Hefty fine for Harrogate developers after destroying protected trees in Ripon

Trees cut down at the former Ripon College site (s)
Trees cut down at the former Ripon College site (s)
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A property development company that planned to demolish The Old Lecture Building in 2014 has been fined more than £35,000 for cutting down trees in a conservation area.

Graycliffe Homes Ltd of Pannal Road, Follifoot in Harrogate had put in a planning application to erect 14 dwellings on College Road in June 2014.

However, the application was opposed by the Ripon’s planning committee after a member of the public complained that two of the trees had been cut down in the conservational area.

The application was refused and on Wednesday, September 2, the company pleaded guilty to all seven offences at Harrogate Magistrate’s Court in a prosecution brought by Harrogate Borough Council (HBC)

Alan Gilleard, assistant arboriculture manager at HBC, said it would take three decades for replacement trees to reach similar maturity levels.

He said: “We notified the company very early on that these trees were in a conservation area and that as such could not be removed.

“However; in April last year the company decided to ignore this and chopped down the six trees; they then compounded their actions two months later by cutting down a tree which was the subject of a tree preservation order.

“The sad fact in this case is that it will take over 30 years for replacement trees to reach the same level of maturity.”

The offences of cutting down trees, all on the former Ripon College site, in a conservation area were committed on April 8, 2014 with the offence of felling a tree in contravention of a tree protection order was committed on June 1.

The company was fined £4,000 for each of the six trees cut down in a conservation area and fined £6,000 in respect of the protected tree.

Graycliffe Homes Ltd was also ordered to pay costs and disbursements of £7,416.88 and a victim surcharge of £120.00 (a total financial penalty of £37,581.88).

Coun Michael Harrison, cabinet member for environment with HBC, said: ““It was important that the Council acted swiftly to ensure that those responsible for felling the protected trees were prosecuted for their activity.

“I really hope this case will serve as a deterrent to people who think such reckless action doesn’t have consequences. As this case shows, there can be serious consequences.”

Speaking in July 2014, the former Mayor of Ripon, Coun Mick Stanley said he would have had more sympathy for the planning application had they not chopped the trees down.

He said: “The developer had no permission to chop the trees down in a conservation area and they should receive a fine for the actions.”