A MAN from Chester has been ordered by a judge to pay £28,646 after pleading guilty to wilfully damaging a yew tree protected by a Tree Preservation Order.

Angelo Esposito from Hartington Street, Handbridge, had appeared at Chester Magistrates Court and the case was sent to Crown Court last Friday for sentencing.

He was ordered to pay a £13,750 Confiscation Order under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, a £10,000 fine, and the Council’s legal costs of £4,896.

Mr Esposito, who owns La Fattoria Italian Restaurant on Lower Bridge St, has 28 days to pay the Confiscation Order otherwise he will be liable to a 12 month term of imprisonment.

The tree was in the front garden of a property Mr Esposito owns in Eaton Road and the tree had to be removed after part of its root ball was so badly damaged by excavation work, it was rendered unsafe.

Cllr Lynn Riley, executive member for community and environment said: “This is the first case of its kind prosecuted by Cheshire West and Chester Council.

“The outcome of the case demonstrates our strong commitment to ensure that Chester’s environment and the character of its neighbourhoods are protected.

“The offence was discovered as a result of the good work of a local resident who reported the unlawful damage to the protected tree promptly to the council, allowing effective action to take place.

“The court found that this was a financially motivated crime; recognised by the level of the fine given by the court and the amount recovered by the confiscation order.

“The Town and Country Planning Act exists to regulate development and enhance the environment for the benefit of all. The Proceeds of Crime Act is a powerful tool used by the Council to ensure that those who disregard the law will not benefit from crime.”