ANCIENT woodland will be chopped down to make way for a new housing development, if plans go ahead. 

The Englefield Estate wants to build 100 homes on Burghfield Common, on the land north of Dauntless Road and south of Pondhouse Farm. 

The 4.24 hectare site is in between two ancient woodlands: Clayhill Copse and Pondhouse Copse. Ancient woodland means it has existed for at least 400 years. 

Although not all of the copses are ancient, much of the trees there are. And some of this woodland will be chopped down, according to the plans. 

The woodland will be chopped down to make way for a footpath and cycle path, which will be built between the site and Coltsfoot Close, to the south-west. 

Outline permission for the plans could be given to the estate on September 18, depending on how councillors vote on the planning committee at West Berkshire Council. 

In a report to that committee, Michael Butler, principal planning officer, said: “It is clear that this application, if approved, [will cause] some degree of harm to the local area. 

“This visual harm is outweighed, however, by the need for additional housing.”

The footpath that will run through the ancient woodland was originally taken off the plans by the Englefield Estate. But the council’s policy requires developments to have footpaths and cycle paths. 

Mr Butler said: “In order to address concerns from some local residents, the proposed link was originally removed from the plans. This has, of course, since been amended at the request of officers.

“The minimal loss of this section of woodland is outweighed by the substantial future public benefit of allowing easy access.” 

Of the 100 homes, 40 will be affordable, and of these, 28 will be social rent and 12 will be shared equity. 

The Englefield Estate is owned by the Benyon family, of which Richard is the MP for Newbury. 

The application has received many public objections. One of these is from Louise Marshall, who lives near the site. 

Ms Marshall said: “I am extremely concerned about the effect on wildlife and the natural lay of the land at Pondhouse Farm, the drainage, and the rare and wonderful wildlife that live in the trees on this land. 

“There are bats within our ancient trees surrounding this land and I am concerned that the building work will distress these protected animals.”

A spokeswoman for the Englefield Estate said: "As a result of recent revisions to the ancient woodland designation by Natural England, the proposed footpath and cycleway now runs through approximately 10 metres of the amended ancient woodland designation.

"Although there may be a requirement for a small number of shrubs and low lying bushes to be removed to accommodate the path, no trees are proposed for removal and no overall impact on the ancient woodland is anticipated. There is a buffer zone of at least 15 metres between the ancient woodland and the proposed new homes, in line with planning policy requirements."

Article edited on September 13 at 12:17 to include statement from Englefield Estate and change 'trees' to 'woodland'.