Tree felling by contractors at a mobile homes site in South East Cornwall led to dozens of residents, many elderly, staging a protest to which police were called.

The Cornish Times was contacted by a concerned resident of the St Dominic Park site, near Harrowbarrow, while the tree-felling work was under way.

Another resident of the park, writing on social media, said there had been a “speedy massacre of swathes of a wide and once beautiful area of long-standing greenery, hacked and chain-sawed” and this had been “mindless.. vandalism”.

This resident also claimed that “more than forty residents, including those in their wheelchairs, assembled… to delay the felling of dozens of trees”. Some residents believed the felling was to make way for new homes, but the owner of the park has denied this.

The social media post also claimed that there had been conflict between the protesters and the contractor and that the work that they were undertaking was illegal, but police later said that no licence had been required to fell the trees. The writer added that the trees had been mature specimens, some around 70ft tall.

Last week’s incident was the latest in a long-running saga of issues between residents and various owners of St Dominic Park over the years. The site has been in existence for some 50 to 60 years and in May 2019, shortly after the purchase of the park by current owners, Wyldecrest Parks (Management) Ltd of Essex, the St Dominic Park Residents’ Association expressed concerns at an application made to Cornwall Council covering the whole park.

The residents, led by pensioner Tony Turner, feared that this application was a precursor to the expansion of the site from the current 80 homes to between 100 and 130 homes.

The Residents’ Association said that if these rumoured plans came about then they would see the disappearance of around 90% of the green spaces within the site and the removal of old trees, including oaks, with a resultant impact on wildlife. Roaming deer, woodpeckers, herons, squirrels, hawks and hedgehogs were among the species named as likely to be affected.

The Association also claimed that the rumoured expansion plans would “demolish the rural amenity that is currently enjoyed by the home-owners, most of whom downsized to enjoy the peace and quiet of their rural community”, as well as adding to the traffic in narrow lanes already well-used by visitors heading to the National Trust’s Cotehele House.

In response to these claims, Wyldecrest chairman Alfie Best denied that the application to Cornwall Council was concerned with development. Instead he said that it was an application for a Lawful Use Certificate to confirm the correct boundaries of St Dominic Park and added “we are looking to improve the park for the benefit of residents and to improve the value of their homes. We are doing what we can to build good relationships with residents”.

Speaking to the Cornish Times about last week’s incident, Mr Best said that the residents were concerned unnecessarily, partly due to certain members of the park community awakening fears of plans that did not exist. He added that the company had “in excess of 80 plots” so had no need to clear land for development as those leading the protest at the site had claimed.

Mr Best said that the two contractors who had been working on the trees at St Dominic Park were ones regularly tasked with maintenance duties at the site and had been dealing with trees that were unhealthy, growing too close together and were next to a treatment plant.

He added that Wyldecrest had more than a million trees on its sites nationwide and regularly had contractors looking after the safety and health of these woodland areas with branch cutting and felling.

Mr Best added that it was probably Wyldecrest’s contractors who had asked the police to attend as some of the concerned residents had got behind the safety barriers put in place while the tree surgery work was under way.

Launceston Sector Police Inspector Dan Harvey confirmed that officers had attended last week’s incident at St Dominic Park but said: “Whilst a number of people objected to the tree cutting, I understand the landowner was within his rights to take the action they did. No bats’ nests were evident, nor was a licence required to fell trees. The incident was peaceful but did number approximately 20 to 30 persons making their feelings known to the landowner’s agents.”