TREES are being felled in Basingstoke during bird nesting season to make way for a development of 750 new homes.

It is the second time in recent weeks that trees have been chopped down in the town when birds could be nesting there, going against the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which states tree work should be delayed when birds are nesting.

The Basingstoke Gazette previously reported on Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council felling trees and cutting back a hedgerow in Chapel Hill.

Now, the council has agreed to work by Vistry Homes Thames Valley on the A30 to fell trees before constructing the Hounsome Fields development.

Part of the work will include creating a new roundabout and realigning the A30, which is planned to start this summer and take nine months.

The tree felling along the A30 is expexted to take around six weeks to complete, resulting in a full-time lane closure in both directions.

However, members of the public have raised concerns about the tree felling, questioning how it will be done without disturbing nesting birds.

Jenny Levy, from Kempshott, complained about the timing of the work, and said: “Doing it now means the developer will be in breach of the provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. What is the point of the Act if developers and local authorities just find a way round it or just ignore it? It is very sad that wildlife and environment is so unimportant to the authorities – money and profit matters more.”

A spokesperson for the Vistry Group said a specialist independent ecologist will be present to “protect wildlife” along with an approved arboriculturist to check for birds’ nests.

They added: “If any birds nests are found, these will be left in-situ, with a five-metre buffer until such time that the chicks have fledged, which is normally about six weeks.”

Mrs Levy, a keen bird-watcher, pointed out that the noise from the surrounding tree feeling would disturb nesting birds, adding: “There must be birds’ nests there. As a consequence of it being quiet without as much traffic there might be more nests than normal. It would be impossible to check through it all to look for nests. If there are nests there and trees are being cut down around them, they will abandon the nests because it’s noise and movement they aren’t used to. It’s the wrong time of year to do this.”

A spokeswoman for the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) said: “Birds are stealthy and clever, and make sure their nests are well-hidden, meaning it is often difficult to spot them until it’s too late.”

Head of planning, sustainability and infrastructure at the borough council, Ruth Ormella, said: “Hampshire Council, as the owner of the highways land, made us aware of the developer’s letter being delivered to residents. The Hounsome Fields development has planning permission, subject to conditions, which include mitigation for nesting birds and bats. A licence has been granted by Natural England to undertake work during the bird nesting season, from May to October, under ecological supervision.”

The council’s biodiversity officer visited the site to assess it prior to work starting.

The Vistry Homes spokesperson added that the development will deliver “much needed homes, the construction of which will create jobs and give a boost to the local economy”.

It will replant trees to “mitigate the loss of the trees necessary for this essential works”.

This story first appeared in the Basingstoke Gazette.

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