Residents have expressed dismay after a line of trees in Otley were chopped down by a green site being eyed by developers.

Local householder Alison Watson and her neighbours were shocked to find some eight mature trees, and an “ancient hedge line”, gone from the side of East Busk Lane last weekend.

The adjacent field was the subject of a recent, unsuccessful outline application to build 28 new houses – a move seen by many as signalling the first stage of the much larger ‘east of Otley’ development.

Just last month Leeds City Council, at the request of Councillor Colin Campbell (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon), had issued a new tree preservation order to protect a number of trees in the area.

But none of the removed trees were covered.

Alison said: “We were shocked to see this run of hedge and mature trees being ripped out on Saturday morning.

“They were full of wildlife – wren, owls and thrush nest there, as well as many other songbirds.

“The lane in this area was also a favourite place for bats.

“We are aware that planning permission had been sought for the field next to the road but this was turned down in December, so it is unclear why the landowner felt it necessary to do this”

Coun Campbell (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon) is equally puzzled, and has asked for an investigation.

He said: “I understand that planning permission for a housing development on the field has recently been refused, so I can see no reason why the hedge and trees on this narrow country lane had to be removed.

“When I heard over the weekend that the works were taking place I asked council officers to investigate and see what action can be taken.”

Town and ward councillors opposed the East Busk Lane scheme, claiming it would generate traffic problems and have a negative impact. They are also calling for previously developed – brownfield – sites to be used first for housing before greenfield plots are considered.