A LINCOLNSHIRE builder has been heavily fined for felling two protected trees within a conservation area.
Following an investigation by East Lindsey District Council, Terrence Batten of Kirkby Hill, Old Bolingbroke, was found to have felled without permission a holly tree and a cypress tree that lined the boundary between the St Peter and St Paul Churchyard and his own building site, off Moat Lane, Old Bolingbroke.
Boston magistrates Court imposed a fine of £12,000 and costs of £700 costs plus a £1,200 victim surcharge.
The court heard that members of the public and nearby residents were distressed at the work carried out by the defendant and contacted the council to report the matter.
Following a site visit, Batten was invited to an interview under caution. Carrying out unauthorised works to protected trees is a criminal offence.
He declined the invitation but the council decided there was sufficient evidence to prosecute and, in court, he pleaded guilty to breaching Section 210 of the Town and Country Planning Act.
Speaking after the case, Cleethorpes man Robert Taylor, who is ELDC's arboricultural officer, said: "In carrying out this work Mr Batten showed a complete disregard for the conservation area and the protection this affords trees within it.
"The level of fine reflects that this was a serious breach of the law, causing harm to the character of the area and a great deal of distress to local people.
"The council investigates all unauthorised work to protected trees. and this case demonstrates that we will take action where breaches of the law occur.
"Anyone planning to carry out work to trees that may be protected is encouraged to contact the council first for advice."
Trees within a conservation area are protected in the same way as those covered by a tree preservation order.
Before carrying out work to a conservation area tree, at least six weeks' notice must be given to the local authority.