Don’t cut trees without checking if they are protected or you could face potentially huge fines, Thursfields Solicitors has warned.

The advice comes after a man was prosecuted and ordered to pay £40,000 for damaging a protected 42-foot oak tree which blocked sunlight from his £1 million home.

Lauren Bryan, a Chartered Legal Executive in Thursfields’ Dispute Resolution team in Birmingham, said: “This case highlights just how careful people must be before assuming they can just lop branches from or cut down trees.

Even when a tree is on your own property, and however annoying you might find it to be, you must always check whether they are protected or not.”

In the recent court case, the homeowner involved had added a new Juliet balcony to the master bedroom of his luxury home but afterwards realised it was left covered in shade by the oak tree in his back garden.

Because the mature specimen was subject to a Tree Preservation Order, that meant the homeowner should have sought permission from the local authority to cut it.

But he did not seek such permission and the court heard how he had “virtually destroyed” the oak by chopping off 12ft long branches to allow sunlight to reach his property.

Lauren said: “This homeowner was not only fined £1,200 and ordered to pay £15,000 in costs, but also become the first person to be dealt with under the Proceeds of Crime Act for a case involving damaging a tree to improve light.

This meant he had to pay an additional £21,000 to the local council, which was the amount the court estimated his hacking efforts had added to the value to his home.”

Lauren added that homeowners should also understand they are not allowed to cut overhanging branches from trees on their neighbours’ land without permission, as this could also result in court action and potentially expensive fines.

She added: “If in doubt, homeowners should seek legal advice before taking any irreversible action that could end up costing them a small fortune.”

Anyone wanting advice about tree problems on or near their property can contact Lauren Bryan at lbryan@thursfields.co.uk or on 0121 227 3369.

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