THREATENED trees on the edge of the East of Otley site have been given a stay of execution amid fears they were to be chopped down this week.

Campaigners launched immediate action on Tuesday to save the 16 crack willow trees off Lisker Drive, fringing the fields at the edge of the Cambridge Estate.

They had been told the trees were to be felled by contractors working for Persimmon, one of the consortium of developers who own the East of Otley fields. They say the reason given was ‘Health and Safety concerns’.

The East of Otley Action Group urged local people to make their feelings know to Leeds City Council and to Persimmon. By the end of the day it was confirmed that the trees were safe for now.

A spokesperson for the group said: " The Ward Councillors, Mick Bradley (the Danefield town councillor), ODD, Otley 2030, Wildlife Friendly Otley and many other people worked hard all day to communicate with the planners and to spread the word, and by lunchtime large numbers of people were aware of what was about to happen, and making their feelings known."

She said the overwhelming majority of people were outraged by the "flimsy excuse to needlessly desecrate beautiful trees and destroy the homes of birds just as the nesting season gets underway".

The spokesperson added: ‘The threat to destroy trees during the nesting season, alongside the news that the developers are planning to increase the density of housing from the original 550 to over 700, does not inspire us with confidence that they are respecting the wishes of the people of Otley or the precious biodiversity of this site. And all this before the planning application has even been published, let alone been given permission to go ahead."

Otley and Yeadon councillor Colin Campbell sent specific questions to the planning department in Leeds, asking if the council had seen the report which said the trees were unsafe, and questioning the legality of felling trees during the nesting season.

He was told the land was owned by persimmon and so they had a right to fell trees upon their land without any permission required.

He was also told that whilst it is a crime to disturb nesting birds, there is an exception where works are required to be carried out where there is a clear health and safety concern.

The planning department also told Cllr Campbell that Persimmon had said they would pause their plans to fell the trees for the short term.

Cllr Campbell stressed: " I strongly object to the felling of healthy trees and am concerned that this is just the first stage of wider tree clearance associated with the East of Otley development. Felling will destroy an important wildlife area home to at least two species of owl and a number of small mammals. Developers should not engage in environmental vandalism at this important site.

A spokesperson for Persimmon Homes West Yorkshire, said: “We wish to reassure local residents that there is no immediate plan to remove the trees on our land in Otley.

“An independent tree survey identified a number of trees that were dead or dying and therefore potentially a risk to public safety. None of these trees are subject to a tree preservation order.

“We are liaising with Leeds City Council to confirm the schedule of work for the trees and will continue to monitor the situation.”