THREE of the oldest trees in Middleton are threatened, nearby residents fear.
Angry homeowners worry the development of a proposed care home will damage the two protected ash and one maple tree.
Frontier Estates is set to seek planning approval for the 66-bedroom end of life dementia care home at the site off Silver Birch Drive.
But those who live around the site believe using the road to access the home will kill the trees in spite of the tree preservation order (TPO) which protects them.
The ash trees are more than 60 years old and form part of an ancient hedgerow and right of way, which remains a well used public footpath.
Louise Alger, of Silver Birch Drive, claimed all the trees covered by preservation orders would be destroyed if the home was reached from the road because it would be impossible to access the land through the proposed route.
“We would like answers as to how these trees can be protected if access is through Silver Birch Drive. From where we are standing, it is physically impossible.
“The protected trees will definitely be destroyed,” she said, “as they and their roots will not be able to withstand the high volume of traffic from the home.
“There will be numerous cars from visitors, ambulances, delivery lorries, laundry vans and more.
“There has never been any access for cars, let alone commercial traffic through the proposed route. Even the slightest branch removal can damage the health of trees or even kill them.”
The latest fight by residents for the trees follows their initial campaign in late 2016. They objected to plans for 13 houses on the West Sussex County Council-owned land and is a former poultry farm.
Arun District Council approved the housing but it has never been built.
As reported, Frontier Estates held a public exhibition last month about its proposals. The company expects to submit formal plans this autumn for Arun to decide.
Mrs Alger said: “A tree preservation order should mean exactly that – that the trees and their roots are safe from all developers for future generation to enjoy as the name suggests. Does preservation not mean keep?
“If the trees are able to be completely preserved, as may be the case here, then clearly TPOs mean nothing.”
Specialist independent tree reports have been commissioned by Mrs Alger from an expert, which gave them a clean bill of health, to ensure the specimens cannot be claimed to be diseased.
“The most upsetting thing here is that we are destroying our environment,” she said. “There are many benefits of having established trees within the landscape, including absorbing rainfall and reducing flood risk.”
It would not be enough to plant new trees to make up for the ones being removed because the landscape would be changed forever, she added.
Frontier Estates’ director Matt Croger said at the exhibition he was well aware of the importance of the trees. All those which were protected would be kept.