A LANDOWNER has been slapped with a hefty fine after pleading guilty in court this week to the unauthorised pruning of woodland trees in Guiseley.

Leeds City Council mounted a prosecution against John Ogden, of Victoria Avenue, Ilkley, after a total of 150 protected trees were damaged on agricultural land at Thorpe Lane in Guiseley between March and May this year.

Limbs were torn from many of the trees using heavy machinery, with oaks, sycamores, limes and horse chestnuts among the species affected.

Wharfedale Observer: A piece of heavy machinery that was used during unauthorised work at Thorpe Lane, GuiseleyA piece of heavy machinery that was used during unauthorised work at Thorpe Lane, Guiseley (Image: Leeds City Council)

As the site is covered by a woodland Tree Preservation Order (TPO), formal permission should have been sought before the work was carried out but this was never obtained, the council said.

Following an investigation that involved planning enforcement, tree and legal teams from the council, a prosecution was brought against the owner of the land, Mr Ogden.

Mr Ogden was told to pay £13,840 in fines, costs and victim surcharge after pleading guilty to breaching a TPO when he appeared before magistrates on Tuesday (November 14).

The unauthorised work on the trees at the Thorpe Lane site – close to the A65 roundabout – was said by the defendant to have been carried out to facilitate the installation of new fencing.

Wharfedale Observer: Damage to the trees at Thorpe Lane, GuiseleyDamage to the trees at Thorpe Lane, Guiseley (Image: Leeds City Council)

Leeds City Council has today welcomed the result of the case, saying it should serve as a reminder that Leeds is ready to take necessary and proportionate action to protect its tree stock.

Councillor Helen Hayden, Leeds City Council’s executive member for sustainable development and infrastructure, said: “We take any damage to our city’s trees extremely seriously and, where wrongdoing has been committed, we are fully prepared to use the enforcement powers that are available to us.

“Protecting our tree stock and increasing tree cover across the city is important to the council as it aligns with our net zero and ecology ambitions.

“I would like to thank all the officers who worked on this case for their diligence and determination in securing the outcome we saw at court this week.

“It was a joined-up approach with a successful result that will hopefully act as a warning to anyone who is considering flouting the rules on felling and pruning trees in our city.”

Further information about the mechanisms that are in place to protect trees in Leeds can be found on the council’s website.