Two developers were today fined at Woking Magistrates’ Court for breaching Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs).
Developer, Shanly Homes, pleaded guilty to causing or permitting the wilful damage of two trees at the Danesfield site on Grange Road, Horsell. They were fined and ordered to pay court costs totaling £1,887. Similarly, Millgate Homes Ltd, pleaded guilty to causing or permitting the unauthorised cutting down of five trees and the wilful damage of nine trees protected by TPOs, at Janoway Hill in Firbank Lane, St Johns. They were fined and ordered to pay court costs totaling £10,077. Both developers were given credit by the Magistrate for their early guilty pleas and the fact that this was their first offence.
Following a complaint from a local resident in April 2009, that trees at the Danesfield site were being damaged, Woking Borough Council’s Arboricultural Officer investigated and found that a trench had been dug beside a Cedar tree. Excavation works had also taken place within the rooting area of two English Oak trees and soil had been compacted in the rooting area of a Lime and Sweet Chestnut tree - all of which contravened Condition 14 of the development’s planning permission.
Building works were immediately stopped, enabling Officers to assess the extent of the damage, and to ensure that steps were put in to place to reduce further damage to the trees. Measures were implemented to reduce the impact of the damage to the trees.
Millgate Homes Ltd
During May 2009, the Council’s Arboricultural Officer received a tip-off from another local resident, that Millgate Homes Ltd was conducting unauthorised felling and pruning of a number of protected trees. The Officer found that two Hazel trees, one Beech, one Silver Birch and a Maple tree had all been illegally felled. While two Hazel trees, four Holly trees, two Oak trees and a Yew tree had been heavily pruned. All works were in breach of TPO legislation.
The development site was immediately closed to allow Officers to assess the extent of the damage and to ensure a suitable replanting scheme was carried out.
Woking Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Planning Implementation, Cllr Graham Cundy, said: “Woking is one of the greenest boroughs in the country and we want to keep it that way. That’s why there are over 800 Tree Preservation Orders in place across the Borough to protect our most valuable trees.
“Both developers were in flagrant breach of the Tree Preservation Orders that were in place. These two cases should send out a clear warning to others that damaging, pruning, or felling protected trees has serious consequences, and that the Council will not hesitate to take action against them.”
Anyone considering works to protected trees should contact Woking Borough Council’s Arboriculture Services on 01483 755855 or visit www.woking.gov.uk. Anyone wishing to check whether a TPO is in place on their property, can do so online by typing their address details into the ‘Your local services’ area on the Council’s homepage. This part of the website provides vital information on residents’ property, plus neighbourhood services and refuses collections.
Quite often a legal case hangs on a technicality. For centuries people have been asking, what is a tree? what constitues a wood? Is a single tree in a woodland important?
Case law defines these techicalities and recently a case between a developer and a local authority hinged on the developers arguing that a woodland TPO was not correct as the trees growing on a disused wharf could not constitte a true woodland.
Click here to read the full case.
Emily Walker, Chief Reporter
The Environment Agency could be forced to check every tree on its land after a Sussex teacher was felled by a falling branch.
Doreen Prior has been unable to work since she was struck by the branch as she walked on land at Barcombe Mills, near Lewes.
She is claiming £300,000 in damages from the Environment Agency and fears she could lose her home because she cannot afford to pay the bills.
Her lawyers believe if she wins her case at the High Court it could force the agency to check each and every tree it maintains across the country to prevent further people being hurt and launching legal action.
There are no specific rules on how often safety checks should be carried out on trees but landowners are required under public liability laws to make sure all of their property is safe.
However Forestry Commission guidelines instruct landowners to check the safety of large trees at least once a year.
Ms Prior’s claim to the High Court says that if there had been a proper system of inspection of the tree prior to the accident then the poor condition of the branch would have been identified before the accident occurred.
It continues: “The branch that fell on her had no leaves or shoots and was clearly dying or dead and landowners the Environment Agency should have known to remove it.“ According to the writ, the Environment Agency has admitted to Ms Prior’s solicitors that there had not been regular checks on trees before her accident.
On the day of the accident, in April 2007, Ms Prior was walking on the public footpath through Barcombe Mill when the branch of an ash tree fell on her.
The force of the branch cut her head, but she said the knock on effects were much more serious.
Since the accident she suffers from tiredness and impaired memory as well as having difficulty planning, organising and multi-tasking, making it impossible to work as a teacher.
She fears that if she is ever able to return to work in the future, she will be disadvantaged in looking for employment because of her handicap.
Speaking from her home on the banks of the River Ouse, next to the disused corn and paper mill, Ms Prior said: “I'm just so worried this could happen to a child with all the families that come down here.
“It was right on the path.” Ms Prior's solicitor, Laura Middleton-Guerard, said: “The Environment Agency had failed to carry out any inspection of the trees adjacent to the popular public footpath for a number of years.
“Such simple measures could have prevented the incident from occurring and such serious injuries being sustained.
“Mrs Prior was knocked unconscious and taken to Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath and was later diagnosed as having suffered a head injury.
“The injuries she sustained have had a huge impact on her day to day life leaving her heavily reliant on family and friends for financial and emotional support.
“Suffering from extreme tiredness, she is still unable to return to teaching and is under great financial strain as a result.”
A spokesman for the Forestry Commission said that there were no specific rules on how often trees should be checked, other than the standard owners’ liability laws, which apply to all land owners.
