Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Saturday, 29 March 2008

30,000 fine call as trees felled

(L-R) Jim Wells and Patrick Cregg
About 50 trees were chopped down at Myrtle Lodge

An assembly member has called for 30,000 fines to be imposed for the destruction of protected trees.

Jim Wells of the DUP was speaking after about 50 trees were felled on a private estate on the outskirts of Newcastle in County Down.

Mr Wells said he was disgusted by what happened at Myrtle Lodge.

"I am very, very angry and so are all the surrounding residents. Bit by bit Newcastle is being destroyed by this type of activity," he said.

"We need to make an example of this particluar incident to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Patrick Cregg from the Woodland Trust said: "We're just absolutely appalled that yet again some more native trees have been destroyed.

"The legislation is very, very strong, but unfortunately when it comes to enforcement, there doesn't seem to be the willingness or ability of anybody to actually enforce those protection orders."

A DOE spokesperson said: "Planning Service can confirm that investigations into a possible breach of planning control in the Bryansford area of Newcastle are ongoing, however, we cannot comment on the details of the investigation at this stage."

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