Fringe Box



Trees Illegally Felled – Culprits Fined £20,000

Published on: 6 Apr, 2024
Updated on: 7 Apr, 2024

Stumps of illegally felled Elms circled in red. Image WBC

By Chris Caulfield

local democracy reporter

Culprits who illegally cut down more than 100 protected trees and damaged seven others have been fined nearly £20,000.

A landowner and their contractor were prosecuted and fined for the unauthorised felling of the trees near Upshot Lane, Pyrford, after pleading guilty at Guildford Magistrates’ Court.

Burhill Development Ltd admitted it ignored a tree preservation order on its land and was made to pay £15,140, comprising fines of £11,000, a victim surcharge of £2,000 and costs of £2,140.

Their contractor, P&A Services, which carried out the work, also pleaded guilty to the unauthorised felling and causing damage to the protected trees and was ordered to pay a total of £2,900; fines of £1,000; a victim surcharge of £400; and council costs of £1,500.

The action was taken against the two firms by Woking Borough Council. The original hearing took place in October 2023 with the judge handing down the sentence in March 2024.

Speaking about the prosecution, Beverley Kuchar, Woking Borough Council’s strategic director for Place, described it as an “important case” and welcomed the decision.

She said: “Whether you permit or cause wilful damage to our environment we will take legal action wherever necessary.

“It is important that landowners and their contractors take the necessary steps to understand what consent is required before commencing tree works.

“The status of the borough’s trees can be checked quickly and simply online. If in doubt, our arboricultural team can provide advice in advance of any works commencing.

“There is no excuse and, as in this case, failure to do so can lead to a criminal prosecution and significant fines.”

Tree Preservation Orders protect specific trees, groups of trees, or woodland that benefit the wider community.

Share This Post

Responses to Trees Illegally Felled – Culprits Fined £20,000

  1. Jack Bayliss Reply

    April 6, 2024 at 10:04 am

    I wonder why the Elm stumps have been highlighted. I have not, since I was a young man, seen an Elm grow bigger than the size the trees in those stumps would have been without dying of Dutch Elm disease. Any tree that size would undoubtedly have been affected.

  2. John Cooke Reply

    April 6, 2024 at 7:16 pm

    I agree with Mr Bayliss: English Elm rarely grows over 5m before being killed by Dutch Elm Disease.

    Regardless, the fines for developers clearing land are pathetic and they must be toasting their success and sending a bonus to the contractors.

    The amenity value placed on trees is incredibly low compared to the financial benefit in clearing land for development or improving views.

  3. Robert Shatwell Reply

    April 7, 2024 at 8:20 pm

    The trees that were felled were ash trees subject to Ash Dieback back and not elm trees subjected to Dutch Elm disease.

    Burhill complied with instructions for the protection of the badgers on this site and actually asked West Surrey Badger Group to instruct their ground staff about badgers and the provisions of The Protection of Badgers Act 1992.

    Woking Borough Council were not interested in the damage/disturbance of the badgers only the tree preservation order. Had the trees not been cut down they could have fallen down across Upshot Lane hitting a car.

    • John Cooke Reply

      April 8, 2024 at 5:57 pm

      If the land wasn’t cleared for financial gain then I’m happy to retract my earlier statement and apologise. Although it does seem an odd situation: if the trees were dangerous it’s easy to apply to remove the TPO.

      Don’t badgers live underground?

  4. Roland Dunster Reply

    April 12, 2024 at 11:22 pm

    In addition to the fines, victim surcharges and costs, surely having to replant in the same location with appropriate native/size trees should form a fundamental element of all such penalties? I’m not suggesting it was the case here, but it would certainly disincentivize any ideas of suffering comparatively minor costs for potentially huge gains.

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *