Man fined £65k for chopping down trees is back in court for destroying even more nature

Man fined £65k for chopping down trees is back in court for destroying even more nature

A property developer who was fined more than £65,000 for chopping down protected trees has been hauled back into court for destroying even more.

Just weeks after being prosecuted for illegally felling dozens of historic oaks, landowner James Barney pleaded guilty to destroying more woodland.

Despite protest from councillors and residents, Barney awoke horrified neighbours by turning up with a team and a digger to cut down 53 oak trees which were over 100 years old and subject to a Tree Preservation Order.

The oaks stood in an area of woodland at Scoreys Copse, Horton Heath, Hampshire.

Cutting, damaging or destroying the trees was prohibited by the TPO without written consent from the local planning authority.

Barney, who lives nearby with his parents in a £2.3m house, had “access to a rich sea of funding”, Southampton Magistrates’ Court heard in September.

He planned to build two holiday lets on the plot of land he had recently bought, it was said.

The developer was ordered to pay £68,031 in fines and costs after pleading guilty to breaching tree preservation regulations over the offence in April last year.

The 35-year-old, of Old Bursledon, Hampshire, has now been hauled back to the same court and fined a further £1,000 for felling timber without a licence.

This time, Barney admitted destroying between 10 and 20 trees in March 2020 – weeks before submitting a planning application to build holiday lets on a site in Durley which he had bought for £27,500.

Prosecutor Alistair Haggerty said the holiday lets scheme was rejected by Winchester City Council and a second attempt to gain consent was also turned down.

“A number of people made complaints about the trees being felled. The woodland cannot be easily or quickly replaced,” he added.

John Fitzsimmons, defending, said Barney did not benefit financially because his applications to build holiday lets were refused.

But District Judge Peter Greenfield said the work was carried out “clearly for a profit” and ordered him to pay an additional £300 costs and a victim services surcharge of £100.