Angelo Esposito, a 35-year-old property developer from Hartington Street, Handbridge, has been ordered to pay a total of more than £28,000 after destroying a Yew tree to make more space for parking at a property he owns in Chester.
So what did he do wrong, and does it really merit this sort of punishment?
According to the Telegraph, the tree in question was in the garden of a property owned by Esposito in Easton Road, Chester. He wanted to chop it down to make more space for parking, so he could charge more rent for the three flats in the property.
However, the tree itself was subject to a protection order, which meant it could not be dug up or chopped down, and it was in a conservation area, which provided further protection.
The Chester Standard reported that initially he approached the council and told them he wanted to remove the tree to make way for parking. He made an application for tree works, but withdrew it when he was told that the scale of the work involved meant he would need full planning permission.
He then started digging up the garden, and in the process he damaged the yew tree so badly that it had to be chopped down.
He was taken to court, where he pleaded guilty to contravening the tree preservation order. He was fined £10,000. He was also made to pay £13,750 under the Proceeds of Crime Act - the sum the court calculated he had increased the value of his property by when he removed the tree - and he paid £4,895 in costs for the prosecution.
Is this fair?
On the one hand, he clearly understood the rules, and the court decided that this was a blatant attempt to get around them. The fact is that it was local residents who informed the council of the damage to the tree, so it was clearly a much-loved tree which was an important part of the area.
However, on the other hand, he wanted to chop down a tree in his own garden. Why would this be a matter for the council?
The issue here is the fact that the tree was the subject of a tree preservation order, which is usually put on a tree where it is considered to make a significant contribution to the local landscape, or where it is in danger of being knocked down otherwise.
You can argue until you're blue in the face as to whether this magnificent old tree deserves to stand, or whether it's blighting your life, but you still won't be allowed to cut the tree down. The council has decided that it's in everyone's best interests to keep the tree there, so there's nothing you can do about it.
When you first buy a property it's up to you to check whether any trees on the land are subject to an order. If they are, you need to understand how this limits what you can do. In fact, the fine could have been far worse. The magistrates have the power to fine you up to £20,000, and if it's a very serious breach you can end up in the Crown Court, where the fine is unlimited.
But what do you think? Do trees deserve these kinds of rights? Or are the needs of the homeowner more important? Let us know in the comments.
Top Ten Weirdest Holiday Home Insurance Claims
Man forced to pay £28k for chopping down a tree
The owner of a holiday home in Spain returned to inspect his property after he had let it to a group of young people in their 20s for two weeks, to find that they had created an indoor beach including sand and water to emulate the sea. The youngsters explained that the local beach “hadn’t lived up to their expectations”.
A slightly oblivious swan didn’t see what was coming his way. It was flying happily through the air, completely unaware of a set of high voltage power cables in its flight path which it duly hit. The swan had the shock of its life and dived straight for the roof of a holiday home underneath, crashing through the roof and leaving a massive hole in need of fixing.
At a holiday home in France, a cow walked over a swimming pool cover. As the cow was considerably heavier than the cover could hold, the cover broke and the unsuspecting cow took an involuntary dip in the pool; resulting in considerable damage to the pool and the need for a winch to rescue the distraught bovine.
Holiday guests staying in a Spanish property moved items of furniture from inside the holiday home they were renting, including a sofa, single bed and chest of drawers, into the shallow end of the swimming pool. The guests had been under the influence of alcohol when they’d decided to rearrange the furniture in such a way and claimed they "couldn’t remember" why they had done it.
A particularly passionate couple managed to not only badly scratch the wooden floor of their bedroom by causing the bed to move vehemently, but also caused the bed to break, as well as the bedside lamp and bedside table. The couple explained that all damage had been caused during one session of lovemaking and they apologised profusely.
Following a rental, a holiday home owner made a gory discovery; he found blood splattered all over carpets and walls. After further investigation, he discovered a makeshift cardboard coffin containing a pig’s head in the bin, suggesting that a sacrifice had taken place at his property.
A young couple tried to pursue a claim against the owner of their holiday apartment in Spain on the basis that both bed sheets and towels were "too hard" and caused scratches and irritations on the skin, which prevented them from using the pool and sunbathing comfortably.
A holiday cottage in Devon needed completely redecorating after the holiday guests had decided to have an indoor barbecue on the flagstone floor, as ‘the weather didn’t allow for having it outside’.
One unsuspecting holiday property owner in Italy was shocked to find out that his house had been turned into a brothel by his guests during a four week rental period, resulting in the need for a deep clean and replacement of soft furnishings.
A lady in her late 30s from Manchester sought compensation from the owner of her holiday home in Marbella as the gravel on the driveway "had wrecked" four pairs of her designer stilettos and forced her to replace them with new ones.