Published Monday, 16th January 2017
Housing developer Shanly Homes has been fined £10,000 for wilful damage to two protected trees in Redhill following a successful prosecution by the council.
Shanly Homes Ltd appeared before Redhill Magistrates on 20 December 2016 and pleaded guilty to carrying out excavation works at the former Frenches Club which contravened a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) and resulted in irreparable damage to a protected yew tree and horse chestnut tree.
The company was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay the council’s court costs of £1,002. The Magistrates also awarded £170 as a victim’s surcharge. Taking account of the guilty plea, the judge reduced the fine for the wilful damage to the protected trees from £7,000 to £5,000 per tree.
The prosecution followed an investigation by planning enforcement team after they were contacted by a local resident concerned about construction works being carried out in the rooting areas of the trees, which are covered by a TPO.
The council’s tree officer attended the site to investigate and found that unauthorised works within the root protection area of the trees had taken place, resulting in damage likely to cause the protected trees’ demise. The council issued legal proceedings against the developer in October 2016, resulting in court action.
Before sentencing the judge said he had taken into consideration that Shanly Homes is a large, well established company (established in 1969) which should have had mechanisms in place to make sure that errors like this do not happen. He also asked the company to explain how they plan to ensure that the mistake would not be repeated in the future.
Important landscape feature
Cllr Mark Brunt, Chairman of the Planning Committee, said: "We take a very dim view of anyone who thinks they are above the law and can disregard a Tree Preservation Order. These substantial trees formed an important landscape feature in the Redhill area and were protected to safeguard their future.
"A well-established company like Shanly Homes should have known better than to carry out these works without following the correct protocols. I hope this hefty fine sends a very strong message that we are determined to deal firmly with those who contravene a Tree Preservation Order and threaten the environment we work so hard to protect."
Cllr Brunt added: "Initial information about TPO beaches often comes from the local community, so I ask residents to continue to report these matters to us so we can investigate at an early stage."