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Charges Successfully Brought Against Developer for Destroying Trees

Against the backdrop of Brexit, lots of us are planning to “improve rather than move”.  At PTS, we are regularly asked to help customers who would like to prune or remove trees as part of a site development plan and, where required, an application to the Local Authority, and support with any appeal following the decision, is all part of the service.

It can be immensely frustrating if the Local Authority will not permit the work to be done.  The following story relates to a large developer, but the risks to individual home owners and to tree surgeons who proceed with works despite protection orders or other restrictions covering them are clear:

Mole Valley District Council’s commitment to vigilantly uphold the district’s environment and natural beauty has seen the successful prosecution of a Weybridge-based developer for uprooting and destroying trees without permission in the Dorking Conservation Area.

Following the conclusion of a thorough investigation into the actions of the developer by the Mole Valley District Council (MVDC) Enforcement Team, a District Judge sentenced Runneymede Homes Ltd, to a £15,000 fine and ordered them to pay the Council’s costs at Brighton Magistrates Court on Tuesday 15 January 2019. The Director of the developers, Mark Knight, had already pleaded guilty on behalf of the company in May 2018, to three charges relating to the trees, at the same location six months earlier.

Having been caught ripping up three Beech trees from the Conservation Area in Dorking without seeking advice or permission from MVDC in late summer 2017, representatives from Runneymede Homes Ltd were formally interviewed under caution by MVDC officers shortly after. The unauthorised removal of the trees to the rear of the White Horse Hotel in Dorking took place in preparation of nine new homes being built on the site.

Runneymede Homes Ltd defended their actions by arguing that the trees in question had become dangerous after the removal of the bank the trees had occupied. The developer had however elected not to contact MVDC ahead of undertaking this work, and did not consider the consequences of their actions. Runneymede Homes has since planted new, smaller trees along the top of the reformed bank although, the Council has not yet agreed the details of the replanting.

Councillor Chris Hunt, Cabinet Member for Planning Services and Housing, said:

"Land owners, developers and contractors alike have a duty to conserve protected trees and comply with the tree protection regulations by seeking advice from us and take necessary precautions. We treat the unauthorised destruction of protected trees very seriously. In addition to being a criminal offence, the removal of mature trees can cause significant harm to the character of the district. We will always seek to take legal action where appropriate."

For advice about your trees, a tree survey or a free written quote for work you’re considering contact Andrew on 01256 883061, 07771 883061, by email at or Twitter @PrimaryTreeSurg