Francesca Schillaci a resident in Nazeing and Tom Casey of Casey Tree Services, Nazeing have collectively been fined over £3000 after cutting down a protected willow tree.
The was tree situated in Mrs Schillaci’s garden in Back Lane, Nazeing and became subject to a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) in December 2016, following a proposal by Mrs Schillaci to cut it down.
In March 2017 tree and landscape officers noticed the willow tree had been cut down, although no consent had been given.
Mrs Schillaci admitted that she has known the tree was protected but claimed it had been damaged during “Storm Doris” in February 2017 and the willow required urgent removal as there was an imminent danger if this did not happen.
Mrs Schillaci stated that she had contacted the council and having explained the situation was given authority to have the tree felled.
Tom Casey of Casey Tree Services confirmed that he had cut down of the willow tree after Mrs Schillaci incorrectly informed him she had permission from the Council to do so.
Officers confirmed that a telephone call had been traced from Mrs Schillaci, the officer she spoke to did not give her permission to cut down the tree, but advised her in line with the Council’s standard procedure Mrs Schillaci should arrange for the tree to be inspected by a tree surgeon and send in a photograph of the tree in its alleged dangerous state.
At Basildon Magistrates Court in October 2017 Francesca Schillaci and Tom Casey Nazeing were each found guilty of cutting down the willow tree without authorisation.
The Magistrates stated that they found the evidence presented by council officers to be credible and the evidence given by Mrs Schillaci inconsistent.
They also advised as a professional tree surgeon, Mr Casey should have known not to accept what Mrs Schillaci told him without written proof.
The Magistrates were not satisfied that the tree was an immediate risk which required it to be cut down immediately.
Mrs Schillaci was fined £1500 and ordered to pay a contribution towards the council’s prosecution costs of £1,000.
Mr Casey was given a 6 month conditional discharge, ordered to pay a contribution towards the council’s prosecution costs of £1000 and has been removed from the Council’s approved list of contractors.