Forestry officials investigate Lochyside tree felling

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The Forestry Commission has confirmed it is investigating after an area of woodland at Lochyside was felled.

Local resident John MacLeod complained to the forestry authority, as well as to Highland Council, Scottish Natural Heritage and the police, after returning home one weekend recently to discover an acre of mixed deciduous woodland behind his home had been cleared, except for a line of trees bordering nearby housing.

‘This was an amenity site full of mature broad-leaved trees for as long as I can remember. I have lived here for 33 years and there had always been trees there,’ an angry Mr MacLeod said.

‘It was home to various species of wildlife, including deer, foxes, birds and bats. And now nearly all of the trees have gone, with just a single line of trees left along one side.

‘But as far as I can find out, no planning permission has been granted to develop this site and there has not been a consent issued by the Forestry Commission for the trees to be cut down – which is the regulation if the area to be felled is greater than five cubic metres.

‘In such a case you require a felling licence and according to my research, no such licence has been issued for this piece of ground.’

Mr MacLeod, a bricklayer who lives with his wife Jacqueline at Rustic View in Lochyside,  continued: ‘Twenty-odd years ago, the divisional planning officer at the time stated this area of woodland would be retained as a green area of amenity trees to separate various housing developments.

‘And if you look at the Caol-Lochyside master plan drawn up in 1994, it clearly states this woodland was to be kept and reinforced as far as possible.

‘So what’s changed? I don’t know who the current owner is.’

Highland Council confirmed it received Mr MacLeod’s letter and a planning officer had liaised with the local authority’s own foresty officer and visited the site.

But the council stated the felling works were not connected with any planning consent and there had been no breach of planning control. In those circumstances, the council confirmed it had referred the matter to the Forestry Commission.

Asked if it could shed any light on the mysterious felling operations, a spokesman for the Forestry Commission told us that two of its officials had also visited the Lochyside site last week.

‘They are writing up the report – it’s not yet completed as they haven’t yet tracked down the land owner,’ he added.

‘The complainant has not yet been contacted. However, the complaint is under investigation.’