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Fuming residents in Brixham, Devon have claimed a property developer has cut down a huge woodland area before actually applying for planning permission to build there.
The locals complained to South Hams District Council, who confirmed the developer hadn't as yet been granted planning permission from the local council, who have since voted against the proposed plan.
The large wooded area has been cleared of its trees, leaving a muddy clearing that's destined for a proposed nine houses.
Developer Dave Holloway is now in the midst of a battle with the local authority - although neighbours say the damage has already been done, and the wildlife can never be reclaimed.
The Forestry Commission is also now investigating reports of 'alleged illegal felling'.
The application submitted to the council claims work has not yet begun on the site, but local residents have said photos appear to show rubble and other debris that may have been dumped at the site.
Andy Love, 56, who owns a house backing onto the land, said a tree survey - designed to show what species are in an area - that was submitted on 22 January doesn't accurately assess the ecology impact.
The sales manager said: "We found this house and loved it because it was next to some woodland. We spent a long time looking for the right house.''
Love said the land was later sold to Holloway by Linden Homes, adding: "A few months in we decided to inquire about the land next to us, as we wanted to understand what Linden Homes's plans were for the land.
"We were told we were just too late and it was sold a few weeks ago.
"We hadn't seen it advertised and there wasn't a sign on it. We subsequently found out that it was advertised in Brixham for some reason."
As a precaution, he sent a drone up to get some footage of the area 'just in case anything happened' with the land under its new ownership.
He continued: "In December last year a whole team of people showed up and started taking one tree after another down.
"This area is a SHDC Environmental Improvement Zone, it was a wildlife corridor and part of a RSPB consultation zone for the Cirl Bunting.
"The trees were planted as a condition of previous planning approvals to shield my house and my neighbours from the South Devon AONB which is 2km away.
"We thought the trees would be there forever and they would never be felled."
According to Love, when planning was submitted, Holloway had included wildlife and ecology surveys, which completed after the trees were felled.
"He didn't have planning permission, no plans were submitted until March 18 2019," he said.
''His planning application, dated March 18, includes various reports.
"One of those is an ecology report looking at wildlife implications, and the second is a tree report looking at the impact of the development on any trees.
"Both of those reports were done in January, a month after he felled all the trees.
"The tree report describes the area as derelict of trees and the ecology report suggests there will be no impact on wildlife.
"December 8 and 9 he felled the trees and moved them up to the top of the site adjacent to my house through December.
"Through Christmas and New Year he was chainsawing the trees, removing them from site and shredding branches etc."
Another unhappy Seymour Drive resident, Danielle Hunn, said: "We bought here eight years ago precisely so that our very young children would have a safe place to learn to ride their bikes, scooters and skateboards - which they did regularly.
"We enjoyed the birds, bats and hedgehogs that we saw living in the woodland that has now been meticulously obliterated.
"On purchasing here, we were told that Linden Homes managed the woodland site and that it was always required to be a non-developmental site."
Holloway's planning application was taken to a council meeting on 17 April, where members voted against it - with the planning committee backing the protesting neighbours and describing the site as an 'overdevelopment' and 'unneighbourly'.
Cllr Robin Springett said: "The person who brought this land cleared it over the Christmas period when it was virtually impossible to get a council stop notice."
He added: ''I recommend that this council strongly opposes this planning application.
"It's building on land that was set aside on a previous development as a greenspace.
"It's actually calling the land a brownfield site but it's not and I consider that this is an overdevelopment in any case."
A spokesperson for the Forestry Commission said: "Trees are a precious part of our environment and we take all reports of alleged illegal felling extremely seriously.
"We can confirm that we are investigating reports of alleged illegal felling at Seymour Drive in Dartmouth, Devon.
"Cutting down trees without permission can result in numerous actions including prosecution."
Holloway confirmed that he owned the land but refused to comment further, saying: "I'd rather not."
The outcome of the planning application will be decided by South Hams District Council on a date yet to be announced.
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