Residents are alarmed by a local authority move to end protection for a popular woodland in Banchory.
Aberdeenshire Council has issued a notice to revoke the Tree Preservation Order (TPO) in force for its Lower Bellswood.
But local people are concerned the loss of the safeguard could pose a threat to the woodland, an important wildlife habitat.
They maintain it is also well used by the community and are urging the council to halt its plans.
Lower Bellswood contains, among others, Scots pine, conifer and larch, and is home to a variety of bird species and also red squirrels.
The TPO was put in place in 1990 by the former Kincardine and Deeside District Council before ownership and management was taken over by Aberdeenshire Council.
Bill Forbes, whose property in Wilson Road backs on to the woodland, said: “This wood is part of the character of Banchory and provides a habitat for important bird species.
“Particularily important is the presence of red squirrels who use the Caledonian pines as a source of food daily.
“There’s no need to change. There is something there worth protecting.”
He added that he felt that in principle the council, as a landowner, should be treated in the same way as a private landowner.
Mr Forbes, a retired civil engineer, has notified his objection to the planning department and is confident that other residents will do the same.
His wife, Fiona, added: “Our concern is what happens when the order goes. This is an important amenity.”
“There’s possibly not going to be any development there but once the protection is gone, there are all kinds of of possibilities.”
Local Councillor Eileen Durno said she had been contacted by residents who had raised their concerns to her and she fully supported them.
She added: “I’m behind them 100% on this.
“I don’t see the need for the removal of this tree preservation order.”
Councillor Durno added that she had grown up in Banchory and the woodland was an important local amenity.
The local authority points out that there are controls in place, without the TPO, to protect the Lower Bellswood trees.
An Aberdeenshire Council spokesperson said: “The Tree Protection Order (TPO) was originally put in place when this area of land was in private ownership and potentially under threat of development.
“Since then it has come back into public ownership.
“It is managed by Aberdeenshire Council Landscape Services and there is no threat of removal of the woodland.
The spokesperson added: “For that reason, a review of TPO’s concluded that this order was no longer required.
“The woodland is important for the community and there are controls in place, without this TPO, to protect it.”
Anyone objecting to the removal of the TPO have 28 days from the receipt of the notice to register their opposition.