Work has started on clearing land at a Huddersfield beauty spot at the centre of a bitter legal wrangle.
Contractors have been felling dozens of trees and shrubs at Clayton Fields, between Edgerton and Birkby.
Developers who owned the land won a court battle last month after residents had fought for 17 years to keep it as a green space in the heart of a busy residential district.
The work over the past few days has left members of the Clayton Fields Action Group very disappointed, and their pleas for help to Kirklees Council came to nothing as there is planning permission dating back to 1967 for houses on the site.
But Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman is furious at the tree-felling moves and has promised to raise the issue in the House of Commons.
He said: “I will be seeking an urgent meeting with Kirklees Council chief executive Adrian Lythgo and with the Forestry Commission to find out why they have been powerless to act.
“This is an act of vandalism on this site and I will be doing all I can to get all the details out in the open. The developers won a court victory but what they are doing at Clayton Fields is a terrible blow to a vital green space.
Click below to see a selection of before and after images from the site
“I intend to raise this in Westminster as soon as possible and I will do all I can to make the developers as uncomfortable as possible. I expect the council to give as tough a ride as possible to any company who wants to build houses on a very precious site”.
Judges in the Supreme Court gave their decision on Clayton Fields last month.
Community groups had been fighting to save the site from development since 1996 but it emerged that there was planning permission for 55 houses dating back to 1967, years before Kirklees Council came into being.
Paddico (267) Ltd have owned the site for years and took the matter to the courts after local residents were granted village green status.
Bill Magee, one of the founders of the Clayton Fields Action Group, said: “A huge number of trees have been felled and bushes cut back.
“We have been liaising with Kirklees Council’s planning officers and tree preservation officers but they tell us there is nothing that can be done to halt this work. The 1967 permission overrides any tree orders”.
A Kirklees spokesman said: ““This is a complicated case but council officers have not been inactive on this issue. An officer has met the developer on site to discuss the retention of trees. Agreement was reached to retain some of the mature trees. We have also requested that an accurate survey needs to take place to assess the impact of the remaining trees on the development before more trees are removed. We will continue to speak to the developer on this issue.
“This site is the subject of a planning permission for residential development which was issued in 1967. We have been satisfied for some time that there is clear evidence that the permission remains valid as the scheme has commenced and cannot be challenged. It would also appear that this position has been documented in the recent court proceedings surrounding the village green issue.
“Whilst we can understand the frustration of local residents it has to be acknowledged by us as the Local Planning Authority that a valid permission does exist and some of the trees on the site can be removed as a result of the development that can take place.”
Paddico were unavailable to comment.
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