Robert Page, 71, poured deadly herbicide onto the protected 65ft Monterey pine after it ruined his bid to sell his Dorset home
Image: Richard Cole/BNPS)
A “determined” and “arrogant” homeowner who killed a protected tree in a “calculated effort” using a deadly herbicide after it ruined a property deal has been told to pay £80,000 in fines.
Robert Page, 71, destroyed the 65ft Monterey pine after it scuppered his plans to sell his home to a property developer.
The retired chartered accountant was set to make £100,000 from the deal, but planning permission was refused on several occasions, with the evergreen cited as a key reason, reports DorsetLive.
The 65-year-old specimen, which was made subject to a Tree Preservation Order in 1989, also cast a large shadow over Page’s £900,000 home near Poole Harbour, Dorset.
In 2016, he arranged to have drill holes made in the trunk of the tree and a deadly herbicide poured inside them.
Concrete was also poured around the roots to “choke” the tree of oxygen.
Two years later, after the once-luscious pine had withered and died, tree officers at the local council inspected it and discovered it had been sabotaged.
Upon seeing the officials on his property in the posh suburb of Lilliput, Poole, Page was overheard to say to his wife “don’t tell them anything.”
A court heard 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.
He was found guilty of breaching a TPO order with intent to destroy the tree following a four-day trial where he claimed a vigilante had come onto his property and killed it.
Judge Robert Pawson, sentencing Page at Salisbury Crown Court, Wilts, said the “metaphorical shadow” of the tree would continue to hang over him and his family.
He 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 neighbour’s 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.
“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 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 the 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).”
Mark Ruffell, mitigating, said his client had received hate mail as a result of what he did to the tree.
He 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.
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.
He was also ordered to pay £25,000 in court costs.
Judge Pawson added: “The fine should reflect the success of your offence. The Crown has 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.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.