Burgess Hill resident found guilty of felling a protected tree

PR2324/IF/MF - 15/12/2020

A Burgess Hill resident has been ordered to pay £6,000 after being found guilty of cutting down a tree that was protected by a Tree Preservation Order.

Mr Michael Underwood of 100 Folders Lane, Burgess Hill, felled a protected ash tree on the property and built a new patio in its place, without obtaining the required planning permission.

The illegal tree felling was not Mr Underwood’s first offence. He previously carried out
unauthorised pruning work on a protected band of oak trees along the edge of his residence, causing significant damage.

By wilfully ignoring planning regulations, removing a protected tree and building a new patio, Mr Underwood was able to increase the value of his property. The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 provides that individuals should not profit from their offences and that the sentence should take account of any economic gain achieved by the offender.

On 10 December 2020 at Crawley Magistrates’ Court Mr Michael Underwood was found guilty of the offence and fined £5,000, which was reduced by a third to £3,333 due to his early guilty plea. Mr Underwood was also ordered to pay a victim’s surcharge and costs to the Council of £2,500.

Councillor Andrew MacNaughton, MSDC’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning said:

“Our Tree Officer invested considerable time to provide Mr Underwood with expert advice on this matter, both via email and over the phone.

“Mr Underwood chose to ignore that advice and removed a protected tree without obtaining the relevant planning permission, which is a clear breach of planning law.

“I hope the fines imposed by the Magistrates’ in this case send a clear message that planning laws are as important as any other in this country and they must be respected.”