A war of words has erupted over the cutting back of a stand of trees in Hillsborough.
Residents have claimed that nests were disturbed and eggs damaged during the pruning of three large trees at Governors Gate in May.
But the developer, and the tree surgeon who carried out the work on their behalf, have rubbished the claims.
The residents claimed that they had previously warned of considerable bird activity around the trees, which, they said, contained nests with eggs and fledglings in them.
“On May 8 I noticed the works were largely complete and the magpies’ nest was still in place at the top of one of the trees,” said one man.
He claimed that, shortly after this, neighbours saw nests disturbed by the work.
The man said the matter was reported to Crimestoppers and The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
The RSPB said it was aware of the disturbance, but didn’t have any enforcement powers.
A spokesperson for Heritage Developers said the trees were monitored for wildlife activity and, while parent birds were observed in the area, they were satisfied that no harm had been done to the birds.
“The trees were monitored for wildlife activity,” she said. “When the works were underway, a live nest was located.
“The nest was carefully set to the side and replaced when the works were complete.
“By next morning the parent birds were observed back at the nest. Although, not present on the day of the work, Angela Thompson, director of HD, did observe the parent birds at the nest on a number of occasions and was satisfied no harm had been done to the birds.”
In a statement released via his solicitor, Bridgeen Engelen, the tree surgeon said: “We take great care and pride in the fact that we are working alongside nature, and always do our utmost to preserve and protect all nature and wildlife that we come across.
“Tree owners and managers have a duty of care, and as such are required by both Common and Statute law to ensure their trees are in a reasonably safe condition and do not pose an unacceptable level of risk to visitors to the site or neighbours of the land on which trees are situated.
“I feel that given the situation we have not intentionally destroyed a nesting bird. I also feel that we have acted in a reasonable and responsible fashion in trying to protect the nest as best as possible.”
Ms Engelen added: “Our client has acted in a very reasonable manner and followed all protocols and procedures that are required of him.
“Our client has also confirmed that the RSPB were satisfied that procedures were followed and felt that no further action was required.”