Council must pay after tree decision damaged conservatory

Payout after council's refusal to fell a tree destroyed couple’s conservatory

The couple's house

A South Gloucestershire couple has won a court battle against their council, after they refused to let them cut down a 40 foot tree that went on to wreck their conservatory. The couple had been forced to knock it down and build another, and now the council has been made to pick up the bill.

The Bristol Post reported that Richard and Nicola Burge were awarded £25,000, to pay for the building of their new conservatory. They had built the original one in 2004 behind their house (pictured before a first floor extension was completed). Unfortunately, shortly after the conservatory was constructed, they noticed that cracks had started to appear in it.


They contacted their insurance company, which carried out tests for two years. The experts knew the conservatory was being undermined by roots, so the couple chopped down a conifer, eucalyptus and a magnolia in the garden. Unfortunately the problem got worse, and was traced to an oak tree just outside the garden. The insurers contacted the council about the oak - at which point they slapped a tree preservation order on the tree.

The Daily Mail reported that the couple applied for permission to chop down the tree in 2010, but the council refused, saying that it would damage the 'visual amenity' of the area. The couple was forced to pull down the conservatory, and build another with firmer foundations, paid for by their insurer.

Court battles

Their insurer then took the council to court, where it has been battling ever since. The council claimed that it was the couple's fault for having a poorly-built conservatory in the first place. The judge decided that Richard and Nicola were entitled to put their faith in the builders who erected the conservatory, that the council could have foreseen that the tree would cause further damage to the conservatory, and that the damage would not have happened if they had been allowed to chop it down. He awarded their insurer the cost of the new conservatory.

This isn't the first time a council has stood its ground over a tree, and ended up damaging a property. We reported back in March on the couple in Derby who noticed cracks appearing in their walls, and asked a neighbour to chop her 58-foot tree down to stop the walls cracking further. She agreed, but when the couple checked with the council that they could go ahead, the council put a tree preservation order in place and refused permission. The battle went on for ten years before the couple's insurer got a payout from the council to cover the cost of strengthening the house foundations.

Toppled tree problems

Toppled tree problems