CONTROVERSIAL plans to fell more trees at Christchurch’s historic Druitt Gardens have been scaled back after councillors blasted their own officers’ “unsatisfactory” recommendations.

A heated planning control meeting on Thursday night saw Cllr Peter Hall tell his fellow members that the report, which recommended 15 trees be removed and replaced with just four, contained “misinformation” and ridiculed its “confusing” use of Latin terminology in favour of plain English.

Cllr Hall successfully argued that only six of the trees, which he agreed could pose a hazard, should be felled but that it was wrong for the others to be removed purely on the basis that it would make maintenance easier.

“The rest are fine," he said. "They don’t cause any harm, they won’t affect any children or adults walking along. In my opinion they should be saved.”

Former planning board chairman Cllr David Jones agreed and suggested the officers should have produced a “better, clearer and tidier report”.

“Unfortunately the officer probably is not aware that for historic reasons this is an extremely sensitive site,” he added.

The popular park was gifted to the borough by the late Charlotte Druitt more than 60 years ago on the condition that it be preserved as a bird sanctuary and garden of rest.

Campaigners were left angered in 2014 when a “misunderstanding” between a developer and council officials led to a number of protected trees being damaged during an archaeological dig, before later being felled.

Retired geologist and long-time advocate for the beauty spot Peter Fenning, who claimed it was only necessary to remove five of the 15 trees on safety grounds, said: “We are dealing with a nature reserve with a degree of untidiness and informality, and unless trees are a major threat to public safety, my view is that the irregularity should be tolerated if the dead and dying trees are an essential food source and shelter.

“Please recall how eight years ago we lost our pair of green woodpeckers which nested for years in Druitt Gardens.

“They were lost because their nesting tree was felled as a safety precaution. They have not returned.”

After councillors agreed that just six of the 15 trees should be removed, an informative note was included to ensure that all would be replaced.

Arguing this point, Cllr Trevor Watts said officers must report back that the replacement trees had in fact been planted.

“So rather than just leave it to a wing and a prayer and to the pixies – let’s make sure we actually get six trees planted sooner rather than later,” he said.

Work on the trees is expected to be undertaken in early autumn.