VILLAGERS have convinced councillors to overturn a controversial tree protection order on saplings planted close to a children’s playground.

Residents in Mellor also accused a former parish council chairman of bad conduct around the project.

They also allege police, parish and borough council resources were wasted because of Nick Marsden’s ‘crusade’ to plant and keep the trees on land near St Mary’s Church.

Around £12,000 was spent by the parish council on draining the land and a borough countryside officer was involved with tree protection tasks, it was said.

The Mellor trees were understood by some to be part of the Queen’s Green Canopy jubilee scheme. But, in reality, ex-parish chairman envisaged the trees as a personal legacy to his own tenure, objectors told Ribble Valley Council’s planning committee.

Objectors also accused Mr Marsden of spreading false ‘rumours’ about threats of deliberate damage to them. Any tree damage was innocent through children simply playing, objectors said.

But Mr Marsden defended his work and wanted to make the tree protection order permanent.

The trees are understood to be part of a bequest by Elma Yerburgh, a member of the Thwaites brewing family.

Resident Mel Ball told planners: “The trees and changing the use of the field from a playing area next to the park began long before the late Queen’s platinum jubilee. The idea was only borne as being part of the Queen’s Green Canopy in late 2021. It was a notion the-then chairman, Mr Marsden, wanted to leave as a legacy of his time on Mellor Parish Council, I understand.”

“Without any real thought or planning, the trees were quickly ordered and planted with a grant that wasn’t connected with the Queen’s Green Canopy but with one to enhance villages.”

The committee heard a child had pulled branches off a protected tree to create a Harry Potter style ‘wizard wand’ and parents later received a police visit. And since then, youngsters had allegedly been ‘scared’ to play on the field.

Jennifer Proctor, a new parish councillor, confirmed the authority had paid £12,000 to drain the field before the trees were planted. She accused Mr Marsden, who has resigned from the parish council, of ‘stirring up’ the village on the issue.

Parish councillors have since voted to relocate the trees but cannot until the preservation order is rescinded.

Mr Marsden said the comments made were ‘disgusting’ and spoke about the benefits of trees and improving the environment.

Cllr Robin Walsh, a Mellor borough councillor, said: “The seven trees are native species and were genuinely intended as a fitting tribute to the late Queen. However, after Covid planning was rushed and issues have caused friction.

“These include tree planting, drainage expenditure, the loss of a children’s play area and use of land passed to the village. It feels the trees have been weaponised between different people. And the tree protection order added to the issues.”

Borough planners agreed to remove the tree protection order.