Cornfactor site has been submitted.

"Dr Ford is seeking to quash the approval of the Cornfactor planning consent and to quash the approval of details under planning conditions attached to that consent relating to archaeological works.”

He said they believed the council had approved foundation works which would result in predictable damage to protected trees and failed to have regard for the decision of their own planning committee to issue TPOs.

The council had acted irrationally and irresponsibly, failed to protect the trees and “acted under an error of law”, he claimed.