Ryton pensioner fined after felling protected tree ‘by mistake’

The scales of justice
The scales of justice

A Ryton pensioner has been ordered to pay more than £1,500 after a protected tree on his land was cut down ‘by mistake’.

James White pleaded guilty at Nuneaton Justice Centre on Tuesday (May 16) to cutting down the protected horse chestnut tree on Leamington Road.

The 71-year-old, of Ryton Mill, London Road, was prosecuted by Rugby Borough Council after the tree protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) was felled without the council’s permission.

The court heard a pair of mature horse chestnut trees on the land were made subject to TPOs more than 30 years ago.

White bought the land in August, 2016, and a month later contacted the council to report the trunk of one of the trees had snapped, causing damage to the roof of a nearby property.

Knowing the horse chestnut was protected by a TPO, White requested permission to remove the tree due to its poor condition.

The council’s arboricultural officer agreed it needed to be removed but an inspection of the other horse chestnut revealed it was in good condition and could not be chopped down.

However, in December the council was contacted by residents concerned about clearance work taking place on the land.

On visiting the site, the arboricultural officer found both horse chestnut trees had been removed – breaching the TPO.

At Tuesday’s hearing, White’s solicitor told magistrates the breach was a genuine mistake, caused by a misunderstanding between White and the contractor carrying out work on the land.

The solicitor added White had also agreed to replace the tree – a condition of breaching a TPO.

White was fined £879 for the offence, ordered to pay £541 costs and an £87 victim surcharge.

Speaking after the hearing, the council’s head of environment and public realm Sean Lawson said: “Even basic maintenance of a protected tree, such as pruning, lopping or topping, needs prior approval, so I’d urge residents considering carrying out work on a mature tree to contact us first.

“We can offer advice on how best to carry out the work and avoid falling foul of the law.

“I’d also encourage 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 or by completing the online form at rugby.gov.uk/reportaproblem.