FURIOUS Shinfield residents have questioned a housing developer’s right to remove hundreds of trees at land south of Cutbush Lane in Shinfield.

The site is earmarked for plans to build 249 homes and proposals were set to be approved by Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) in February.

But the planning application was shelved from a council planning meeting after the committee refused a prior application which needed approval for the homes plan to go ahead.

Despite this, work started on Monday, March 4 to remove trees and vegetation at the site and residents estimate up to 500 trees have been chopped down in the name of “maintenance” since the clearing began.

Concerned resident Jim Frewin told The News: “This is not tidying.

“It seems they (Bellway Homes) can just get away with anything.

“They gave the council notice on Friday (March 1) and started work on Monday (March 4). Nobody from the council got to see the site.”

Bellway Homes was contacted for comment by The News and in response, the developer outlined that the planning application for 249 homes is still live, despite it being withdrawn from the planning committee’s consideration in February.

Initially, University of Reading (UoR) had applied for an extension to its suitable alternative natural greenspace (SANG) at the land south of Cutbush Lane in order to facilitate the proposed building of the homes.

The applicant needs 1.03 hectares of SANG land for the homes, but claimed after “further investigation”, they found UoR already has the capacity for the development.

In their response, they also suggested work being undertaken, which includes addressing historic sewage pipes, archaeological work and the grounding of overhead cables, as well as the tree removals, complies with local and regional planning guidelines.

Bellway suggested works were being undertaken before the summer as to avoid bird nesting season, but according to the arboricultural association, bird nesting season takes place from February to August.

Mr Frewin said: “The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) told me it is disturbing they would do this in the nesting season.

“They said there were no nesting ground birds on the site but we have seen pheasants roaming around the Black Boy pub because of the work, trying to find places go.”

Mr Frewin told The News he has launched a freedom of information investigation into what permissions Bellway had to start the work.

And according to the Shinfield resident, hedgerows removed from the site were designated as protected, despite Bellway claiming they would not remove any mature or protected trees or shrubs.

Wokingham Borough Council was also contacted for comment, and in response executive member for planning, Cllr Simon Weeks said: “Wokingham Borough Council is keeping a very close watch on the work taking place on the Cutbush Lane site to make sure it remains within the bounds of what is allowed.

“There are no Tree Protection Orders on the site and it is not a conservation area, which means the landowners is entitled to undertake landscape clearance works, for example, removal of scrub planting and other tree works, without consent from the council.

“Protection of ecology, such as birds nesting or protection of any protected species is secured under separate legislation and the landowner and developer are aware that any harm caused could result in a criminal prosecution.

“WBC’s compliance officer visits the site regularly to check what was being undertaken and, should any works undertaken constitute a breach of planning control, the council will consider whether to take further action.”