Saul Cooke-Black, local democracy reporter
Residents have voiced their anger after developers cut down trees and removed hedgerows on a site in Cwmbran in breach of a planning condition.
Developers Bron Afon cut down a number of trees on land off Newport Road, Llantarnam, next to the former Three Blackbirds Inn pub, ahead of building 22 homes on the site.
Planning permission for the development has already been granted, but a condition sought to protect trees and hedgerows on the site by requiring a landscaping scheme to be approved before any works started.
Llantarnam councillor Alan Slade said residents were “heartbroken” by the works carried out, which affected two hedgerows and has seen around 60 trees cut down.
“It’s just a catastrophe,” he said.
“The original planning application was granted on the promise that the line of trees and hedgerow would be protected.
“If you take a trip down there now, it’s all gone.
“Cllr Dave Thomas and I have been inundated with calls from local residents.
“They are concerned their houses have been devalued by the loss of the environment.
“They are absolutely heartbroken.”
The landscaping scheme for the development was approved by Torfaen council’s planning committee last month, but after some trees had already been cut down.
The scheme includes removing poplar and ash trees, replacement planting and the strengthening of a hedgerow.
Some of the trees cut down were showing signs of ash dieback disease and were of “poor quality (and) structurally unstable”, according to planning documents.
Bron Afon says it has planted new trees and wants to improve the area to make it “a site where residents are proud to live in and live near”.
A council report says work started before pre-commencement conditions had been met and that planning chiefs were made aware of the “non-compliance”.
“However officers did not feel there was any merit in serving a ‘stop notice’ because they wanted to be able to work with Bron Afon to get a satisfactory landscaping scheme in consultation with the residents,” the report said.
“By working together a very good landscape scheme had been achieved.”
But Llantarnam councillor Dave Thomas said residents are “absolutely devastated” by the works carried out.
“This is not a question of social housing going in,” he said.
“We need social housing but they did not need to decimate that tree line and the hedges there.
“It’s environmental vandalism.”
The plans for the site include 22 homes, with the scheme providing 100 per cent affordable housing.
Originally the applicant was Redrow Homes, but the site has since been sold to Bron Afon who have taken on the development.
A Bron Afon spokesman said: “A report from 2017 said the trees were poor quality, structurally weak and within time there could be risks of branches falling off them.
“We are a long-term partner on this site and want to improve it for the community and build a site where residents are proud to live in and live near.
“The trees had ash dieback or were in such a poor condition they couldn’t be saved.
“There were no tree protection orders on them so we followed expert advice to take them down.
“We have planted countless native tree and hedgerow saplings around the site and our drawing, although not an exact image of what the site will look like, does show our long-term commitment to the area.”