An investigation has been launched into allegations an exclusive golf club felled 36 protected trees to improve the views of a lake from the club house.
Residents living in £1m homes that back onto Parkstone Golf Course in Dorset were horrified to find the clump of mature pines had been axed without warning.
The 70ft tall specimens provided shelter from the wind and privacy from golfers playing the first hole of the prestigious course, whose members include I’m A Celebrity winner Harry Redknapp.
Photo from website of Parkstone Golf Course, Poole , Dorset which has drawn criticism
Now players can look straight into the luxury properties that are close to Poole Harbour.
Furious homeowners claim members at the £1,725 a year club had been unhappy the trees obscured the view of the course’s lake from the veranda of the club house.
Officials at the 109-year-old club, where Women’s British Open champion Georgia Hall is also a member, said on its website the ongoing tree-felling is aimed at restoring the area to heathland.
They 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 view of the trees from a neighbour’s garden before they were felled at the plush golf club
This slide graph shows the before and after view from Peter Norris’s back garden
But the 60 to 80-year-old pines were the subject to a long-standing Tree Preservation Order (TPO) and any bid to remove the protected status had to go through the local authority.
It is understood the investigation launched by Poole Borough Council will look into which of the organisations knew a TPO was in place.
Local residents have accused the golf club of ‘wanton environmental vandalism.’
Peter Norrie, a retired City of London banker, only bought his £1.2m large detached home in August but is now considering selling up due to the loss of privacy.
Mr Norrie, 61, said: ‘I saw people messing around at the bottom of the trees and naively thought they were just doing winter work. When I came back from the gym I nearly had a heart attack.
‘I’m absolutely gutted. I even offered to make a contribution if they replant.
‘I only bought the house in August and it was a dream location, a wildlife haven. Now they’ve ruined the dream and I feel like I want to sell.
‘I took photographs of the garden and view to show friends and say they should come to stay, but now I’ve told them not to come because it’s just not very special anymore.
‘You would think organisations like the Forestry Commission and the RSPB would want to preserve such a location and enhance the wildlife.
The view after the trees were felled means that golfers are in clear sight and can see onto local’s property
‘We understand the need for pruning but this brutal and absolute destruction of all the trees and the impact on wildlife is shameful.’
Neighbour Adrian Riley, 53, a renewable energy entrepreneur, said: ‘I was quite shocked when I saw what they had done.
‘We as residents go through a nightmare to get permission if we want to even prune our trees yet the golf club have been able to just chop them down.
‘They created a lovely barrier, now golfers can look into our house and garden and we can see the driving range. They’ve taken away our privacy.
An overhead shot of the houses along the edge of the golf club before the trees (bottom left) were felled
‘The only reason for doing it is it gives the clubhouse a better view down the course. They are hosting the European Championships and cutting down these trees is a mixture of commercial reasons and vanity.
‘They’ve had complete disregard for the residents.’
Another neighbour, who did not want to be named, said: ‘It’s heartbreaking. I’m so mad, they are old trees that have been there for years, they were not hurting anyone so why have they cut them down?
‘The club claim they have an obligation to restore the area back to heathland, but it’s a river valley, heather is not going to grow by the lake and stream.
Peter Norris has complained that his privacy has been spoiled after the trees were felled
‘Just because its labelled as heathland doesn’t mean you have to chop every tree down.
‘It’s completely destroyed our privacy and it means there’s no protection from the wind now.
‘I bought this place ten years ago and paid a lot of money because of the view. There are only ten houses on the lake and you can’t build any more.’
Parkstone Golf Club manager Michael Sawicki said they could not comment while the matter is under investigation.
But on the club’s website, a statement described the TPO in place on trees on the course as ‘a problem’.
Furious homeowners claim members at the £1,725 a year club had been unhappy the trees obscured the view of the course’s lake from the veranda of the club house
It states: ‘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.
‘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.’
Andy Dearing, Poole Borough Council’s planning enforcement officer, said he could only confirm they were investigating the ‘alleged unauthorised destruction of protected trees on land at Parkstone Golf Club’.
Tony Whitehead, RSPB spokesman for Dorset, said: ‘The Borough of Poole is conducting an investigation into this matter and until the full details of this investigation are known it is inappropriate for us to comment.
‘I can, however, confirm that RSPB applied for the felling licence, which was granted by Forestry Commission, for the work at Parkstone Golf Course as part of our long-term commitment to the restoration of heathland in Poole and beyond.’