A PETITION calling for the replanting of 200 trees that were illegally felled near Blackwood’s Pen-y-fan pond has achieved more than 1,000 signatures.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has launched an investigation into who is responsible for chopping the trees down.

The incident was brought to their attention at the designated nature conservation site after a number of ancient hedgerow beech trees had been chopped down over a six week period around Christmas.

The trees were removed to make way for a proposed solar farm, and campaigners want to see the trees reseeded at the site before the development continues.

Samantha Hicks, who created the petition with her husband Matt, has confirmed she has spoken to the company behind the development – Gildemeister Energy Solutions – and they are not responsible for the felling.

““I live less than a mile from the trees and I remember walking near there around the pond on December 29,” said Mrs Hicks.

“They were using machinery that day and I can remembering hearing the crack of the trees before they fell. You can see the damage, it looks like a war zone and just thinking about it makes me want to cry.”

June Morgan, of Manmoel, said: “I am mystified why the council haven’t already taken action or released a statement outlining their position to this serious planning breach.

“It’s changing the whole area from rural to commercial and will be the final straw for many in the area.

“We are all disappointed. There were 17 conditions in the plans to protect the trees and ensure that the pond would be visually protected by the trees but that has now changed.

“It’s alright them saying they will do a replanting but it’s not that simple.

“These trees were irreplaceable,” she added.

Jim Hepburn, the regulatory woodland officer at NRW said: “This is a devastating case which will have a terrible impact on the local environment and no doubt be very upsetting for local people.

”These trees would have been around 150 to 200 years old and would have provided valuable habitat for wildlife.

“We continue to investigate how this felling has happening, and will take the necessary action against those responsible,” added Mr Hepburn.

Previously, the NRW has stated that a licence would be required from the organisation to cut down a quantity of trees that were removed from the pond area, but an investigation has found that no such licence had been sanctioned.

A Caerphilly council spokesman said: “This unfortunate incident is being investigated by Natural Resources Wales, but the council has been in discussions with the developers regarding the significant loss of trees at the site and they have been advised we will be seeking significant replanting.

“The developers are now drawing up a replacement planting scheme for submission and consideration.”

The company developing the solar farm – Gildemeister Energy Solutions – were contacted for a comment.

To sign the petition, visit change.org/p/delay-solar-farm-development-until-illegally-felled-trees-are-replanted?source_location=minibar.