Councillors have expressed outrage over plans to allow a developer that felled a tree illegally to build in a conservation area.

The proposals involve building five family homes on the site of a former car park in Chapel Street, with four parking spaces provided on an area of green land – or ‘greensward’ – that is currently owned by the council.

At a meeting of the planning committee last night (Wednesday, July 11), councillors reacted angrily to the plans as it emerged the developer had already felled a tree without the council’s consent.

Cllr Mike Rye, Conservative councillor for Town ward, raised doubts about whether the developer could be trusted to honour its commitments on parking and the re-provision of trees.

He said: “Given this developer’s flagrant disregard for the law in removing a tree that should not have been removed, what confidence can we have that this developer would not just leave the trees, ignore the greensward by taking over without the council’s permission or not provide the allocated parking?”

The site lies within the Enfield Town conservation area, and the council’s report said the sweet chestnut tree “would have been worthy of a tree preservation order”.

Officers told Cllr Rye that planning permission can be determined regardless of who owns a piece of land, and that the outcome of the application would be subject to a legal agreement between the council and developer.

But Cllr Rye said the issue was different in this case because it involved land under the council’s ownership, and the council determines planning permission.

He said: “I want to know the council’s position on the greensward before we determine the application, otherwise the application should be deferred or withdrawn.

“Frankly, this is outrageous behaviour by the council.”

Cllr Rye added that if the council decided not to sell the land, the developer should come back with an amended application dealing with the issue of parking.

But Labour member for Haselbury Cllr George Savva said the provision of affordable housing should take priority.

He said: “We are not going to go round to developers saying ‘we do not trust you, we are not going to give you planning’. We are talking about affordable housing we need to introduce in Enfield.”

The issue of trees being felled by developers was raised last month by residents’ group Save Enfield Trees after the felling of a centuries-old oak near Oakwood Park.

The plan for the car park on Chapel Street received five objections following a consultation with people living in 58 nearby properties.

But further controversy emerged when a group of residents present at the meeting said they had not received letters and had been unable to voice their objections.

A petition against the development signed by 28 people raised concerns over a loss of privacy and green space, as well as the unauthorised tree felling.

Officers said the council’s electronic records showed the letters had been sent out.

Despite the objections, the development was approved by a narrow margin, with six councillors voting in favour and five against.