“A TOTAL destruction of wonderful trees and a wildlife sanctuary.”

That’s how residents have described the scene, with one claiming the council cut down 15 or 20 willow trees outside his house on the bank of the River Anton.

Residents of South Street, including Robert Dunn and Rose Baker, have united to express their displeasure at the council coppicing the willows opposite their back garden.

They say the “established” trees along the banks of the river were a magnet for wildlife and “weren’t in anybody’s trouble”.

The willows, Robert says, made the scene idyllic and blocked out the view of the Asda car park on the other side of the Anton.

“I’m furious because we had such a lovely place. We sit at the bottoms of our gardens, and prior to Asda being built it was just trees and scrubland.

“When the willows came up it got to a situation where it covered most of it up which we could live with, it was rather nice.”

However, he says that council workers took to the banks to cut down the trees, while also removing them from an island that he has looked after.

“Then to wake up one day and hear chainsaws going off and see a couple of guys going gung-ho through there, it was devastating.

“It’s absolutely unbelievable how they can go down there and they can coppice young willows, they were just wonderful down there. The bird life, the otters, there’s nothing there for them now,” he told the Advertiser.

“There’s nowhere for the kingfisher that used to go on the willow for fishing, he can’t go there anymore, it’s a nightmare.”

As well as otters and kingfishers, there are ducks, pigeons and others that call the river home.

Robert says the council’s decision is even more “ludicrous” in the face of the climate crisis - where scientists are urging people to plant more trees.

Head of community and leisure at Test Valley Borough Council, Dave Tasker, said: “We are keen to ensure the safety and longevity of our trees, and this work will help to do exactly that in addition to provide conservation benefits for lower level stable habitat along the river banks.”

“Earlier this year we hand delivered letters to nearby properties to let them know that we would be coppicing the Willow trees to allow them to regenerate from lower down. This encourages them to regrow from ground level and helps ensure people will be able to enjoy them for years to come.”