MORE than 800 people have signed a petition to protect a border of trees alongside the former Terry's factory site in York.

Local resident Tina Fowler says she launched the campaign after being told the trees in Bishopthorpe Road were at risk of being felled during construction of new housing. She said she had been overwhelmed by the passionate support she had received from local residents.

But developers say they will retain as many trees as possible, while planning chiefs say there is a commitment under outline planning consent to retain a belt of tree cover along the road.

Mrs Fowler claimed she only bought her flat opposite the ex-chocolate factory because she checked out plans and saw they stated clearly that ‘vegetation’ along the site boundary was to be retained.

But she said that after a conifer was felled, she visit the site and was told by a site agent that all trees would be felled during subsequent phases of development, and the developers were free to do what they wanted with the vegetation.

She said that while she fully appreciated new housing was required and such a brownfield site offered an ideal building plot, there seemed to be a general disregard for original plans for the land.

Peter Morris, development director for David Wilson Homes, said its plans would see the retention of as many trees as possible, and more than envisaged in outline planning consent. "This includes retaining most of the trees along Bishopthorpe Road," he said.

“We are currently in the process of reviewing our plans for the remainder of the site and, as we have done to date, we will continue to liaise via the neighbours’ community forum as we put our plans together.”

He added that the company had always wanted a good balance of green space, communal areas and new homes, and the retention of trees wherever possible - and the planting of new trees - was integral to this.

Mike Slater, the council's assistant director of city & environmental services, said all tree removal to date had been authorised under previous planning permissions and the majority of remaining trees were subject to a Tree Preservation Order (TPO).

"The impact of any further development on the trees would be given significant weight in determining any future planning application," he said.

He said the effect of any TPO was overridden by any permission involving the removal of protected trees but no planning application had been submitted for the remainder of the site to date. "Clearly when any future application is determined, residents' comments will be considered as is normal practise.”