A COSTLY tree preservation survey, conducted by Hart Council, has been slammed as a waste of money and paper.

Three firms of consultants were hired, at a total cost of £22,500, to carry out the inspection in the Zebon Copse area of Church Crookham.

They spent 18 months compiling a 33-page report which details all those trees which the experts feel should be preserved.

The trees even include those in front and back gardens planted since the estate was built only a few years ago.

Copies of the weighty document were recently delivered by hand to more than 4,500 homes affected by the preservation orders.

According to one recipient, Mrs Sue Vincent, the survey has incensed many of her neighbours.

In an e-mail to the council, she says: "I find it astounding that a council which allowed the razoring of trees that were here prior to the building of this development, now has the nerve to place preservation orders on trees that were mainly procured, planted and cared for by the residents."

The document referred to three trees which she and her husband, Mark, had planted at their home in Silvester Way. "If the council wishes to place preservation orders on them, then perhaps it would like to adopt them," she says.

In a final blast Mrs Vincent adds: "I have chosen to send this message electronically as I believe in wasting as little paper, and therefore trees, as possible."

Ian Phillips, council landscape and planning manager, said the survey had been carried out in accordance with new Government guidelines.The aim is to replace old records with an up-to-date picture of trees which should be preserved.On the question of trees in gardens of houses, he said: "A lot of people believe that, because they planted the tree, it shouldn't have a preservation order put on it.

"But these are the trees which need preserving most. After all a tree has to be planted by someone, wherever it is situated."Mr Phillips said it was impossible to calculate exactly how much the survey had cost. "It was a huge and expensive logistical exercise which involved a great deal of officer time," he said.

He regretted that the survey had led to the use of so much paper, but the council was legally required to serve a copy of a preservation order on each affected property.About 300 people - 10 per cent of those surveyed - have contacted the council with objections and comments relating to around 500 trees.

* Editor Alan Franklin comments: What an incredible misuse of your money, Hart taxpayers! People plant trees because they like them. The trees do not need squads of Hart wasters to protect them. The true amount squandered on telling people what branches they can cut off their own trees would be staggering, if known. This council needs pruning - root and branch.