Councillor fined for felling tree

PUBLISHED: 17:04 24 May 2007 | UPDATED: 12:32 04 May 2010

COUNTY and district councillor Bill Hunt has been forced to pay almost £900 for illegally cutting down a protected tree in his garden. Cllr Hunt cut down a Corsican pine tree in his garden in Cambridge Road, Ely, on November 18 last year because it was ca

COUNTY and district councillor Bill Hunt has been forced to pay almost £900 for illegally cutting down a protected tree in his garden.

Cllr Hunt cut down a Corsican pine tree in his garden in Cambridge Road, Ely, on November 18 last year because it was causing his driveway to crack and he feared his house was at risk.

But the tree had been protected by a Tree Preservation Order since 1984.

Cllr Hunt was fined £500 and after the case he said: "I feared for the safety of my house and panicked. I acted in haste and made a very costly mistake.

"It was a genuine mistake and I'm glad that the magistrates seemed to accept that. I had hoped this matter could have been settled out of court and that, instead of being fined, I could have put forward some money for civic benefit, but the district council decided to prosecute. I make no bones about that, I broke the law and deserved to be punished."

Cllr Hunt, who represents Stretham on East Cambridgeshire District Council, and is a county councillor for Haddenham, pleaded guilty to breaching the Town and Country Planning Act, at Ely Magistrates' Court on Tuesday.

Prosecuting Maggie Camp, senior legal assistant for East Cambridgeshire District Council, said: "Mr Hunt had a duty to inform us of his plans to cut down the tree and to replace it; this has not been done. Ignorance of the law cannot be used an excuse."

Mitigating Michael Judkins said: "Mr Hunt had no idea that the tree was subject to a Tree Preservation Order and there is an assumption that if an application had been made, it probably would have been granted.

"Mr Hunt has apologised profusely to the district council and co-ordinated with them fully. He also pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.

"Mr Hunt has written to the district council, offering to finance alternative tree planting in Ely, possibly the Jubilee Gardens. There is nothing more he could have done to put right his wrongdoing."

Presiding magistrate Hamish Ross said: "The tree was significant enough to hold a Tree Preservation Order and ignorance to the law is no defence, but we take into account your full apology and co-operation with the district council."

Cllr Hunt was fined £500 and ordered to pay £383.38 costs. He was also ordered to plant a tree in liaison with East Cambridgeshire District Council's tree officer.

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