But any High Court ruling could impact on millions of trees.
An Environment Agency spokeswoman said: “The case is currently with our solicitors.”
Tree officers have underlined the threat of legal action for those who hack down protected trees following a successful prosecution in the Isle of Wight. Isle of Wight Council took two men to court for chopping down two mature oaks and two mature macrocarpas in the ancient woodland at Shanklin.
Ronald Squire and Glen Bartlett admitted removing the trees protected by preservation orders. They were fined £500, £50 costs and a £15 victim surcharge. Head of planning Bill Murphy said he hoped the case sent out the message that certain trees were given protection for good reason. "The council will take whatever action it can when protected trees are damaged or removed," he said.
Council tree officer Jerry Willis said the trees were an important landscape feature and their loss reduced the ability for the woodland to regenerate. "It also removes the amenity value that the trees offered the area. Their removal has affected a woodland inhabited by protected species like dormice, red squirrels, bats and nesting birds."
The director of a Swanage college has been handed a £5,000 fine after four protected trees were cut down in its grounds. Robert a’Barrow also had to pay Purbeck District Council £3,000 costs after pleading not guilty at Bournemouth Magistrates Court. Harrow House International College was also fined the same amount and costs.
The district council brought the prosecution after four trees that were subject to tree preservation orders – an oak, a sycamore and two willows – were felled.
Initially, a’Barrow, 73, of Swanage, the college and contractors Kenneth Turner, 67, of Furzebrook and Anthony Wilmington, 40, of Godmanstone, all pleaded not guilty to breaching a tree preservation order at Wimborne Magistrates’ Court. Before the trial in Bournemouth, Turner and Wilmington changed pleas and were fined £900 and £1,200 respectively.
During the trial, a’Barrow and the college said Mr Turner, who had been contracted to do the work, instructed his subcontractor, Wilmington, to fell the trees without the college’s authority. But magistrates found Harrow House and a’Barrow guilty, saying that they did not go far enough to make sure the works were not carried out on the protected trees.
The Daily Echo approached the college, and was told a’Barrow would not comment as he did not believe the press would quote him accurately.
Robert Shaw, of Westminster Road, Branksome Park, used cleaning fluid to try and kill the tree over a 12-month period.
It is believed he was attempting to destroy the tree to aid the future re-development of the property in Panorama Road.
Mr Shaw was convicted under the Criminal Attempts Act 1981 at Wimborne Magistrates Court and fined £7,500, including costs and victim surcharge.
Cllr Ron Parker, the Borough of Poole’s cabinet portfolio holder for the economy, said the unusual case was serious enough to merit prosecution.
He said: "The result sends out a clear message that trees are important to Poole’s environment and even attempting to destroy a tree will attract a heavy fine and criminal conviction."
Reported in Evening Telegraph - derbyshire.co.uk - 28 November 2008
A FIRM which destroyed a protected tree without permission has been fined £4,500. Developer Trafalgar House hacked pieces off the oak on its land in Chatham Court, Belper, in February.
This was despite the tree being subject to a preservation order because it was more than 100 years old.
Amber Valley Borough Council inspectors took legal action after investigating the damage. The company, of Prospect Place, Derby, was fined at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates' Court and ordered to pay £2,500 costs.
Council landscape officer Chris Beal, said: "Where unauthorised works are carried out to trees, we are at a considerable disadvantage because officers only see the end result; they do not know what condition the tree was in beforehand.
In this case, several neighbours came forward and provided witness evidence because they felt so aggrieved about the damage caused to the tree."
A council spokeswoman said that because of the work, the tree was "rendered useless as an amenity or something worth preserving".
Robert Brown, Trafalgar House managing director, pleaded guilty on behalf of his company to carrying out the unauthorised work.
The Times July 2008:
"What constitutes a garden and gardening has been redefined by a judge who ruled that chopping down a swath of trees can count as weeding rather than forestry.
A garden, said Lord Justice Moses, no longer conforms to the Oxford English Dictionary definition of "an enclosed piece of ground devoted to the cultivation of flowers, fruit or vegetables". It is, he maintained, much more than that.
He said that the dictionary definition is too old-fashioned and needs to be expanded to take into account the modern taste for letting parts of a garden run wild. The judge made his horticultural observations as he overturned a criminal conviction against Michael John Rockall that had been imposed by magistrates for chopping down trees on his property.
Mr Rockall, a multimillionaire businessman, bought a home in Woolverstone, Suffolk, in 2004 and set about clearing the overgrown areas of the 1.1 hectare (2.8 acre) garden.
When he chopped down the alders - described by him as "tiddly little things" - which had self-seeded in a neglected section of the property, he was charged with felling trees without a licence. Magistrates in Lowestoft found him guilty and were supported by Ipswich Crown Court but the conviction was quashed yesterday in London's High Court.
Mr Rockall had argued that because the trees were in his garden he had every right to cut them down without resorting to a licence application. The magistrates, however, accepted the argument that the overgrown section of the land had "ceased to be a garden" more than 30 years ago, when it was allowed to run wild.
Lord Justice Moses, in giving judgment that the definition was out of date, said there was a fashion for wild gardens. "No description will categorically establish whether a piece of land is a garden or not. It is important to look at the relationship between the owner and the land and the history and character of the land and space."