Calls for Brucehill development to be halted as protected trees chopped down

Calls are being made for a controversial planning application in Brucehill to be rescinded after developers chopped down protected trees – less than a week after plans were approved.

The land at the former Notre Dame Convent is owned by former Rangers director Sandy Easdale.

A spokeswoman for his company said they deeply regret the incident which saw around 30 trees axed and that it was “unintentional”.

However the actions have drawn a furious response from community groups, who campaigned successfully for a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) to be introduced.

They say the now destroyed woodland was home to protected bats, woodpeckers, owls and songbirds.

West Dunbartonshire Council say it is considering its next steps.

The TPO was approved by the local authority in March, reducing the number of properties that could be built by Miller Homes on the site from 90 to 81 – with plans getting the green light late last month subject to the TPO.

This was despite more than 200 objections being received.

The housing development will be built near the Carmelite Monastery in Brucehill.

However locals say they were then horrified to see trees covered by the order being felled, saying only the intervention of a councilor stopped the works.

Local resident Aileen Campbell, speaking on behalf of the Stop The Chop Protest, said: “More than 20 protected woodland trees, many of them mature, have been razed to the ground in breach of a specially sought TPO area that was granted by the council in response to a passionate community-led campaign.

“The tree preservation area, unanimously approved by the council and planning department at a recent meeting, safeguarded mature woodland habitat as well as protecting local geological sites of interest Brucehill Cliffs and Wallace’s Cave.

“The woodland, used by protected bats to feed and home to woodpeckers, owls and songbirds, was felled in a single day.”

She said workers “used chainsaws, diggers and tractors to rip, slash and bulldoze trees.”

Ms Campbell added: “Residents attended the site to tell the workers to stop.

“Trees along the boundary which the Miller Homes representative told the planning application meeting would be retained were also felled to the dismay of residents.

“Councillor Iain McLaren attended and called the planning department who attended and ordered work to cease on the site.”

More than twenty protected woodland trees, many of them mature, have been razed to the ground in breach of a specially sought TPO in Brucehill, Dumbarton
Around 30 trees within the TPO area were felled.

Councilor McLaren told the Lennox that residents were disgusted by the move.

The SNP member said: “I am devastated and angered by the destruction that has taken place in the Tree Preservation Order area, and at the loss of many high-quality mature trees throughout the development site.

“To be frank with you, many of the local people are disgusted and outraged.”

Councilor McLaren added that he would now be looking into whether planning permission for the site could be revoked.

He added: “The agreement reached at the meeting gave some concessions to all parties – no-one walked away empty handed. Had this been adhered to and applied respectfully and with care, the result could have been a tolerable compromise for everyone.

“I have written to the chair and vice-chair of the planning committee, as well as the council’s head legal and planning officers and made my position clear on this.

“I have asked them to do everything in their power to ensure that those responsible are held fully accountable, and that no further works take place until a remediation and compensation plan is offered by the developers.

“I have also asked for every option to be explored, including whether the planning consent can be rescinded entirely.”

More than twenty protected woodland trees, many of them mature, have been razed to the ground in breach of a specially sought TPO in Brucehill, Dumbarton
A digger working on the site in Brucehill.

A spokeswoman for site landowners, Slate Island Developments, of which Sandy Easdale is a director, said: “We are extremely sorry and deeply regret this incident.

“We are liaising with West Dunbartonshire Council and our appointed tree surgeons as we continue to investigate how this unintentional situation occurred.

“We have already consulted with our arboriculturist to establish the best way to replace the trees and will deliver this as soon as the council grants us authority to do so.”

A spokeswoman for West Dunbartonshire Council added: “We are extremely disappointed to discover that trees covered by a preservation order in place at Brucehill Cliffs and the former Notre Dame Convent site have been felled.

“We are currently working to understand the extent and circumstances of this as well as considering our next steps.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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