A WETHERAL man who paid somebody to “trim” trees near his home landed himself with a criminal conviction and a £1,000 court bill.

Alan Davies, 58, told magistrates he had no idea the woodland behind his home in Elm Garth were legally protected and he believed he was doing his community a favour by hiring somebody to thin the trees there.

At Carlisle’s Rickergate courthouse, Davies pleaded guilty to contravening a tree preservation order on December 3 last year.

Jonathan Dees, prosecuting for the City Council, said Mirebank Wood - the woodland involved - was legally protected by a tree preservation order first put in place in 1958, and renewed in 2013.

The lawyer said: “On December 3, 2018, Carlisle City Council had a report from the parish council that residents were complaining that trees were being felled and burned behind 10 Elm Garth.”

Council officials arrived shortly after to find Davies in the woodland. He admitted paying somebody £200 to lop the trees, and severed branches were still smouldering where they were being burned.

The lawyer added: “Several trees had been felled, and major limbs cut from mature trees. An amount of woodland had been cleared to the detriment and overall health of the woodland and the wildlife within it.”

Davies said he moved into Elm Garth in October, having bought his dream house. The garden was totally overgrown, with trees overhanging his property. So on the advice of a local farmer he hired a man from Dumfries to trim the trees.

“He was there for three hours,” said the defendant, who works in the security industry.

“There was a 20 inch oak, which he said was rotten and not worth trimming. So he just took it out...The woodland was used as a tip, and was full of scrap metal.

“There was a lot of building material, and old galvanised water tanks taken down from people’s lofts. I literally had a landscaper coming the next morning but the City Council [officials ] said stop what you are doing.”

The Council’s contractor had told him he had done a “lovely job” and should have had more trimmed off the trees, he said.

He added: “To me, I was doing a good job; I put my heart and soul into it. Now, it looks nice and it’s all recovering well. I was totally unaware of tree preservation orders. I called them PTO because I didn’t know what they were on about.”

Magistrates imposed a six month conditional discharge but reduced the costs to £980 because of the defendant’s efforts to clear away scrap.

He must also pay a £20 vitim surcharge.

Presiding magistrate Mark Travers told Davies: “A good tree surgeon would have investigated ... you have ended up paying the pentalty.”