A HOUSING developer which cut down eight protected trees in Hillmorton has been fined £10,000.
Woodland at the Railway Sidings, off Lower Street, was made subject to a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) by Rugby Borough Council in 2006.
But when Orbit Homes secured planning permission in 2016 to build 76 homes on neighbouring land known as the Ballast Pits, the council agreed to the removal of three protected ash trees in order for a pumping station and access to be built to serve the new homes.
With work underway on the development in March, the council’s arboricultural officer received a phone call from Beechwood Trees and Landscapes Limited, who had been contracted by Orbit Homes to carry out work on the site.
Beechwood wanted to check which trees were to be removed under the terms of the planning permission.
Work on the development was immediately stopped before a site meeting took place four days later between the arboricultural officer and representatives from Coventry-based Orbit.
During the meeting the officer discovered eight protected trees had been felled at the site – yet the three trees which Orbit had permission to remove remained standing.
After the council launched legal proceedings against Orbit Homes for breaching the TPO, the developer pleaded guilty at Nuneaton’s Warwickshire Justice Centre.
In mitigation, Orbit’s defence told magistrates the breach was a genuine mistake and the company realised the seriousness of the offence.
The developer was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £564 costs and a £170 victim surcharge.
Orbit must also replace the trees which were felled – a legal requirement after breaching a TPO.
After the hearing, Rugby Borough Council’s environment spokeswoman Coun Lisa Parker said: “Tree Preservation Orders play a vital role in protecting the borough’s environment, with even basic maintenance of a protected tree requiring prior approval from the council.
“It’s important to check whether a tree has been protected with a TPO before carrying out work, as breaching an order can prove costly, even when it’s a genuine mistake.”