A SOLICITOR has been fined for illegally cutting back a protected oak tree.
Sandro Placidi appeared at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court and was found guilty of cutting down the oak without the consent of Fareham Borough Council.
It was protected by a Tree Protection Order, meaning it cannot be touched without special permission.
The court heard that Placidi, of Warsash Road, Warsash, got advice from three different experts who said the tree could be cut down.
But district judge Anthony Callaway said Placidi failed to ask the council.
‘He was fully aware of the fact that if he asked Fareham Borough Council if the tree was protected, that they would say affirmative,’ he said.
Placidi was fully aware of the fact that if he asked Fareham Borough Council if the tree was protected, that they would say affirmativeDistrict judge Anthony Callaway
‘You are an intelligent man who could have involved the local authority in your discussions. You didn’t do that because you knew the answer.
‘You recklessly disregarded the law.’
The borough council made a TPO in 2009 to protect the oak, which borders two properties in Warsash Road and Dibles Road. It is estimated to be 100 years old.
In April last year it was reported to them that the vast majority of the tree had been cut down and, following an investigation, Placidi was summoned to the courts.
People are required to contact the council and an application must be made before a decision is made over a protected tree.
Placidi did not provide any information to the council before the works were carried out.
Representing himself, Placidi said there was low culpability on his behalf because he sought the opinion of experts on whether he would be committing an offence.
He was fined £1,200 by district judge Callaway and told to pay the prosecution costs.
Executive member for planning and environment, Cllr Keith Evans said: ‘This prosecution sends out a clear message that violating a tree preservation order has serious legal consequences.
‘Anyone planning tree work should contact the council for advice before doing anything.’