HEALTHY trees are being chopped down because of a loophole that makes councils liable for root damage to homes.
Now a councillor has spoken of his sadness after two 200-year-old oak trees were felled.
Cowplain Cllr David Keast was concerned healthy trees – which have Tree Preservation Orders – were being needlessly cut down.
The latest felling in Cowplain follows similar cases in Emsworth and Waterlooville.
Two oaks had to be cut down off Park Lane Bridleway, in Cowplain, because of the trees causing subsidence damage to a 32-year-old home in nearby Ramblers Way.
Havant Borough Council’s planning committee was told the council could have to pay £85,000 in insurance costs to the homeowner if the tree was not taken down.
In previous cases, the council has been able to refuse the felling applications and the government planning inspector has invariably supported the council’s decision and forced the insurance company to pay for remedial works and underpinning.
But now insurance companies are able to bypass the inspector and go straight to the Lands Tribunal.
Judges at the tribunal can grant all charges and costs against the council so that the insurance company pays nothing.
He said: ‘It’s sad. This particular tree was probably one of the nicest in the borough.
‘Here we have this beautiful oak tree which has grown over a couple of hundred years, you then build a house and want to pull the tree down.
‘I am sympathetic for the owner – if it’s causing problems, something has to be done.
‘But it’s the way it’s being done compared to how it used to happen. It used to be the insurance company would fix the problem and the tree would remain.’
Council spokeswoman Sally Foster said: ‘Where local authorities are put on notice that a TPO tree is linked to damage to a property, the legislation in place via the Lands Tribunal allows the applicant (usually an insurance company) to claim for costs against the council if they refuse the felling.
‘The information required from the applicant must fully demonstrate that, on the balance of probability, the tree subject of the application is a major contributory factor in the building damage.’