£100,000 fine for "devastating" felling of veteran beeches

A farm tenant has been fined over £100,000 following an investigation by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) into his felling of around 200 veteran beech trees on a south Wales farm.

Image: NRW
Image: NRW

NRW officers came upon the felled trees at Pen Y Fan farm, Blackwood, Monmouthshire, in January, and found that no felling licence was in place to remove the trees.

According to NRW: "The trees in question were very mature, and provided a valuable habitat for wildlife, as well as an important corridor for wildlife to travel between habitats. Because of this, a licence would never have been consented to remove these trees in this area."

Keith Smith, previously a tenant on the farm, admitted to felling the trees, along with his two sons, without a licence. But he claimed that one the current tenants, Gildemeister Energy Solutions, offered him £5,000 to fell the trees.

But during the court case at Newport Magistrates Court, Prosecutor Muhammed Yaqub said: "The land was being used to install solar panels and the company in fact wanted the trees in place as they provided the perfect screening for the panels."

Smith, who was not present at the trial, was given a £105,082 fine and ordered to pay £6,945 in costs to NRW and the court, along with a £170 victim surcharge.

The 200m3 of felled wood was valued at £8,000 as firewood.

"Following the investigation, the timber has been stopped from entering the open market," NRW added in a statement.

Its executive director Tim Jones said: "The loss of these veteran trees, which were hundreds of years old, is devastating and it will take many generations for new trees to grow to replace them, if they grow at all.

"Felling licences are part of the system we have in place so we can manage our trees and woodlands effectively, protecting them and making sure they continue to benefit us all now and into the future."

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