CAMPAIGNERS are celebrating a major victory in a long-running battle with landowners over the destruction of woodland.
Members of the Helensburgh Community Woodlands Group have been fighting for more than 18 months to have around 100 trees replanted at a local greenspace which it claims has become an eyesore.
Argyll and Bute Council has now imposed a replanting order on landowners Margery Osborne and Thomas Paterson, who removed the greenery from the town's Cumberland Avenue in June 2011.
The campaigners said they were delighted with the decision after months of protesting.
Ms Osborne and Mr Paterson now have until November this year to replant 109 trees of the exact same species on the land in roughly the same spot from where they were removed.
Professor David Adams, convener of the group, said: "Local people have shown remarkable patience over the past 18 months while Argyll and Bute Council has investigated what we have always considered to have been the unlawful felling of trees at Cumberland Avenue.
"There are around 70 or 80 members in the group and, I've got to be honest, a lot of them were a bit cynical about the process with the council.
"They weren't expecting a great deal but now we're delighted with the decision and are pleased our efforts have paid off."
Mr Adams, who is also chairman of Property and Urban Studies at Glasgow University, added: "The owners have been issued with a formal notice to replant over 100 trees by November 15, 2013, together with a very detailed set of instructions on how this should be done properly.
"These instructions include the requirement to clear the debris away from the site before replanting takes place. We trust the owners will now take their responsibilities seriously and work with the council and in accordance with the wishes of local people to put right the eyesore they created in 2011."
The campaigners have held a number of protests at the site since the trees were removed and submitted a 250-signature petition to the council.
They also secured the support of a number of local politicians in their plight to have the woodland returned to its former glory.
The replanting order was formally issued by the council this month after councillors found there was a Tree Preservation Order in place at the site.
The order states: "The council did not consent to the removal, uprooting or destruction of the trees.
"The council has not received notice in writing that operations to uproot or fell the trees were urgently necessary in the interest of safety, or necessary for the prevention or abatement of a nuisance, and the operations were not therefore authorised."
It also claims the removal of the trees has 'resulted in the loss of a valuable and attractive amenity woodland'".
The document adds: "The harm caused by the unauthorised works is considered serious and the harm to amenity so substantial as to justify the actions required."
It is understood that, prior to the removal of the trees, Ms Osborne and Mr Paterson applied for planning permission on the site but the application was refused.
The landowners are currently appealing against the council's order, and they declined to comment until the process is complete.