Sidmouth pensioner fined £3,500 for illegally cutting down tree

Exeter magistrates court. Ref exe 01-17TI 4928. Picture: Terry Ife

Exeter magistrates court. Ref exe 01-17TI 4928. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

A Sidmouth pensioner has been landed with a hefty fine after cutting down a protected tree.

Christopher Luxton was found guilty by magistrates last Friday (August 25) and told to pay £3,489 in costs for felling a 25-foot ash tree on November 16 last year.

Magistrates heard the tree had been cut in an ‘unprofessional’ manner which saw it crash into a neighbouring garden, destroying a summerhouse.

Barrister Emmi Wilson, representing East Devon District Council (EDDC), said a tree preservation order (TPO) had been put in place on November 15 before the tree was cut down the next morning.

The court heard that David Lomas, arboriculture officer for EDDC had seen the tree on November 11, when he called round to a neighbouring property and described it as a healthy and aged between 40 to 45 years old.

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He only issued the TPO on November 15, after the council received a call from tree surgeon Connor Down, who working at the defendant’s property in Redwood Road.

Mr Lomas then told the court he filed the order and took a copy of it to Redwood Grange and posted it through the letter box as the defendant was not at home.

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He spoke to Mr Down at the property, who gave him the defendant’s phone number. Mr Lomas said he then called and left a message to say the tree was now covered by a TPO.

Mr Down, who also gave evidence, told the court that he spoke to the defendant to tell him he could not cut the tree down.

The tree surgeon said: “He wasn’t best pleased, he said to get on with it anyway which I am not going to do.

“He said ‘the council are not your god or your mother so you do not have to listen.’ I said, ‘you’re not my god or my mother.’”

Luxton, 74, told the court: “The trees ruin my back garden. There is moss, nothing will grow. I have been intending to cut them down for some time.”

The defendant, who was representing himself, denied the charges and said a friend had cut the tree down for him on the morning of November 15, before the order was in place.

He also told the court he had no notification of the order and only discovered the letter from the council a few days later.

But magistrates didn’t believe his version of events and ordered Luxton to pay £1,000 for the offence, £2,389 in court costs and £100 victim surcharge.

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