Man forced to pay £28k for chopping down a tree

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felled tree

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?


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.

Protected

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.

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