A group of neighbours, councillors and environmental activists have joined forces to save 97 protected trees from being cut down in a village near Swindon.

Plans by housebuilder Backhouse to build 65 homes on the outskirts of Highworth sparked protests after revisions revealed that part of a copse containing mature trees would be felled to construct the development.

The town council recommended that the Redlands Park plans be refused after noticing that Backhouse intends to ignore Tree Preservation Orders and destroy wildlife habitats when constructing the new housing.

Councillor Maureen Penny said: “This copse is an important feature in the local environment, It’s home to a lot of wildlife including bats, badgers, foxes, deer, slow worms and 60 species of bird – many of which are on the threatened ‘red’ list.

“With a deepening ecological crisis, the last thing we want is for so many protected and mature trees to be cut down.”

A cavalcade of comments objecting to the plans have been written by more than 100 people in Highworth.

Ray Cox of Stonefield Drive has lived in the town for over 40 years. He said: “We are very concerned about the destruction of the copse because it would be a great loss to the area and alter the character of the town. When you approach our hilltop town, the first thing you see is the trees.

“We do need housing but this is not the proper site for what has been proposed, it’s unsustainable.”

This story first appeared in the Swindon Advertiser.