HAMPSHIRE’S leader has defended the controversial decision to fell trees being used as a roost by starlings.

The trees outside Winchester Fire Station, in Easton Lane, Winnall, were felled last month following complaints that the birds were defecating on emergency vehicles and that they were a risk to staff “health and safety.”

The decision sparked anger from many residents and conservation groups who say the move has impacted the starling who have been seen putting on spectacular aerial displays in the skies over Winchester.

Now, Hampshire County Council leader councillor Roy Perry has defended the decision.

Cllr Perry said: “The county council had in fact been contacted by the fire service following their concerns about roosting starlings and their impact on operational vehicles responding to incidents, as well as the health and safety of staff.

“A range of options were presented to the fire service who decided that the removal of the trees was the most effective solution to meet their requirements. Therefore, the work was carried out, and far ahead of the nesting season.

READ:Fury as Winchester Fire Station trees – used by city's much-loved starlings – cut down due to bird poo >>>

CHRONICLE COMMENT: 'Health and safety' – the beloved excuse of unaccountable bureaucrats everywhere >>>

“We understand the starlings remain in the area, and continue to roost in nearby trees.”

The Chronicle has requested information regarding the cost of the felling work and the other options that were presented under the Freedom of Information Act.

Previously, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service’s (HFRS) facilities manager Matt Robertson said the trees were removed “due to the impact they were having on operational vehicles and the health and safety of staff”. However Cllr Perry has now revealed the trees were due to cut down anyway.

Cllr Perry said: “The trees were also scheduled to be removed at the request of the fire service as the roots were threatening structural damage to a retaining wall and adjacent building at the site.

“The trees were not in a conservation area and were not subject to tree protection orders, so no formal permission was needed to carry out the work.”

HFRS has been approached for comment.