Cawston man’s £1,700 bill for felling a protected tree

Rugby Borough Council raised concerns about the tree ENGNNL00120131209161709
Rugby Borough Council raised concerns about the tree ENGNNL00120131209161709

A man has been ordered to pay more than £1,700 after a protected tree on his property was cut down.

Stuart Mitchell, of Coventry Road, Cawston, appeared at Nuneaton Justice Centre on Monday May 19 charged with an offence under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

The charge followed the felling of a mature cedar tree at his property which was subject to a Tree Preservation Order.

Rugby Borough Council was contacted by planning consultants working on behalf of Mr Mitchell in January of this year regarding plans to build a new dwelling in the grounds of his property.

Planning officers immediately raised concerns with the consultants about the impact of the plans on a pair of cedar trees at the property, which had both been subject to protection orders since 2001.

In March, the council received a planning application from another firm of consultants working on behalf of Mitchell, and a planning officer met with Mitchell at the property to discuss the plans.

During the meeting, the officer again raised concerns about the cedar trees - and was told one of the trees had been removed.

Mitchell claimed the tree had been damaged during a recent storm, and he feared it could fall on to a nearby building which housed his swimming pool.

But the tree was removed without notifying the council - breaching the order, which states landowners must give the council at least five days’ notice before carrying out work.

At Monday’s hearing, the 35-year-old pleaded guilty to breaching the order.

He told the court he was unaware the tree was protected.

Mitchell was fined £1,000, and ordered to pay £677 costs and a £100 victim surcharge.

The tree, believed to be around 50 years old, has now been replaced - one of the conditions placed on landowners who breach protection orders.

The planning application has been withdrawn.

Sean Lawson, Rugby Borough Council’s head of environmental services, said: “Anyone considering doing work to a mature tree should contact the council first to ensure it’s not protected by a TPO.

“Any maintenance or pruning of a protected tree needs approval from the council, not just extreme actions such as cutting trees down.

“The council is working hard to maintain and increase the amount of trees and woodland in the borough, and we have recently planted Diamond Wood and a number of small copses around the town.

“I’d urge any resident who has concerns about work being carried out on trees in the borough to report those concerns to the council.”

Residents can contact the council’s arboriculture team by calling (01788) 533717.