A homeowner has been ordered to pay nearly £9,000 for paying a contractor to illegally cut down three healthy apple trees in a conservation area.
The trees, in the garden of the Cotswolds village of Blockley, were believed to be around 60 years old and historic mapping indicates the site was an orchard from at least 1891, Cotswold District Council said.
Resident Ismail Elmagdoub says his dog kept getting ill because it was eating the apples, which also attracted wasps, and so he removed the trees but failed to gain planning permission for this.
What was the planning dispute?
In March 2023, three healthy apple trees were felled by a contractor organised by Mr Elmagdoub without prior notice to the council as is required by law.
A witness saw the contractor beginning to cut down the trees and advised the contractor the trees were in a conservation area. Despite raising concerns with the contractor and the homeowner, their concerns were dismissed and the trees were cut down.
Mr Elmagdoub explained that the fallen apples from the trees were being eaten by his dog, which made the pet ill, and the trees were attracting wasps which were causing issues for his family. Mr Elmagdoub apologised for the felling of the trees and stated that he “acted without thought”.
It isn’t the first time an historic tree has sparked a row – a recent planning standoff over an ancient oak tree was sparked when a developer announced plans to chop down the 700-year-old 'King's Spy Oak' in Berkshire.
Why was planning permission needed to fell the trees?
The trees were located within the rear garden of the property, which is situated in the Blockley Conservation Area.
Cotswold Council states that most trees in conservation areas are protected. If residents wish to carry out work to a tree in a conservation area they are required to notify council officers of their intention to carry out that work at least six weeks before the works are undertaken.
The prosecution was brought by Cotswold District Council’s Heritage and Conservation Team with assistance from both the Council’s Counter Fraud and Enforcement Unit (CFEU) and Legal Service.
Forced to pay £8,884 in fines and costs
The matter was taken to Cheltenham Magistrates Court where Mr Elmagdoub pleaded guilty to removing the trees without consent.
He was fined £4224 and ordered to pay an additional £2970 in costs and a victim surcharge of £1690, taking the total he has to pay to £8884.
Robert Weaver, chief executive of Cotswold District Council, said: “Preserving our natural heritage is a shared responsibility, and we encourage residents to engage with us to ensure sustainable decision-making.
“The outcome of this case underscores the importance of engaging with the council to ensure we protect and enhance our shared environment for future generations."
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Sam is based in Coventry and has been a news reporter for nearly 20 years. His work has featured in the Mirror, The Sun, MailOnline, the Independent, and news outlets throughout the world. As a copywriter, he has written for clients as diverse as Saint-Gobain, Michelin, Halfords Autocentre, Great British Heating, and Irwin Industrial Tools. During the pandemic, he converted a van into a mini-camper and is currently planning to convert his shed into an office and Star Wars shrine.