£10,000 fine for Orbit Homes after cutting down eight protected Hillmorton trees

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Magistrates handed Orbit Homes a £10,000 fine after the developer chopped down eight trees in Hillmorton that were subject to a Tree Preservation Order (TPO).

The trees stood in woodland at the Railway Sidings, off Lower Street, which has been subject to a TPO by Rugby Borough Council in 2006.

In 2016 Rugby Borough council granted Orbit Homes permission to build 76 homes on nearby land known as the Ballast Pits.

As part of the permission, the council agreed to allow Orbit Homes to remove three protected ash trees to make way for a pumping station and access to be built to serve the new homes.

In March 2018, as the site was being built on, the council's arboricultural officer received a phone call from Beechwood Trees and Landscapes Limited, who had been contracted by Orbit Homes to carry out work on the site.

Beechwood wanted to check which trees were to be removed under the terms of the planning permission.

Work on the development was halted before a site meeting between the arboricultural officer and representatives from Coventry-based Orbit took place four days later.

At the meeting the officer discovered eight protected trees had been felled at the site - but the three trees which Orbit had permission to remove remained standing.

The council launched legal proceedings against Orbit Homes for breaching the TPO and the developer pleaded guilty at a hearing on Tuesday, July 31, at Nuneaton's Warwickshire Justice Centre.

Orbit's defence told magistrates the breach was a genuine mistake and the company realised the seriousness of the offence.

The developer was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £564 costs and a £170 victim surcharge.

Orbit must also replace the trees which were felled - a legal requirement after breaching a TPO.

Speaking after the hearing, Cllr Lisa Parker, Rugby Borough Council portfolio holder for environment and public realm, said: "Tree Preservation Orders play a vital role in protecting the borough's environment, with even basic maintenance of a protected tree requiring prior approval from the council.

"It's important to check whether a tree has been protected with a TPO before carrying out work, as breaching an order can prove costly, even when it's a genuine mistake."

The council's arboricultural team can be contacted by calling 01788 533717 or emailing treesandlandscapes@rugby.gov.uk