Tree felling has left a former woodland in Medstead looking like a “war zone”, according to East Hampshire District Council’s tree warden co-ordinator.

Cllr Diana Tennyson was talking about an area behind the Azalea estate off Holland Drive in Medstead which has planning permission for nine houses – with access to the site being across a wildlife corridor and green open space on the estate.

She said: “It looks like a war zone – I can’t tell you how awful it looks.

“It’s devastating, especially when we’ve put so much work into getting the wildlife corridor in place.”

Residents have asked whether only trees not protected by a tree preservation order (TPO) have been felled, and Cllr Tennyson has asked arboricultural officers to check.

Cllr Tennyson said: “Last year I was alerted to a large tree being felled. A blanket TPO was placed on the woodland but ultimately only a few trees were awarded TPOs, so it appeared that a large number of trees were ultimately destined to be felled. 

“In order for a tree to be awarded a TPO it has to be of amenity value, so visible from a public place. It must also be healthy and in good condition. It cannot be a tree shaped by the environment, so cannot lean or bend, and it must also be deemed to be at risk. Consequently trees in woodland or large gardens which cannot be viewed from a public place cannot be protected, which we find very sad.

“It would be helpful if the rules relating to awarding a TPO could be revised, particularly in the light of climate change where mature trees are essential to help absorb rainfall, provide shade from the glare of the sun, and as important habitats for wildlife.”

She added that felling or working on a protected tree without planning permission could lead to a “hefty” fine. 

Cllr Tennyson feared the consequences of not tightening the regulations. She said: “We need to do something. We can’t keep felling trees faster than we can plant them.

“We might ask ourselves why the council are approving planning applications on woodland sites where mature trees important for flood prevention cannot be replaced.

“Wildlife habitat for nesting birds, bats, insects – the bugs that run the planet – cannot be mitigated by planting saplings or by landscaping.”