AN INVESTIGATION is under way after several trees in an ancient woodland have been chopped down.
Havant Borough Council and the police are looking into reports of trees at Stoke Common, Hayling Island, being felled.
The woodland, which is thought to be home to bats, has a blanket Tree Preservation Order and it is a criminal offence to fell or damage any protected tree.
The beauty spot, off Havant Road, hit the headlines two years ago when residents helped to raise £30,000 to aid Hampshire County Council’s bid to buy the land and keep it as a wildlife oasis.
But a mystery buyer outbid residents by snapping up the land for £120,000.
Paul Fisher, chairman of Hayling Island Residents’ Association, said: ‘There’s a lot of concern. It’s an important bit of natural woodland and salt marsh.’
The agent for the landowner Kevin Field, from Hayling Island, said some trespassers appeared to have entered the private land and felled trees.
He said some maintenance work was being carried out on trees, but this was in accordance with guidelines set by the arboriculturist at Havant Borough Council.
Mr Field said: ‘Everything is in accordance with the arrangements now reached between the tree preservation officer and ourselves.
‘There are going to be works carried out with trees that are dangerous and now encroach on the highway.
‘That would be in the future. There will be one or two assessments that need to take place.’
He said there were no plans to develop the site.
Mr Field said: ‘It was bought as a speculation. He’s an entrepreneur from the north of the country and he buys parcels of land all over the place.
‘It’s not something for the island to worry about. The woods will always be the woods.’
Havant Borough Council’s arboriculturist was not available for comment yesterday, but officials said they were investigating.
Hayling Cllr Andy Lenaghan said police were stepping up patrols.
He said: ‘It’s a serious offence to fell a tree with a TPO. It’s a wildlife habitat and it needs to be preserved for years to come.’