Wokingham Borough Council has been slammed for allowing more than 400 “irreplaceable” trees to be chopped down near the Reading FC training ground.

In 2015, the council gave the Championship club planning permission to build a new state-of-the-art training facility at Bearwood Park.

It said trees around Bearwood Lake were protected by a tree preservation order and it is a criminal offence to “wilfully or knowingly cause damage to those trees”.

But in December 2020, the council approved plans to cut down around 450 trees around the lake.

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That’s because engineer consultants from Black & Veatch Ltd said Bearwood Lake dam needed to be upgraded to reduce the risk of flooding and “tree clearance works are critical” to “enhance the capacity of the overflow”.

But Cllr Paul Fishwick (Liberal Democrat) claimed the Conservative-run council allowed those trees to be felled “without question”, when he spoke at a meeting on March 18.

He added: “This council has allowed a developer to destroy irreplaceable historic parkland of semi mature, mature and veteran trees, some of which are up to 300 years old.

“They were covered by a tree preservation order.

“Yet the council claims it is tackling climate change, protecting the environment and wants to improve air quality and biodiversity.”

Cllr Parry Batth, executive member for the environment, said the trees were cut down as part of “the essential safety work to the dam” at Bearwood Lake.

Cllr Parry Batth, executive member for environment

Cllr Parry Batth, executive member for environment

The Tory councillor said The Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation) Regulations 2012 state that landowners can apply for permission to chop down trees if it is “urgently necessary to remove an immediate risk of serious harm”.

He added: “It is an urgent notification that the council cannot determine, our hands are tied.

“Nor can we condition the terms on which it was made, because it is a purely health and safety issue.

“We had to allow permission to be given to the owner and they took the decision purely on health and safety grounds.”

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In a letter to the council, Black & Veatch Ltd said “upgrade works are now urgently required” at the dam.

It states: “Bearwood Lake should now be considered to fall under Category A for flood risk and consequences of failure.

“That is the highest standard for dam safety. It indicates that failure would endanger lives in a community.”

The letter also states “works to enhance the capacity of the overflow” are required.

It adds: “This requires the affected area to be cleared of trees.”