Damage to tree costs developer £9k

A developer has been ordered to pay a total of £9,023 after South Gloucestershire Council prosecuted him for seriously damaging a protected tree in Kingswood, which eventually had to be removed due to the damage caused.

Andrew Cake, 61, owner of Acton Homes Ltd, Woodlands Lane, Bradley Stoke,  pleaded guilty to the offence of damaging a tree under a tree preservation order (TPO) when he appeared at Bristol Magistrates Court. Cake was fined £5,600, with £1,423 in costs, and a £2,000 victim surcharge.

The court heard that on 20 July last year the council’s arboriculture team became aware of a report relating to a planning application at Spring Hill in Kingswood for an attached house and associated work. The report referenced the digging of a trench and the roots of a protected sycamore tree being cut.

 An officer from the council’s planning enforcement team visited the site the following day and took photographs that showed the trench and damage to the sycamore tree’s roots. The officer advised that no further work should take place until an inspection had been completed.

 On 25 July officers from the arboriculture team attended the site and met with Cake, before following out an inspection in his company. It was observed that the trench had been filled in and the tree roots evident in the earlier photographs had been removed, contrary to the planning enforcement advice. In addition, Heras fencing had been placed around the protected tree which was not present in the photographs taken only four days before. The officers instructed Cake to seek independent professional arboricultural advice regarding the structural integrity of the tree, and he was provided with a standard list of arboricultural consultants.

 On 6 September officers received an email from Acton Homes Ltd which contained the arboricultural report and acknowledgement of responsibility for damage to the tree. The report concluded that the majority of the roots had been severed or seriously damaged and their loss would have compromised the structural integrity of the tree leaving it potentially vulnerable to wind and uprooting. It finished by saying that the root severance had compromised the structural stability of the tree leaving it in a dangerous unstable condition and therefore recommended that the tree be removed and replacement planting undertaken.

 Two weeks later the council received another email from Acton Homes Ltd seeking permission for a 5-day Notice for the removal of the damaged Sycamore. At no time since the consent was provided has Acton Homes Ltd been in contact to confirm the replacement of the sycamore tree.

 On Wednesday 9 November representatives of the council’s arboriculture and environmental enforcement teams interviewed Cake, where he presented a prepared statement relating to his involvement with an admission of fault in damaging the tree and an offer to correct the situation. He was advised he would be receiving a summons to court.

Councillor Rachael Hunt, cabinet member responsible for environmental enforcement, said: “It’s important that we act to help protect trees covered by preservation orders so we are pleased at this outcome. I hope this serves as a deterrent to anyone who considers acting illegally in South Gloucestershire.