Severe damage to conservation area tree results in hefty fee

Released on May 8, 2016

A Warborough resident has been ordered to pay almost £4,900 after being found guilty of causing extensive damage to prominent 80 year old tree. 

John Bradshaw, of The Green South, Warborough, appeared at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on Friday 22 April when he was convicted of one charge of breaching the Country Planning Act 1990 after causing or permitting wilful damage to a copper beech tree at his property. 

The tree, which is in a conservation area and visible from the main road running through Warborough, first caught the attention of a South Oxfordshire District Council tree officer who was carrying out a routine inspection at a nearby property in June 2015.  The officer noticed that the majority of the leaf canopy was dead and that brown foliage was covering the normally green area. 

Two months later the council received a ‘Notice of Intent’ to remove the tree from a specialist company acting on behalf of property owner Mr Bradshaw, citing ‘extensive crown die back’ as the reason for the removal. 

In late August, in response to the notice, the council’s tree officer made an inspection visit, recording that its condition had further deteriorated since he first encountered the tree in June.  He also found evidence that the tree had been tampered with, including copper nails which had been hammered into its base and evidence of drilling which had also taken place.  Using aerial footage he was able to determine that the tree had been damaged some time after August 2014. 

After being presented with this evidence Mr Bradshaw declined to be interviewed under caution so South Oxfordshire District Council was left with little choice but to take the case to court. 

In court Magistrates’ found that, having prepared detailed evidence and with extensive experience, the council’s tree officer was a credible witness.  They agreed with his assessment that the tree had been tampered with and as a result had been extensively damaged.  As Mr Bradshaw had provided no explanation as to what had happened he therefore was deemed responsible. 

John Bradshaw as fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £3,796.96 costs along with a £100 victim surcharge. 

Cllr Elizabeth Gillespie, Cabinet Member for Development, Building Control and Housing at South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “Anyone living in a property which is in a conservation area may need special permission if they wish to carry out certain works on their land, including any on trees.  

“This tree is over 80 years old but has now been severely and deliberately damaged which is a real shame for the area. There’s plenty of information available on our website, and our planning officers are always on hand to offer advice, so there really was no excuse in this case.”