An act of environmental sabotage has taken place at a site in Morpeth.
It concerns the poisoning of eight mature lime trees alongside the approach road to the Saint George development in the north of the town, which has been reported to Northumbria Police.
Problems were spotted late in the autumn and so developer Galliford Try Partnerships North East, which is building the hundreds of new homes for its Linden Homes brand, called in arboricultural specialists to carry out a detailed assessment.
These consultants have carried out detailed research at the site in Easter Field Court and reported that the trees – which are estimated to be around 100 years old but not subject to any tree preservation orders – cannot be saved and will die.
They also believe that whoever carried out the poisoning would have had to make multiple visits and given the number of people in the vicinity of the site during daytime, probably operated at night.
Sara Holmes, development director with Galliford Try Partnerships North East, said: “We were shocked by what we discovered.
“These are beautiful specimens, which really help create a majestic woodland feel at the entrance of the development.
“They were specifically singled out for retention when we took possession of the site and they will be a great loss.
“It’s extremely sad that someone would do this. We’ve reported the matter to the police and we will assist in any way we can to identify the culprits.
“We have also advised Morpeth Town Council and are liaising with Northumberland County Council about the next steps.”
This will involve the felling of the limes and replacing them with smaller – though heavy standard – specimens between the felled trees, before the growing season begins.
All of this work will be at the expense of the developer.
Anyone with information about the poisoning should call police on 101, quoting reference number 438 of 13/12/16.