HUNDREDS of trees have been cut down in a rural part of the Valley after fears they had become unsafe.

The conifers along Burnley Road East, in Water, some believed to be 80 years old, have been taken down to ensure the safety of motorists entering and leaving Clough Bottom.

They lined a 1km section of land owned by United Utilities, but ward councillor Jim Pilling said consultation between the water firm and local residents had been neglected.

He said: “I’ve had a lot of complaints from residents who have driven up this road for 40 years and to see something so shocking is not nice for them.

“Nobody can argue with the motives of United Utilities because they are the experts, and safety has to come first.

“However, it’s a real shock to the system when you see the number of trees which have been taken down, and they should have got the people on board before the operation.

“But I have been reassured that though it looks like a bomb site now, it will improve with new trees very soon.”

The scheme, to prevent the trees falling into roads during heavy winds, will see native broadleaf species, such as oak, hawthorn, willow, and ash, planted in the barren land.

Matt Taylor, woodland officer for United Utilities, said: “Research indicates that the severity and frequency of the winds hitting the region is set to increase in future years, as a consequence of global warning, so schemes like these, which think ahead, will become more and more important.

“This scheme will ensure the safety of motorists during storms.

"The old conifers have shallow roots and are more likely to be blown over during heavy buffeting.

"Replacing them with native trees will protect public safety, boost biodiversity and improve the overall appearance of these sites.”

Timber from the felled conifers will be used in environmentally-sustainable programmes, including wood chip-fuelled power stations.