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Developers warned following court action

Kevin Snow20th February 2013

The cautioning of a company for breaching a Tree Preservation Order has prompted a warning from the District Council to all developers (18 February).

Clovercourt Property Company Ltd admitted to breaching a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) imposed by Three Rivers District Council on a part of Sandpit Wood, which is located in Carpenders Park and privately owned.

The defendant had originally pleaded not guilty at Watford Magistrates Court and has now been formally cautioned by the District Council for the offence.

Cllr Keith Williams, Three Rivers’ Cabinet Member for Leisure and Community, said:

"This situation was entirely avoidable and local residents were rightly shocked and angry. The preservation orders are legally enforceable and the caution should act as warning to any developer who would consider felling trees without checking with their local authority first.

"We will not hesitate to take legal action against any company cutting down trees illegally."

In July 2012, a court summons was issued against the company. The District Council’s action ultimately focussed on a single tree, where TPO protection was incontrovertible, in order to resolve the court case as quickly and cost effectively as possible.

Most of the trees on the private site were not subject to a TPO. The Forestry Commission is investigating the felling of the remainder of the trees on the site which were not covered by the TPO.

Cllr Williams added:

"The District Council also has powers to stop illegal tree felling before it happens. Residents are our eyes and ears and they should contact us immediately if they have any concerns about tree works."

The firms’ tree felling commenced on 17 March 2012 and was reported by a resident to the District Council on 19 March. The District Council started its investigation on 20 March.

The District Council has imposed over 750 Tree Preservation Orders on both public and private land across the district ranging from single trees to entire woodland areas.

The District Council directly manages 240 hectares of woodland. Approximately 76% of the district is made up of Green Belt land.

NOTES

The penalties for breaching a TPO are: in a Magistrates Court, for felling, a fine of up to £20,000. In serious cases an offender can be sent to the Crown Court where the fine is unlimited.

The court must have regard to any financial benefit accrued by the defendant in consequence of the offence. Simply lopping a tree in breach of a TPO can mean up to £2,500 fine in the Magistrates Court.

The District Council may take the caution into account in deciding whether to prosecute if any further allegations arise. A court dealing with any future prosecution against the defendant may be told of the existence of the caution.

Tree Preservation Orders are made by the District Council under Section 201 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. More information about TPOs is available from the District Council.

Sandpit Wood is privately owned by Clovercourt Company Ltd and Masma Ltd.