Sizeable fine for developer who felled trees, despite TPO not being online

A developer who illegally felled 27 trees covered by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) in east Hampshire will have to hand over more than £8,000.

Image: PxHere (CC0)
Image: PxHere (CC0)

Abbi Guy Soufi (64) of Camberley, Surrey, admitted cutting down the trees, contrary to Section 210(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, at Basingstoke Magistrates' Court last month.

He was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay Rushmoor Borough Council's costs of £2,886 and a victim surcharge of £170. He will also have to re-plant the trees he felled.

The court heard that the tree felling took place on land by Geneva House in Gladiator Way, Farnborough, over a weekend in June 2018, and was reported by several members of the public.

An arboricultural officer from Rushmoor Borough Council recorded that 23 mature and semi-mature oak trees and four mature sycamore trees had been chopped down.

The court heard that Soufi had bought the land at an auction the previous month, intending to building a retirement complex and a swimming pool.

In mitigation, Kevin Izod, acting for Soufi, claimed that although a TPO for the site had been registered in June 2016 and confirmed in December that year, the confirmation document was not on the council's website, so it would have been reasonable to assume the TPO had lapsed.

But the council said it does not have to place all TPOs and confirmation documents on their website and developers are expected to make first-hand checks directly with the land charges section on this, and said it had no record of any such check.

Its head of economy, planning and strategic housing Tim Mills said: "The onus is on any responsible developer to carry out a proper check directly with our land charges section before carrying out any work on trees in a protected area. Mr Soufi clearly did not do so.

"He could have saved himself thousands of pounds with a simple phone call or a visit - and this would have prevented the decimation of these valuable, protected trees."

He added: "We will be making sure every one of these trees is replaced. Hopefully this will serve as a warning that we take the protection of our borough's natural environment, green space and trees very seriously."


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