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Company fined for felling trees

A warning has been served to local arboriculturalists and tree surgeons that they must get the proper consent before felling trees after a firm was ordered to pay £1,765 for cutting down two trees in Liphook.

East Hampshire District Council brought Green Frontiers Garden Care to court for giving them no notice of plans to fell the two Alder trees in Hewshott Lane, part of the River Wey Conservation Area.

Green Frontiers, based in Liphook, had claimed that the trees were dying and dangerous, however, inspection by the EHDC’s arboricultural officers revealed that this was not the case.

Cllr Ken Moon, portfolio holder for Planning and Development, said companies must respect their duty to communicate with the local authority and gain consent prior to carrying out work in a conservation area.

“The district council is often privy to additional information, such as the history of the site, the amenity value to local residents, and whether the trees are protected by law,” he said. “This case should reinforce the message to contractors. Respect the law and do not act recklessly or carelessly.”

On December 13 Green Frontiers Garden Care Ltd pleaded guilty at Aldershot Magistrates Court to felling the two trees, in contravention of sections 211 and 210(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The offence took place in January 2011.

The court heard that the trees in this case were not of particularly high amenity value. Other neighbouring trees were later allowed to be felled once the proper processes had been followed.

However, Green Frontiers had already received a caution for a previous offence that had taken place the year before in Lindford. The district council was, therefore, forced to prosecute in this case as the previous caution had not been effective.

Green Frontiers’ sole Director, Shaun Barnett, appeared in court for the company, which was fined £700 for each tree felled and ordered to pay £350 towards the council’s costs as well as a £15 victim surcharge. A total of £1,765.

East Hampshire District Council’s Arboricultural Officer, Stewart Garside, said: “In cases like this it is important that contractors realise they have a duty to communicate with the local planning authority. Five days notice is usually required so the authority can inspect the trees and either confirm the trees are dangerous, and therefore exempt from the need for a formal application, or otherwise.”

Cllr Moon added: “East Hampshire District Council takes these type of offences seriously. It is vital for the council to fulfil its duty to protect the countryside and the amenity value to its communities.

“Companies carrying out works to trees covered by Tree Preservation Orders and in Conservation Areas need to ensure that they not only comply with the law, but learn very quickly to take the regulations seriously when they fall foul of the law, however that occurs. In this case, that has clearly not happened, and the court has taken the opportunity to remind Green Frontiers Garden Care Limited of their responsibilities and that there are serious consequences for breaking the law.”

Article posted on: 03 January 2012

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