Belfast Telegraph

Felling of redwood giant at Antrim Road in Lisburn leaves locals fuming

LINDA STEWART

An investigation has been launched after a redwood tree was felled at a development site without permission.

The 80ft redwood loomed over houses on the Antrim Road in Lisburn and was regarded as a local landmark by neighbours.

But yesterday afternoon it was felled along with other mature trees by developers clearing the bungalow site for housing.

Upset residents demanded to know why planners hadn't insisted on the owners retaining at least some mature trees.

They included the redwood, rarely seen in Northern Ireland, Lawson cypress, sycamore, Austrian pine and Portugal laurel.

One woman said she was so devastated at the loss of the wildlife haven that she and her family are planning to move out after Christmas.

But last night the DoE said planning approval granted earlier this year had stipulated that some trees must be retained.

"When planning permission was granted for five residential units on May 24, 2013 it was stated that whilst some trees could be considered for removal, some trees on the site must be retained," a spokesman said.

"In light of today's allegations, DoE Planning has therefore commenced an enforcement investigation to ascertain whether a breach of planning permission has occurred."

George Irwin, rector of St Mark's Parish Church in Ballymacash, who lives opposite the derelict bungalow, said the redwood was at least 100 years old and stood at what was the avenue leading up to Abercorn House, demolished decades ago.

The bungalow was sold about seven or eight years ago and a planning application was made to build apartments but the owner went into liquidation. Since then, Belfast architects Coogan & Co submitted a new application.

Mr Irwin said planners sent him a copy of a report recommending that some mature trees should be retained.

Geraldine Hewitt, who lives nearby, will move after Christmas and lease her house as she is so upset.

"On Monday morning I heard the chainsaw, looked out the window and the trees were being cut down," she said.

"It's absolutely devastated – it looks like a bomb has dropped outside my front door.

"I'm starting to get my stuff moved out after Christmas, because of the lack of communication."

Martin Gillespie of Gillespie Tree Care, hired to fell the trees, said they were around 80ft.

He said: "Usually if the height to diameter ratio is more than 30 to one it's considered to be hazardous. Here we were talking 60 to one.

"Trees that height shouldn't be in urban planting."

Coogan & Co was unable to comment last night.

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