A COUPLE who lopped major limbs of ffour protected trees in their garden have been heavily fined by magistrates in a case likely to act as a deterrent to other property owners.
Philip and Beverley Burchall, of Leighton Road, Neston, admitted carrying out the work, which also involved unauthorised topping, to three mature sycamores and a lime.
They were fined £400 each, with £235 costs, at Chester, Ellesmere Port & Neston Magistrates Court, following a prosecution brought by Ellesmere Port & Neston Borough Council.
The outcome of the case, which was heard on July 26, was reported to a meeting of the council's planning committee on Tuesday.
And it was welcomed by vice chairman Cllr Angela Claydon (Lab, Ledsham), who said: 'That is a warning to people if they do carry out work which is unauthorised.'
The Burchalls, a married couple with young children, arranged for workmen to cut the trees back in November last year.
But they were reported to the council by an anonymous caller and a council officer immediately visited their home, although by then the work had been largely completed.
The planning committee later authorised a prosecution of the couple for a breach of the Neston Urban District (Neston No 3) Tree Preservation Order 1964, which came into effect in 1967.
In court, they admitted the offence and apologised. In a statement, they said they had consulted with neighbours, who had no objection to the work.
They also claimed one of the mature trees had been damaging a sandstone boundary wall although this was disputed by the prosecution and that they had obtained consent for certain works in 1997.
Yesterday the council's principal assistant solicitor, Les Baker, said the couple had been given permission for limited works in 1997 but that had expired after a year.
He said the lopping and topping carried out last November bore no relationship whatsover to the works in the previous consent.
'We are talking about major branches which were sawn off very close to the actual trunks of the trees. They were topped as well, which meant a significant reduction in height.'
Mr Baker went on: 'We are not talking about a technical offence. This was a serious matter involving the reduction of the amenity value of the trees.'
Photographs of the trees, part of a line at the Burchalls house and two adjoining properties, were taken by council officers last November and again in March in case the works destroyed them.
Although this had not happened, Mr Baker said an expert believed the trees' lifespan could have been affected. Mr and Mrs Burchall were not available for comment yesterday.