Wealthy homeowner accused of poisoning protected tree that blocked sun from house

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Robert Page arranged to have the 65ft mature pine in the front garden of his home near Poole Harbour, Dorset, poisoned with a deadly herbicide, it is alleged

Robert Page leaving Salisbury Law Courts
Robert Page leaving Salisbury Law Courts

A wealthy homeowner killed a protected tree that blocked the sun on his luxury property after failing to secure permission to fell it legally, a court heard.

Robert Page arranged to have the 65ft mature pine in the front garden of his home near Poole Harbour, Dorset, poisoned with a deadly herbicide, it is alleged.

The ‘huge and historic’ specimen was protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) and had stood in the posh neighbourhood of Lilliput since the early 1950s.

From 2015, Mr Page, 68, had applied to the local council for consent to have it removed.

But after the application was refused in 2018, the evergreen began to wither and die despite having decades of natural life ahead of it, a jury heard.

The tree in question in 2019
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Image:

Google/BNPS)

A landscape gardener employed by Mr Page emailed the town hall informing them he would be removing the tree which was ‘dying and weeks from death’.

The message prompted a tree officer to visit the £900,000 detached house that is close to Sandbanks to inspect the Monterey pine.

The court heard that the expert discovered it had been sabotaged.

Holes had been drilled into the trunk and a herbicide poured inside and concrete tipped around the base to remove oxygen from the roots, ‘choking’ the Monterey pine.

The culprit also ‘ring barked’ the tree meaning they cut out a section of bark to prevent it from absorbing nutrients.

A jury heard that when Mr page and his financial advisor wife Nicola returned home from a bike ride to find the tree expert there, he was overheard telling her ‘don’t tell them anything.’

The stump in the garden of the house at Avalon in Poole, Dorset
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Image:

CorinMesser/BNPS)

Nick Cotter, prosecuting, told Salisbury Crown Court that Mr Page ‘permitted’ the tree to be destroyed as its large canopy overshadowed his south-facing home.

Mr Cotter said: “It was a huge historic Monterey pine protected by law. It was at least 64 years of age and was planted in the early 1950s.

“It stands within the grounds of the defendant’s property at 26 Avalon, a road made up of mainly large, detached homes. The beach at Sandbanks is just a short walk away.

“It covers a large portion of the front of his home and its foliage provides a lot of shade.

“It can be seen from some distance away. It is an important feature of the local landscape.

“It was still in the early stages of its natural life span – they do not reach their full size until they are roughly 80 to 100 years old.

“The TPO was made in 1989 – long before Mr Page moved to the property in 2006. It applies to many of the trees in the Sandbanks and Poole area.”

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Mr Cotter told the court that the local council was first made aware that the tree was dying in June 2018.

Tree officer James Roberts discovered it had been killed ‘deliberately.’

Mr Cotter said: “Concrete had been placed at the base of the tree above the root structure – this removes oxygen from the root collar and suffocates it. It also prevents the roots from taking in water.

“There was also evidence of ring-barking which has no other purpose than to destroy the tree – bark is like the veins of the tree. Removing it will have an impact on the tree’s ability to take in nutrients.

“Holes were drilled into the tree and thereafter the tree was injected with glyphosate, a herbicide.

“The defendant appeared and denied any knowledge of the damage to the tree.”

He read out a statement made by Mr Page to council officers after they discovered the sabotage to the tree.

He explained that a landscaper, employed by Mr Page, had applied to remove the tree three years previously, claiming it was ‘decaying and posed a threat to life for local residents.’

Mr Cotter said: “There have been applications since 2015 which were refused because of this tree – in all of them, it is commented on as being of public amenity – value – and not in any way decaying or dying. Thereafter it does begin to die.”

Mr Roberts told the court the pine was in ‘substantial decline’ and had lost its green colour.

Mr Page denies charges of breaching a TPO with intent to destroy the tree.

He denied all knowledge of damage being done to the tree and said the planning application was made because the ‘severe lean of it could damage residents and cause loss of life.’

The trial continues.



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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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