Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Taken to court for pruning
Council chiefs were today branded "a laughing stock" for allowing a 73-year-old woman to be taken to court for cutting back trees which were upsetting her neighbours.
Janet Hastings had never even received a parking ticket when she found herself facing the city's sheriff court charged with breaking a tree preservation order. She was admonished after the court heard how she pruned two lime trees which were blocking out light to flats in Leamington Road, Bruntsfield.
The frail pensioner had received numerous complaints from neighbours over the trees and decided to trim them back after receiving no reply when she asked the council for advice.
It is understood Mrs Hastings owns the land across the street from the flats which was the former site of her husband's garage. Sheriff James Farrell was told yesterday the council had failed to provide more information on the case. Mrs Hastings had consulted a tree surgeon, who told her checks would be needed with the local authority before proceeding.
But the council then put a tree preservation order on the trees and told her that they could not be touched. Mrs Hastings tried to contact council officials, but after receiving no reply she pressed ahead with the cutting.
The move landed her in court for contravening the City of Edinburgh Tree Preservation Order No. 1 2005 (Leamington Road).
Her lawyer, Duncan Hughes, told the court: "She seems to have fallen foul of the council. I think they have taken umbrage at the fact she carried this out, notwithstanding them having put a tree preservation order on."
Mrs Hastings earlier admitted instructing a tree surgeon to "lop and top" the lime trees growing on the land she owned on June 28 last year.
Mr Hughes said the offence under the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act carried a maximum penalty of a £2500 fine.
The lawyer quipped to the court: "I have been looking at a few cases as I am not familiar with this branch of the law."
He added: "She has never, ever been in trouble before and has not even had a parking ticket according to her daughter.
"I suspect that she is not a person who is going to get into a great deal of trouble in future."
He said the trees were damaged, but not destroyed when they were cut back, and to "a very large extent" the work had improved the situation for Mrs Hastings' neighbours.
He said Mrs Hastings has now moved to sheltered housing and added: "I would suggest her tree-felling days are over."