Businessman ordered to pay back £21,000 to council after illegal tree pruning increased value of his home

Helena Horton
Samuel Wilson was told he must reimburse the taxpayer £21,000 - the amount his illegal act added to the value of his £1m property  - BNPS

A businessman who hacked the branches off a tree that was blocking sunlight from his home was ordered to pay back the £21,000 it added to the value of his £1m property in the first case of its kind in Britain.

In total, Samuel Wilson was ordered to pay almost £40,000, covering the legal costs, £1,200 fine and the amount the illegal act added to the value of his home.

A court heard that in 2016 Wilson, 40, added a new Juliet balcony to the master bedroom of his luxury house in affluent Canford Cliffs in Poole, Dorset.

But afterwards he realised it was left covered in shade by the 42ft tall oak tree in his south-west facing back garden.

The mature specimen was subject to a tree preservation order and Wilson should have sought permission from the local authority to cut it back.

A wealthy homeowner who destroyed a protected tree that was blocking the light on his new balcony has been ordered to pay out nearly £40,000. Credit:  BNPS

Instead he ignored its protected status and 'virtually destroyed' it by chopping off 12ft long branches, allowing sunlight to hit the back of his property.

It left the tree looking butchered and experts say they doubt it will ever properly recover.

A neighbour reported the destruction to Poole Borough Council and an investigation was launched.

Wilson, who runs a student housing business, pleaded guilty to a charge of causing the willful damage to a protected tree at a previous hearing and appeared at Bournemouth Crown Court for sentencing. He was fined £1,200 for the offence.

After that, Poole Council used the Proceeds of Crime Act to recoup the amount of money Wilson benefitted from his crime.

Two council surveyors estimated the added value to the detached house was £21,750 and £30,000 respectively.

He became the first person to be dealt with under Proceeds of Crime Act for a case involving damaging a tree to improve light.

Andy Dearing, enforcement team manager at Poole council, said: "We are not aware of any other case in the UK where there has been a Proceeds of Crime case based on the benefit of improved light to a property from the destruction of a tree.

"This whole case was about the sunlight to the back of Mr Wilson's property.

"What was the reason and motivation for climbing a 40ft oak tree to remove large limbs from it?

"The only logical conclusion was it was to create south west sunlight to the back garden and on to his Juliet balcony.

"In this case the maximum fine would have been £2,500.

"But the Proceeds of Crime Act took the matter to another level, because it looked at the benefit of that criminal activity and we said it was to gain an increase of between £21,000 to £30,000 in the value of his property."

Nicholas Cotter, representing Wilson, said: "He is a man of good character and is a hard working family man.

"He is now in a position where he has to consider his family home."