Naomi Long said: “The circumstances surrounding the removal of these protected trees has thrown up more questions than answers and I have written to the Minister to ask that he clarify the circumstances surrounding the case.
“The trees were put under protection after an independent survey a number of months ago and yet now three of them have been removed. Concerned residents contacted both the Planning Service and local elected representatives when work commenced and planners attended the site; however, there has been significant disagreement as to whether the removed trees were in poor condition and whether permission was requested and granted for the work in advance.
“When trees are under a Preservation Order, it does not mean that they cannot be pruned or trimmed, or even removed in extreme cases; however, the responsibility lies with the owner to seek permission from Planning Service before undertaking any work. It is important that the DOE clarify whether the correct permissions were sought and given in this case and, if not, that they fully pursue enforcement action otherwise it completely undermines public confidence in the system.”