Homeowner ordered to pay £80K after poisoning 65ft protected pine tree overlooking his Dorset home 1

Homeowner ordered to pay £80K after poisoning 65ft protected pine tree overlooking his Dorset home

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An ‘arrogant’ homeowner who killed a protected tree that stood in the way of a lucrative property deal has been ordered to pay £80,000 in fines and costs.

Robert Page, 71, formed an ‘irrational dislike’ of the 65ft Monterey pine after it scuppered his bid to sell his home near Poole Harbour to a property developer.

The retired chartered accountant stood to make £100,000 from the deal but planning permission was repeatedly refused, with the public amenity value of the evergreen cited as a reason.

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The 65-year-old specimen, that was made subject to a Tree Preservation Order in 1989, also cast a large shadow over Page’s £900,000 home in Dorset.

In 2016 he arranged to have drill holes made in the trunk of the tree and a deadly herbicide poured inside, before claiming a vigilante had come onto his property and killed it. Concrete was also poured around the roots to ‘choke’ it of oxygen.

Upon inspection two years later, tree officers at the local council discovered the once-luscious pine had been sabotaged after it withered and died.

After spotting the officials on his property in the upmarket district of Lilliput, Poole, Page was overheard saying to his wife: ‘Don’t tell them anything.’ 

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Following a four-day trial, he has now been found guilty of breaching a TPO order with intent to destroy the tree.

Judge Robert Pawson, sentencing Page at Salisbury Crown Court, Wiltshire, said the ‘metaphorical shadow’ of the tree would continue to hang over him and his family. 

Robert Page (pictured arriving at court), 71, formed an 'irrational dislike' of the 65ft Monterey pine after it scuppered his bid to sell his home near Poole Harbour to a property developer

Robert Page (pictured arriving at court), 71, formed an ‘irrational dislike’ of the 65ft Monterey pine after it scuppered his bid to sell his home near Poole Harbour to a property developer

The tree is seen being removed by workmen after it landed on a block of garages, leaving the owners with a bill costing thousands of pounds

The tree is seen being removed by workmen after it landed on a block of garages, leaving the owners with a bill costing thousands of pounds 

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Pictured: The tree in all its glory in 2012. The 65-year-old specimen (circled), that was made subject to a Tree Preservation Order in 1989, also cast a large shadow over Page's £900,000 home in Dorset

Pictured: The tree in all its glory in 2012. The 65-year-old specimen (circled), that was made subject to a Tree Preservation Order in 1989, also cast a large shadow over Page’s £900,000 home in Dorset 

A court heard that the father-of-two’s selfish act had also put his neighbour’s property at risk and the large tree eventually fell onto the roof of a garage block during Storm Arwen last month. 

Mark Ruffell, mitigating, said his client had received hate mail as a result of what he did to the tree. 

Page was fined £55,000 to £50,000 for the amount his property has risen in value by the loss of the tree and £5,000 to cover the loss to the public.

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He was also ordered to pay £25,000 in court costs.

Judge Pawson said: ‘The history of the matter gives your game away. You made an application to demolish your house. One of the reasons it was refused was because of the Monterey Pine.

‘A second application was made to demolish yours and one neighbours house and build a block of two flats.

‘Another application was refused – as was your appeal. In June 2018 you made a fateful fifth application to fell the tree.

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‘In my judgement, you have formed an irrational dislike of the tree or you wanted to get rid of it to secure a favourable financial agreement in the future. 

The tree which was poisoned and killed by Page fell onto the garage roof of a neighbouring block of flats during Storm Arwen last weekend

The tree which was poisoned and killed by Page fell onto the garage roof of a neighbouring block of flats during Storm Arwen last weekend

The stump (circled) in the garden of the house at Avalon in Poole. Upon inspection, tree officers at the local council discovered the once-luscious pine had been sabotaged

The stump (circled) in the garden of the house at Avalon in Poole. Upon inspection, tree officers at the local council discovered the once-luscious pine had been sabotaged 

The retired chartered accountant (seen leaving Salisbury Law Courts yesterday) stood to make £100,000 from the deal but planning permission was repeatedly refused, with the public amenity value of the evergreen cited as a reason

The retired chartered accountant (seen leaving Salisbury Law Courts yesterday) stood to make £100,000 from the deal but planning permission was repeatedly refused, with the public amenity value of the evergreen cited as a reason

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‘The evidence showed there had been a determined effort to kill the tree. This was a calculated effort which succeeded.

‘That tree cast a literal shadow over your house and garden. Now that tree casts a metaphorical shadow over you and your family – your wife and your son. What they have had to put up with is entirely unjustifiable.

‘You lied throughout the trial and you sought to pull wool over the eyes of the jury and to deceive them at every turn. 

‘You were also very arrogant and posed a significant risk to your neighbours [by killing the tree].’  

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Page was fined £55,000 to £50,000 for the amount his property has risen in value by the loss of the tree and £5,000 to cover the loss to the public (file photo of Salisbury Law Courts)

Page was fined £55,000 to £50,000 for the amount his property has risen in value by the loss of the tree and £5,000 to cover the loss to the public (file photo of Salisbury Law Courts)

Mr Ruffell said: ‘As a result of the adverse publicity this case has attracted… they have received hate mail. That in itself has a punitive effect on the defendant. There was abuse along the lines of he is going to lose his house.

‘He was a man of previous good character. He feels the weight of the conviction in his shoulders and people looking at him.’

Mr Ruffell added that Page has since planted a replacement tree on his property. 

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Judge Pawson said: ‘The fine should reflect the success of your offence. The Crown have assessed the increase to the value to your home which is agreed to be in the order of £50,000.

‘As an educated man I do not believe for one second that you had not considered the possibility of being caught – you took a considered risk.’

Page made no comment as he left court.

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