ANGRY villagers have slammed the Catholic Church for breaching planning law in Lochwinnoch.

Mature trees which should have been spared the axe were chopped down when a former church was demolished in the conservation village.

This was despite a planning stipulation that the flowering cherries were to stay.

And the row has deepened as villagers say the site of Our Lady of Fatima Church has been left unsafe and unsightly for more than 18 months.

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They also accused the Church of “land banking” the site until the right offer of purchase comes along, at a time when the village badly needs social housing.

Questions are also being asked over why Renfrewshire Council has not taken action against the Diocese of Paisley for breaching the condition.

An application to demolish the church, built in 1955, was submitted to Renfrewshire Council in March 2017 and approval was given in September of that year.

Despite specific instructions to protect the trees, they were razed along with the church building.

One fed-up villager described the site as “unsafe, unsightly and unkempt.”

“Church consciences should be in perpetual remorse,” added the resident, who asked not to be named.

“Ceding of this land to Lochwinnoch’s Community Trust for badly-needed social and sheltered housing would offer a degree of salvation and be a fitting legacy of contrition.”

David Mellor, acting chairman of Lochwinnoch Community Council, said the matter will be discussed at their next meeting. 

He added: “The village would expect a bit more from the diocese in terms of responsibility to the village.

“It seems the council failed to follow through with the action they could have taken.”

The Diocese of Paisley has apologised for the removal of the trees.

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A spokesperson said: “The trees were removed in error following a misunderstanding between the Diocese of Paisley and the demolition company. 

“The diocese has issued an unreserved apology to Renfrewshire Council, is currently in discussions with them and hopes to reach a suitable resolution in the coming weeks.”

A council spokesperson added: “Discussions are ongoing over potential future development at that site which we believe could result in a positive outcome.

"On that basis, we do not believe enforcement action against the current owners is required at this time.”

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