A HOME owner at the centre of a dispute over the felling of woodland trees and the installation of a fence has been told he must apply for planning permission for the work within 28 days.

Councillor Anne Hawkesworth (Ind, Ilkley) has been lobbying Bradford Council on behalf of residents living in properties near the piece of woodland in question between Easby Drive and Victoria Avenue, Ilkley, which they say has been 'arbitrarily appropriated' by the new owner of 17 Victoria Avenue.

Contractors working on his behalf felled trees and installed a fence on the land which is classified as an unadopted highway.

Following numerous complaints from residents furious at the "massacre" of the woodland, Bradford Council officers have written to the homeowner informing him he must submit a planning application for change of use of the land from highway to private curtilage. If this has not been done within 28 days that he will be sent a notice to remove the fence.

If the planning permission is applied for and successful he will then have to apply for a formal road closure from the Secretary Of State for Transport to formally close the highway into private curtilage. On both these occasions members of the public will have a right to object. If a road closure was obtained it would be necessary for a footpath to be left in the middle to allow people to walk along the stretch of land.

The move comes as residents organise a petition to be presented to Bradford Council which they say demonstrates the strength of their complaints.

One resident who did not wish to be named said: "When asked why he had not discussed his proposed work with his neighbours before taking action he made it clear that if he had done that the work would never have got done. I am well aware that his actions have provoked real anger amongst a considerable number of residents and not just those adjacent to his 'development'."

Cllr Hawkesworth said she would be following developments with interest. "It is obviously absolutely essential to preserve a safe, adequate route for runners, cyclists, walkers and general use through to Easby Drive. High fences and narrow paths are not conducive to safety," she said.