Developer fined thousands of pounds for chopping down trees in conservation area
PUBLISHED: 06:00 06 February 2020 | UPDATED: 14:06 06 February 2020
A housing developer has been fined £3,000 for cutting down trees in a conservation area.
Westcrombe Properties, based at Aylmerton, had been accused of uprooting 22 trees in August 2018 at Grange Gorman in Overstrand, designated a conservation area by North Norfolk District Council (NNDC).
In November last year, company director Reginald Medler pleaded not guilty to the charge, brought by NNDC, on behalf of himself and Westcrombe.
But as the case returned to Norwich Magistrates' Court on Wednesday, February 5, the accusation levelled at Mr Medler was dropped and Westcrombe was instead accused of chopping down three trees.
The 88-year-old pleaded guilty to the revised offence.
Jo Furner, prosecuting on behalf of NNDC, said the local authority was originally informed by the public that several trees were being removed from Grange Gorman, off Coast Road.
Permission had already been granted for the development of a single dwelling on the land, with Westcrombe Properties responsible for carrying out the work.
On August 17, 2018, a council landscape officer discovered several men on the site with "axes, chainsaws and a mechanical digger", and noted the area had recently been cleared.
In conservation areas, notice is required for works to trees with a trunk diameter of more than 75mm.
Mr Medler was later prosecuted in relation to the offence but, prior to Wednesday's proceedings, the extent of the wrongdoing was downgraded.
"It is accepted by the prosecution that 19 trees are likely to have fallen within the regulations," Ms Furner added.
Nick Sutherland, mitigating, highlighted a complaint to NNDC in June 2016 regarding the poor condition of Grange Gorman.
He said: "That prompted a letter from the council to the company setting out what it needed to do to avoid statutory action. So, in fact, the company was being asked to clear it up.
"The council and Mr Medler met on site to discuss the clearance of the land. Nobody said to Mr Medler 'clear the land but you need to be careful of those trees.'
"At worst, this was an innocent mistake from someone who didn't realise he needed permission to cut down these trees. At best, he was doing what the council asked him to do."
Westcrombe was fined £1,000 for the removal of each tree and a victim surcharge of £170.