Homeowner fined £60k for killing protected tree
A homeowner who intentionally damaged a 90-year-old tree has been fined over £60,000.
Homeowner, Mr Lawrence pleaded guilty to killing a protected cedar tree in a conservation area to the front of his property. He intentionally stripped the lower trunk of the tree, then drilled multiple holes into the trunk to bleed the sap.
Mr Lawrence had received visits and letters from the council following the initial damage, but he willingly continued to carry out activities to harm the tree. Consequently, he was found to be in breach of legislation against protected trees.
Under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 and The Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006, it is an offence to cut down, uproot, top or lop a tree that is protected and under The Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation) (England) Regulations 2012, The Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation Order and Trees in Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Regulations 2010 and The Town and Country Planning (Trees) Regulations 1999 for Wales, it is an offence to carry out activities that are prohibited once a Tree Preservation Order is confirmed and put in place.
When the damage was first discovered the tree could have been saved through remedial works, but further attacks by Mr Lawrence made its survival impossible.
Initially, Mr Lawrence was fined £90,000, this was reduced to £60,000 with costs of £1,004 alongside a victim surcharge of £32.
The significant fine is partly based on an assessment of the tree’s value of £48,000 – both monetarily and in terms of value to the community and environment.
This prosecution and fine highlights the need to identify and ensure the protection of trees subject to a preservation order. If you have made the assumption that there are no protected trees on your site, or you know this legislation applies, it may be time to review your legal register to ensure you are in compliance with the regulations rather than take the risk of incurring a hefty fine.