On July 11, St Margaret’s Church in Arundel Road, Angmering, was given the go ahead from Arun District Council to cut down 45 western red cedar trees in the churchyard.
John Gibson from The Thatchway, Angmering, objected to the plans, claiming the trees were a haven for voles living in the stream nearby, which also runs through his back garden. He added: “They are a beautiful screen from car pollution and noise, and they must have been there for half a century.
“To take them down I think is absolutely outrageous.”
On May 21, Ian Wieck, chairman of St Margaret’s Building Advisory and Action Group, wrote to Arun advising them they would be chopping down the trees because they were ‘restricting light to our neighbours’, at risk of falling down in high winds and ‘overhanging graves’ – despite Mr Gibson pointing out trees nearby which are growing on top of headstones.
The church then planned to plant ‘a hedge of mixed native English species’, Mr Wieck wrote.
Mr Gibson raised his concerns at a meeting of Angmering Parish Council, where they also decided to object to the proposal.
In an inspection on July 6, Arun’s tree officer Mark Warwick said the ‘potential loss of such a group in a single operation is unfortunate’, but their replacement with a hedge meant ‘there should ultimately be no long-term dimunition of character in the surrounding area’.
After the decision was made, Mr Gibson, a retired senior valuation officer, contacted Natural England and a wildlife crime officer about the decision. On August 2, the Arthur Conan Doyle bibliographer emailed the parish secretary, urging them to save the trees from ‘wanton destruction’, describing them as the ‘lungs of the village’ – but got no further response.
Speaking to the Gazette, he said: “It is not too late until the chainsaws go in – please have second thoughts.”
In response, Chris Harris, operations manager for St Margaret’s Church, said they would be pressing on with felling the 16m-high evergreens ‘soon’, adding: “The trees have only reached half their potential height. If we fell them now, we avoid any future problems.”