Tree destruction lands golf club in the rough

Released on July 4, 2016

A golf club in South Oxfordshire has been told to pay more than £9,500 after destroying a large number of protected trees in a conservation area. 

Thames Valley Golf Limited pleaded guilty at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on Monday 20 June to two breaches of the Town and Country Planning Act.  This followed the wilful damage and resulting destruction of 29 trees at the Springs Hotel and Golf Club, a site it owns in North Stoke, Crowmarsh. 

Magistrates heard how, in November 2015, South Oxfordshire District Council received information raising concerns for the protected trees at The Springs Hotel and Golf Club. The council’s tree officer visited the site and found that a trench had been dug causing extensive root damage to the prominent row of Pine trees growing at the front of the site adjacent to Wallingford Road. The trees were all protected by a Tree Preservation Order and also within the North Stoke Conservation Area.  

Thames Valley Golf Limited initially, and in a subsequent interview, admitted that it had asked staff to dig a trench to allow for a new power cable to be installed to serve the golf club; and accepted they knew the trees were protected by the preservation order and that they were responsible for the work. 

The trench work carried out resulted in irreparable damage to the tree roots.  As a result the trees had already started to deteriorate and were deemed to be a danger to anyone driving or walking in the area.  The trees were therefore felled in December 2015. 

The majority of the trees were Corsican Pine, all between 20 and 25 metres tall, and a very important feature of the area forming a natural corridor on the B4099 Wallingford Road which runs past the front of the site. 

As the trench work had been carried out without permission and had resulted in the destruction of these important trees the council had little choice but to prosecute Thames Valley Golf Limited. 

Golf club beforeGolf club after

In court Magistrates’ fined Thames Valley Golf Limited £6,000 for breaching the Tree Preservation Order and a further £2,000 for carrying out unlawful work in the conservation area.  It was also ordered to pay £1,317.52 costs and a £200 victim surcharge. 

Anyone wishing to carry out work in a conservation area, or on or near trees covered by a preservation order, must get permission first. 

Cllr Elizabeth Gillespie, Cabinet Member for Planning at South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “Any company or resident who intends to carry out work in a conservation area or on protected trees needs to get permission and seek expert advice first.  It is difficult to understand why this did not occur in this particular instance, given that the site owners were clearly aware of their responsibilities.  I would hope that this serves as a reminder and example to anyone considering carrying out similar work. 

“As a direct result of their actions they now have to pay a considerable fine, but more significantly a prominent feature in North Stoke has been destroyed, which is a great loss to both present and future residents in the area.” 

At the request of the district council, Thames Valley Golf Limited has replaced the trees, however it will take many years before they begin to re-establish the landscape feature that has been lost.