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Tree surgeons fined after excessive pruning of protected copper beech


Two tree surgeons have been prosecuted and forced to pay a total of £677.50 each for their excessive and poor quality pruning of a Copper Beech tree which was protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) in view of its significance in the local area.

William Holmes of WH Tree Care and Richard Burton of RJ Burton and Son Treework Ltd were each fined £200, and ordered to pay legal costs of £447.50 and a victim surcharge of £30, when they pleaded guilty  before Buckinghamshire Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday 28 February.

Mr Holmes pleaded guilty to an offence of causing Richard Burton to lop the copper beech tree, in Wooburn Manor Park, Wooburn Green, in breach of the TPO.  Mr Burton pleaded guilty to lopping the tree in breach of the TPO.

The prosecution was carried out by Wycombe District Council for offences under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

The court heard that the owner of the property had correctly applied for and been granted permission to reduce the crown of the tree by 20 per cent in May 2016 and, after the original tree surgeon had been unable to complete the works, had approached Mr Holmes to complete the job. Mr Holmes engaged the services of Richard Burton to assist him in completing the work.

Both men were aware that the tree was the subject of a tree preservation order and that there was a limit on the extent of the works that could be carried out. Nonetheless the works went ahead and on 2 March 2017 the council received a complaint about the quality of the work.

Cllr David Johncock, Wycombe District Council Cabinet Member for Planning and Sustainability commented: "We are serious about protecting our environment and especially the trees that have TPOs on them.  I hope this shows that we will pursue people who disregard the protection we put in place."

Investigations by council officers revealed that the permitted works to the branches had been exceeded by 125 per cent. In the opinion of the arboricultural officer for Wycombe District Council, significant harm had been caused, affecting the amenity value of the tree and potentially limiting the tree’s life expectancy.

This case highlights the importance of using competent and reputable arborists when employing tree surgeons to carry out works on trees.

Both defendants have 21 days to appeal against the sentences.