Old oaks on controversial Huddersfield housing site have been illegally cut

Mature oaks said to have been planted by 18th century landscape gardener Capability Brown have been aggressively trimmed in contravention of tree preservation orders (TPOs) that should protect them.

The quartet of oaks, off Hermitage Park in Lepton, near Huddersfield, form part of a proposed housing development site within Kirklees Council’s controversial Local Plan, which was approved two years ago.

An order from the Government, the Local Plan will see 31,000 new homes built across the district – equating to 1,730 homes per annum.

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Many will have to be built within the green belt, as there is insufficient non-green belt land in the borough.

The old oaks have been illegally cut
The old oaks have been illegally cut

The protected trees form part of the border with a 31-acre site to the south east of Hermitage Park, off Rowley Lane, that is earmarked for 312 homes.

It is known as HS3 within the Local Plan and is managed by property agent Carter Jonas on behalf of landowner the Dartmouth Estate.

Damage to the oaks, which were trimmed as part of boundary work carried out to scores of trees on Tuesday (April 6), has been described as “unfortunate” by managing agent James Bradley.

He said Carter Jonas had not authorised the work – carried out by a new tenant – and that Kirklees Council had been informed.

Tree trimming in Huddersfield has affected ancient oaks protected by preservation orders.

He added: “The work was undertaken without any permission. I did not instruct it. They won’t be doing it any more and won’t be touching the four TPO’d trees any further.”

Richard Morton of Leeds-based KCS Development Ltd, which is preparing the HS3 site for building, said existing flora and fauna on the grazing land forms part of a joint masterplan along with site HS2.

He said the tree trimming was “something totally out of our control” and described it as “a management issue”.

He added: “No one from my team has been anywhere near.

“It’s incredibly unfortunate.”

Local councillor Bernard McGuin (Con, Almondbury) was made aware of the issue by residents living on Hermitage Park. He called it “gross abuse” and urged Kirklees Council to prosecute those responsible.

“If you are a professional doing this job you are supposed to check if trees are protected.

“They’ve obviously not done any checking. They’ve just gone ahead. Every overhanging branch has been lopped off.

“It’s now a matter for the council – but it’s too late. Local residents are really angry, and so am I.”

Last month two companies were fined for felling trees in Clayton West following enforcement action by Kirklees Council.

Earthswood Country Park Limited and Premier Tree Care and Conservation were fined a total of £15,796 at Kirklees Magistrates’ Court after cutting down trees at a former caravan site in 2019.

They were protected by a Tree Preservation Order.

Kirklees Council has been approached to comment.