PARKSTONE Golf Club is a place where birds sing, squirrels scamper and players enjoy elegant vistas over pines and heathland as they look forward to holding the European Ladies’ Championship in July.

But it’s also the place where, nearly a month ago, the shocked residents of Compton Avenue looked out from their million pound homes and saw a group of majestic pine trees being hacked down. The trees stood beside a lake at the first tee and are part of the Site of Special Scientific Interest, which is understood to encompass the whole course.

Homeowners overlooking the scene have alleged the trees were felled in order to afford better views from the clubhouse to the lake in preparation for the Championship at this prestigious course, which counts top female golfer Georgia Hall as well as Jungle celebrity Harry Redknapp as members.

Certainly the vista from the clubhouse end could be said to have improved with the removal of the trees, as it now stretches across the lake.

However, the clubhouse is a good 100 metres from the felling site. On its website under the Course Design section the club waxes lyrical about the ‘heathland character and the contouring of the land that is so much more revealing when gloriously open than when it was camouflaged by trees and scrub’.

It also says: “One of the main problems was that the local Borough Council insisted that pines are symbolic of the local area and were subject to blanket Tree Preservation Orders.

“Fortunately, salvation was at hand when the course was made a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) by English Nature (now Natural England) with a requirement to return the course to open heathland. Seen initially by the Club as being a thoroughly bad thing, this has now been recognised as being a thoroughly good thing.

“SSSI status became the catalyst to remove many thousands of trees to help return the course to its heathland heritage. Many of the glorious views across the course, with its beautiful undulations, have returned.”

The affected residents don’t agree. One resident, London banker Peter Norrie, said he was so distressed he didn’t want to be in his home anymore. Three weeks on, who allegedly agreed to what has been described as ‘environmental vandalism’ as yet another resident put it, is not clear.

The conservation charity RSPB is reported as saying it applied for the felling licence on the protected trees. It says the licence was granted by Forestry Commission, ‘as part of our long-term commitment to the restoration of heathland in Poole and beyond.’

The club is reported as saying it asked the RSPB to apply for a felling licence from the Forestry Commission as part of the charity’s wider work of creating heathland around Poole Harbour.

The Forestry Commission told the Echo it does have the right to fell trees but only on the Public Forest Estate (i.e. Forestry Commission managed land). “TPOs are put in place in the event there is a change of ownership on managed land, to ensure a tree is not felled when the land changes hands,” explained a spokesman.

“Where a tree is subject to a TPO on private land, then this must be declared on the felling licence application made to the Forestry Commission,” she said.

“Before issuing a felling licence we would give notice to the local planning authority to let them know a licence has been applied for; at this point the planning authority can decide whether to object to the licence being issued.

"If the planning authority does not object, then a licence is issued, and no separate consent is required under the TPO regulations. If the local authority sustain an objection then the matter is referred to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government who will normally refer the matter to the Planning Inspectorate before making a decision.”

The incident is now the subject of an on-going investigation by Poole Borough council.

“Poole Borough takes all reports of unlawful tree-felling very seriously and is continuing to conduct detailed investigations into the allegations regarding the pine trees at Parkstone Golf Club,” said a spokesman.

The Echo contacted Parkstone Golf Club with a number of questions. We asked if the trees were felled in connection with the European Ladies’ Championship or to afford better views towards the lake from the clubhouse. We asked for the exact reasons for the felling, who asked for the felling to take place, and if the club knew the pines had TPOs on them.

General Manager Michael Sawicki said: “Whilst the club is very keen to put the record straight on the matters you have outlined in your email, the matter is subjudice pending an on-going investigation, and therefore, we are unable to comment at this time.”