Homeowner who poisoned protected tree that overlooked his house ordered to pay £80,000

The pine tree was 65 years old

Eleanor Sly
Friday 17 December 2021 19:44
<p>The trial took place at Salisbury Crown Court in Wiltshire </p>

The trial took place at Salisbury Crown Court in Wiltshire

A homeowner has been ordered to pay £80,000 for using a deadly herbicide to poison a protected tree that was overlooking his home.

Robert Page, 71, killed a 65ft Monterey pine tree after it threatened to ruin his plans to sell his home to a property developer.

The retired chartered accountant would have made £100,000 from the deal but planning permission was refused on numerous occasions, with the evergreen tree cited as a main reason, reported DorsetLive.

The pine tree, which was subject to a Tree Preservation Order in 1989, was 65 years old before it withered and died. Tree officers from the local council discovered that it had been poisoned at his home, near Poole Harbour in Dorset.

Page’s £900,000 property used to be overshadowed by the pine tree, prior to its poisoning.

Following a four-day trial, during which the 71-year-old claimed that a vigilante had come onto his property and killed the tree, he was found guilty of breaching the TPO order with intent to destroy the pine.

Salisbury Crown Court in Wiltshire also heard that the father-of-two’s act had put his neighbour’s property at risk, as the tree fell onto the roof of a garage block during Storm Arwen last month.

During sentencing, Judge Robert Pawson said that the "metaphorical shadow" of the tree would continue to hang over Page and his family.

He said: "The history of the matter gives your game away. You made an application to demolish your house. One of the reasons it was refused was because of the Monterey Pine.

"A second application was made to demolish yours and one neighbour’s house and build a block of two flats.

"Another application was refused - as was your appeal. In June 2018 you made a fateful fifth application to fell the tree.”

The judge went on to cite Page’s “irrational dislike of the tree” as a reason for him having poisoned it.

He said: "In my judgement, you have formed an irrational dislike of the tree or you wanted to get rid of it to secure a favourable financial agreement in the future.

"The evidence showed there had been a determined effort to kill the tree. This was a calculated effort which succeeded.”

He added: "That tree cast a literal shadow over your house and garden. Now that tree casts a metaphorical shadow over you and your family - your wife and your son. What they have had to put up with is entirely unjustifiable.

"You lied throughout the trial and you sought to pull the wool over the eyes of the jury and to deceive them at every turn.

"You were also very arrogant and posed a significant risk to your neighbours (by killing the tree)."

Mark Ruffell, mitigating, noted that his client had received hate mail as a result of his treatment of the tree. Mr Ruffell explained: "As a result of the adverse publicity this case has attracted...they have received hate mail. That in itself has a punitive effect on the defendant.

"There was abuse along the lines of he is going to lose his house.

"He was a man of previous good character. He feels the weight of the conviction in his shoulders and people looking at him."

Mr Ruffell went on to point out that Page has since planted a replacement tree on his property.

In total, Page was fined £50,000 for the amount his property has risen in value since the removal of the tree. He must also pay £5,000 to cover the loss to the public and £25,000 in court costs.

Judge Pawson concluded: "The fine should reflect the success of your offence. The Crown has assessed the increase to the value to your home which is agreed to be in the order of £50,000.

"As an educated man I do not believe for one second that you had not considered the possibility of being caught - you took a considered risk."

No comment was made by Page as he left the court.

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