£10,000 fine for developers who undermined protected 120-year-old pine

Developers who undermined a protected 120-year-old pine on a Bristol development site - causing it to need felling - have been fined £10,000.

North Somerset magistrates fined Wills House Restoration £10,000 and ordered the company to pay costs of just under £4,000 and a victim surcharge of £170, while company directors Ben Box-Dossett and Sally Watson were each fined £1,000 with a victim surcharge of £100.

The court heard that in September last year a North Somerset Council tree officer was notified about building work and apparent damage to tree roots near a group of trees in the Bristol suburb of Leigh Woods.

On inspection the officer found that a trench had been dug very close to three mature pine trees covered by a long-standing tree preservation order, leaving the trees likely to to go into decline and at risk of being blown over.

A risk assessment found that one of the trees would have to be felled due to the extent of damage to its roots. When this was done by council contractors in December, a count of growth rings showed it to be around 120 years old.

Box-Dossett admitted having commissioned the trenching works, which had been carried out by his contractor, while Watson confirmed that she had given verbal instructions to the contractor.

North Somerset Council's executive member Cllr Peter Bryant said: "Precautions to protect these trees from damage were not in any way sufficient. Developers need to take their responsibilities seriously and where they fall short we will take action."

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