A SCUFFLE has broken out after two more trees in Druitt Gardens are being felled this morning despite tree protection orders on them.

Police were called after reports of an altercation between a local resident and a contractor on the site.

One bystander said they saw one person with their hand round the throat of another.

Yesterday an enquiry was been demanded into why two other trees were felled by Christchurch council just weeks after a successful campaign to protect them.

Today, Friday, the council confirmed two more trees were being felled.

Cllr Colin Jamieson, head of the planning committee at Christchurch said on Friday morning: "My committee put TPOs on the trees and it is clear that something has gone on in the meantime.

"I will be looking into what's happened."

He said he was "concerned" about the developments.

Cllr Ray Nottage, leader of Christchurch council said: “I am saddened by the fact we have lost the trees but I do not think officers have got any alternative in view of public safety.

“I think the damage has to be discussed between the officers and the developer.

“My feeling about taking action is that I would not advocate the use of public money to take action unless there is a certainty of us winning."

Responding to the point public money had been used to fell the trees, he replied: “In the interests of public safety.”

Cllr Lesley Dedman said: “I am deeply disappointed. This is sacrilege; we have made a huge effort to save these trees and now they are gone.”

Cllr David Jones said: “There are clearly question to be answered and as a former chairman of planning I would like to see what the explanation is.”

Neil Farmer, Strategic Director at Christchurch Borough Council, said: “We were contacted by the developer at the Cornfactor site last night as he was concerned about the state of two more trees whose roots had been uncovered close to the boundary of the development.

"Our tree officer went down to inspect the site at first light this morning and saw that the trees were indeed in a dangerous state.

"From a health and safety standpoint, the tree officer recommended felling the trees and I accepted this was necessary.

“The work that the developer was doing was inside the boundary of the site and they have a planning consent which they are entitled to implement within that site.

"Whilst it is unfortunate that these trees have had to come down, as part of the landscaping of that part of Druitt Gardens, an additional 30 trees will be planted."

He added: “The council does not anticipate the removal of any further trees, however our tree officer and building control officer will be monitoring the work to ensure that the developer complies fully with their planning permission.”

“The council’s audit and scrutiny process allows for councillors’ concerns to be heard and if any councillor requests a review then one will be undertaken.”

Local resident Sandra Ementon, retired, said: "I have known it since I was a child and now it's all gone. I'm disgusted"

Residents and councillors have expressed their outrage after the two original trees in Druitt Gardens, protected by tree preservation orders, were cut down this week.

A community campaign, backed by more than 450 people in Christchurch, won over councillors earlier this year when members voted to save the Druitt Gardens trees after developers of the adjacent Cornfactor site had proposed felling seven trees.

Their application was refused and tree preservation orders placed on the trees.

But on Wednesday, after an excavation ditch was dug along the boundary on the site, severing three roots, the trees were cut down by the council, who deemed them “unsafe”.

Cllr Peter Hall, ward member for the town centre said he was “outraged and disappointed.”

He added: “I will be pursuing an investigation into this and call for replacement trees to be planted immediately.”

Elliot Marx, who was involved in the original battle said: “We are absolutely furious about this.

“I and many others want to know how this has happened, just a few weeks after these trees were protected. It’s scandalous.”

In their original statement, the council declined to mention the ditch which had been dug, saying the trees were a “danger to the public” and blamed the “extreme weather conditions” for the felling.

But after enquiries from the Daily Echo they re-issued a second response.

David McIntosh, chief executive, Christchurch and East Dorset Councils said: “The work carried out at the Cornfactor site was by the developer’s archaeological team within the site boundaries.

“The Council were contacted by the developer to assess the effect on trees in Druitt Gardens.

“Two trees were assessed as unsafe and a danger to the public.”

He added: “No action will be taken against the developer as they are permitted to implement their planning permission on the Cornfactor site which involves, amongst other activities, carrying out archaeological works.”

Developer’s response

Robert Taylor, managing director of Renaissance Retirement, who is building a retirement complex at the Cornfactor site, said the ditch was part of an archaeological dig taking place on the Cornfactor site.

“While they were doing that three roots were severed inside our site”, he said.

“I visited the site on Wednesday morning and contacted the tree officer from Christchurch as I was concerned they were going to fall over and hurt someone.”