IT WAS their worst fear – and now residents living next to land where 500 trees were illegally felled face the threat of the site being occupied by travellers.

As previously reported in The Gazette, residents of Sherfield Park were concerned that the trees had been chopped down in Dixon Road to pave the way for a traveller camp.

Their fears could now become a reality after an application was submitted to Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, asking to change the use of the land to site three gypsy pitches along with hard-standing and ancillary utility/dayrooms.

The application was submitted last week by Green Planning Studio, on behalf of Boysie Biddle, of Justin Park, Leicestershire, who is one of owners of the land.

Mr Biddle, along with the other registered owners, John and Sammy Smith, of Almond Close, Farnborough, and James Tombs, of Forest Farm, Tadley, were issued with a court injunction to prevent them from carrying out any further unlicensed work on the land, after the trees were unlawfully felled and burned.

The landowners were also ordered to return the land to its original condition by the Forestry Commission. The “restocking notice” requires the trees to be planted by June 30, 2015.

Chineham borough councillor Elaine Still said she has concerns about access to the site. She has also persuaded borough council officers to agree for the deadline for comments to be made on the application to be extended until September 26, to take into account that many people could be away on holiday.

Cllr Still said: “Over 500 trees have been felled without a licence, the Forestry Commission has a restocking notice and now this application has come in. One minute we have a restocking order, and I don’t know how an application can go in when that’s outstanding.”

Basingstoke MP Maria Miller said she has been working with residents since June to use the force of the law to hold the new owners, who bought the land in April for £60,000, to account.

She added: “I am deeply concerned about the planning application that has been lodged for the site at Dixon Road, proposing a change of use for siting caravans for residential purposes.

“The Dixon Road site is not designed for residential use in the Local Plan and has, according to reports from the Forestry Commission, been subject to extensive environmental destruction by the new owners. It would be an outrage if the legal system were to allow the new owners to benefit from this unlawful activity.”