‘Disbelieving’ Henfield residents were stunned to see hedgerows ripped up and trees cut down screening a nursery from a main road.
Jack Dunckley’s Birchfield Nursery, off the A281, said the reason for the clearance of its boundary was due to a combination of highways safety concerns, the need to locate new electrical cables underground, and their wish to create a secure boundary around their site.
However residents believed that planning permission for a new structure was only granted by Horsham District Council (HDC) because of the screening provided by the thick tree belt and the bluebell wood and are angry at their removal.
Charles Taylor, who lives in nearby Kidders Lane, said he and others living nearby were ‘appalled’ by the loss of trees, with their replacement being an industrial fence, in what he described as a very rural location.
But Birchfield Nursery’s Charles Marriott explained that as well as building a new ‘horticultural centre of excellence’, a sympathetic boundary would be put in place.
Mr Marriott said: “Be assured there is no intent to do anything out of hand or blatant or anything that does not take into consideration people’s wishes and feelings.
“That’s not what he [Jack] or the nursery is all about.”
Permission was granted in 2011 by HDC for a new building for the nursery, subject to conditions around landscaping screening the new structure.
However according to the council because the development never commenced conditions did not ‘kick-in’ meaning any site clearance was not seen as development and does not require planning permission.
Revised plans were then submitted last month.
Mr Taylor said he was ‘baffled and aghast’ at the council’s explanation over the loss of the 100-year-old trees.
Denise Barnes, who lives in London Road with her husband Brian, added: “When we came back from holiday our reaction was absolute horror.”
Others said they were ‘stunned’ and were in a state of ‘disbelief’ to see the trees cleared.
David Ross, who also lives in Kidders Lane, said: “I feel angry because it’s destroying the countryside.
“The big issue is the cover and the cover is not there.
“We had to accept the planning application but now it’s not screened.”
Residents also felt that the nursery had not engaged with them to explain why works were necessary or to give any prior warning.