A CRISIS meeting was due to take place today after nearly 200 trees protected by preservation orders were felled next to an exclusive private Sarisbury estate.

Now Fareham council's executive leader Councillor Sean Woodward has called for an inquiry to find out how the felling was allowed to go ahead without any opportunity to object.

The Forestry Commission's woodland officer Hugh Milner will meet Fareham council's planning enforcement officer and the landowner to assess whether any of the trees were illegally chopped down.

Cllr Woodward, who represents the Sarisbury ward, said he was astonished to see the trees being felled when he personally had asked for the preservation orders to be put on them 11 years ago.

Contractors started chopping down the sycamore and sweet chestnut trees in Down Kiln Copse bordering Sarisbury Court on Monday.

They also tipped brick rubble on the site as they carried out the work.

Some of the trees were yesterday burnt at the copse in huge bonfires prompting safety fears.

Eight households living nearby have complained to the council about the devastation before them.

"There is a strong woodland ambience here which is an integral part of Sarisbury Court," said Cllr Woodward.

"It is as if the heart has been ripped out of the area. You can see why people are so upset. They suspect the trees might have been cut to make way for new homes."

The Forestry commission issued a felling licence to the landowner after consulting the council in March.

However, Cllr Woodward yesterday learnt the terms of the felling licence was not passed on to councillors to raise any objections.

"I have not seen the terms of the felling licence but in March this year it seems the Forestry Commission sent a felling licence consultation but officers raised no objection.

"If someone wants to remove one branch from a tree with a preservation order they have to go to the planning committee.

"Here with 200 trees we did not hear a single thing."

Forestry Commission spokesman Charlton Clarke confirmed that the council agreed with its decision to issue a felling licence.

He said: "The Forestry Commission has noted local concern in this case and is checking that the conditions of the felling licence are being observed.

"The licence permits the thinning of woodland by removing non-native species and removing some trees that are close to the road."

The landowner refused to comment.