RESIDENTS have taken to social media to voice their anger over a private school cutting down established trees on its land to make way for a car park.

Yarm School has defended its position, saying many of the trees were diseased, and that more trees will be planted to replace them.

The school said the felling of the trees is a consequence of its plans to develop the preparatory school in Grammar School Lane, by laying a 137 space car park on the adjacent land, known as Ashgrove.

Yarm School headteacher Huw Williams wrote in a letter to local MP Matt Vickers: "This first stage has, understandably, caused some adverse local reaction from the public who are surprised at the sudden change."

He said the car park was planned for a number of reasons, including helping to reduce the number of cars and coaches stopping in The Spital; the enhancement of safety for pupils and staff; reduction of congestion on the senior school site; and a reduction of parking in the area.

He added: "We have worked closely to meet all the exacting standards laid down by the council in terms of ecological surveys, tree management, and replanting schemes. Having removed 49 trees from the site, our replanting scheme includes 54 new 'heavy standard' trees with a minimum height of 4.5m, and 105 native trees as whips."

He said the school was also planting a wildflower meadow and native shrubs.

Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council had also supported the removal of the trees, which included oak, horse chestnut, copper beech, ash and holly.

Dozen of residents have commented in Yarm Facebook pages.

Pippa Wright said: "I think it's appalling that the trees have come down. I'm not against the car park but in the current climate when offsetting carbon footprint is forefront in a lot of businesses' minds, it would be nice to know what they are doing to put this right."

Susan Brittain said: "When I walked past yesterday I felt so sad to the destruction. The new car park will be a blot on the landscape compared to the field that was there."

But Rachel Wilkinson said: "Everyone complains about them parking on the road and should build a car park. They build a car park and everyone complains."

Ward councillor Andrew Sherris said: "This field has, historically, held many memories for generations of Yarm families and there have been significant concerns expressed about the number of trees removed.

"I have had Stockton Arboricultural Officers on site and I have been assured that the protected trees have been safeguarded and that works are in accordance with the plan that was approved. Whilst no replacement for mature trees there will be significant new planting on site.

"I have also had discussions with headteacher Huw Williams who is keen to work with the community to enable the car park to be utilized at times of local events and functions .The school plans to utilize the new car park to enable a safer drop off area for parents and to remove congestion on The Spital.

"In conjunction with this I hope to be able to get restrictions on the road to prevent parking, particularly on the narrower section towards The Pines.

"When the new Yarm centre long stay car park comes into force later in the year there should be adequate space and no need for this sporadic parking seen on some surrounding roads."