A Westcountry housing association chopped down 74 trees lining a Devon lane claiming they were too expensive to keep standing.
Residents in the Paignton community where the conifer trees were felled by Devon and Cornwall Housing, claiming it would also prevent anti-social behaviour in the neighbourhood, fear their homes may have lost value as a result. Inhabitants of Underidge Road were upset when the 30ft evergreen backdrop was removed without warning. They claim to have suffered a loss of privacy and security and say it has left the estate with a depressing, slum-like appearance.
Heather Simpson, who has lived on the road for 15 years, said her neighbourhood now looked “horrendous and ghastly”.
She said: “When 74 conifer trees disappear everyone in the area is affected. My quality of life has been undermined as I have to sit in my lounge with the curtains drawn. That kind of devastation is not what we need in the world today.”
Devon and Cornwall Housing said it had cost £4,500 to maintain the trees over ten years, and maintained it was no longer “cost-effective” to continue pay the bills.
It eventually apologised for not having contacted residents before removing the hedge, but declined to uphold any of their other concerns.
The upset locals have lodged a formal complaint against the housing organisation supported by more than 100 signatures including MP Dr Sarah Wollaston and David Thomas, deputy mayor of Torbay.
Ms Simpson said: “Having talked to estate agents we definitely got the feeling our properties had gone down in value, but that would be difficult to prove without proper valuation. I am worried it would be harder to sell the house. It’s a derelict, lunar landscape and just looks awful. Only the naked tree stumps remain.”
The RSPB said the absence of trees may have diminished bird numbers in an area that once supported a rich variety of wildlife, including endangered sparrows and song thrush, insects and bats.
South West spokesman Tony Whitehead, said: “We take a dim view of people cutting down trees between March and August when the birds are nesting. Although authorities are legally entitled to cut down trees on land they own, we would rather they didn’t unless it’s absolutely necessary. We would urge them to think carefully before acting in such a way.”
A spokeswoman for Devon & Cornwall Housing said: “We understand the feelings of residents at Underidge Road and take their views seriously. There was a request from local partners and our residents to review the area. We consulted with our residents and were largely supported by them and our local partners in clearing and improving the area which has created a clear pathway that the local community can now use and also gives better access on foot to the surrounding area.”