Lopping trees can end up costing small fortunes | Dispute resolution

Thursfields Solicitors has issued a new warning to householders about how tens of thousands of pounds can be lost by cutting back trees without checking if they are protected.

The advice comes after a millionaire was last week prosecuted and ordered to pay nearly £60,000 for damaging two protected 60ft trees behind his luxury £1.2million home in Sandbanks, Dorset, to improve the natural light.

His case follows another one earlier this year when a householder was prosecuted and ordered to pay £40,000 for damaging a protected 42-foot tree which blocked sunlight from his £1 million home at Canford Cliffs in Poole, Dorset.

Lauren Bryan, a specialist in property dispute law in Thursfields’ Birmingham office, said: “The latest case once again highlights how people cannot assume they have the right to lop huge branches from trees just because they are blocking light.

In both cases in Dorset, the courts have used the Proceeds of Crime Act which means that damaging trees without permission is becoming very expensive.

Householders not only ended up paying fines but also had to repay the amount the court judged they had increased the value of their homes by damaging the trees, on top of extra court costs.”

In the most recent case, the Sandbanks householder lopped branches of mature and protected Scots Pines trees – one in his neighbour’s garden – because he felt they blocked the sunlight on his two balconies and patio.

But he had not sought permission from the local authority he was charged with two counts of contravening tree preservation regulations.

He pleaded guilty and a judge ruled he must pay back the £40,000 that the tree work had increased the price of his property by, on top of £15,500 in court costs and a fine of £2,700.

This judgement mirrored the similar case in March this year when a Canford Cliffs homeowner ‘virtually destroyed’ a protected oak tree in his back garden because he felt it shaded a balcony on his luxury home.

In that case, the judge ordered that he pay the £21,000 his property price was deemed to have increased by, plus £15,000 in costs and a fine of £1,500.

Lauren added: “However annoying people might find trees to be, they must always check whether they are protected or not before getting the loppers or saws out.

This includes cutting overhanging branches from trees on neighbours’ land without permission, as this can also result in court action and expensive fines.

If in doubt, homeowners should seek legal advice before taking any irreversible action that could end up costing them a small fortune.”

Anyone wanting advice about tree problems on or near their property can contact Lauren Bryan at lbryan@thursfields.co.uk or on 0121 227 3369, extension 3362.

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