THE felling of trees by a housing developer has been criticised.

Builder George Wimpey cut down 16 mature trees around the Thorntree Vale site, in Thornaby.

Residents of Millbank Lane have demanded answers from the company and Stockton Borough Council.

Ward councillor Steve Walmsley said the felling had prompted anger among local people.

He said: "There is no need to cut down these huge mature trees, which make the area look more attractive. It looks like someone has gone mad with a chainsaw. We've called it the Thornaby chainsaw massacre."

Stockton Borough Council said yesterday that planning permission had been given to build homes on the site.

A spokesman said: "Implicit in the plans is the felling of some trees. The developer has submitted a landscaping plan, which has not yet been approved, which showed some trees would need to be felled, but many more would be planted in their place.

"We are seriously concerned that the developer has begun the felling without the plan being approved.

"It also appears that some trees on council land, and outside the application site, have been felled without permission."

Ward councillor Ian Dalgarno said the trees came down about four weeks ago, adding: "I think it's shameful that something like this can happen without any residents or ward councillors being informed.

"These trees were planted years ago and were seen as a mature perimeter close to the town centre.

"We need these developers to keep in touch with the local community, otherwise it creates a lot of bad feeling."

The council spokesman said it was seeking "suitable recompense" in the form of additional trees.

He said: "We will also be liasing with the local residents."

Mark Wildin, technical manager for George Wimpey North Yorkshire, said: "The local planning authority has full planning permission for the construction of a new access road and a number of new properties. The approved layout for this particular project clearly showed that there would be no retention of the leylandii trees."