02:10PM, Friday 22 September 2017
The developer wants to build 150 homes at Lodge Farm.
A housing developer has been fined £16,000 for cutting down 36 trees on greenbelt land in Holyport.
Beaulieu Homes Southern Limited appeared at Reading Magistrates’ Court on Friday following accusations that it felled trees worth thousands of pounds in Lodge Farm without permission.
The company pleaded guilty before the hearing but told the court the trees had not been cut down for commercial gain.
Rachel Lucas, prosecuting on behalf of the Royal Borough, told the court: “In summary,
this concerns the chopping down of trees in a conservation area without permission being granted.
“We are not dealing with twigs here, these were sizeable trees.”
The court heard how in September 2015, council officers visited the site, which is bordered on one side by Ascot Road, following complaints that a number of trees had been removed.
It found that species including a Norway spruce with an amenity value of £3,861.60, an English oak worth £12,261 and a sycamore worth £3,448.44 had all been chopped down.
The land, which has been offered to the council as an alternative site for homes for the Borough Local Plan (BLP), falls within the Holyport Conservation Area.
Jonathan Kirk QC, representing Beaulieu Homes, told the court that a junior employee at the company was to blame for giving the orders to fell the trees.
He said: “Unfortunately, what happened is a junior employee within the company thought there had been an agreement and went ahead and instructed the trees to be cut down.
“It wasn’t done for a financial motive.”
Mr Kirk told the court that the trees had been cut down to help improve access to derelict buildings on the site and had not been removed to make way for houses.
He added that the junior employee was unaware they were covered by the conservation area.
Chair James Griffiths fined the company £16,000 and ordered it to pay £3,391.94 costs.
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