Battle to save the woods that gave Co Down town its historic name
Trees are being torn down by developers in Holywood prompting conservationists to worry that it will lose the wooded atmosphere that gave it is name.
The Gold Coast town on Belfast Lough has extensive covering of mature trees.
Larry Thompson, of the Holywood Conservation Group, said: "It is, as its name says, a holy wood. The density of trees in Holywood is substantial compared to other towns. But it is now so desirable as a place to live that every site is under threat, including the trees."
A section of Holywood is now a Conservation Area, which means that mature trees cannot be felled without planning permission.
But other parts of the town are designated as an Area of Townscape Character, which means that a tree can be taken down whenever the owner wishes, unless there is a tree preservation order.
Such designations are rare, but becoming more common.
Jim Wells, DUP MLA for South Down, said the Holywood concerns were reflected across Northern Ireland.
"Consider the slopes of the Mournes near Newcastle, beautiful and heavily wooded, but apartments threaten to turn the area in concrete.
"Developers would enthustiastically chop it all down, and they usually do it on a Sunday morning. Sometimes they use bulldozers to push them down rather than chainsaws which would alert residents."