A housing developer has been fined £34,000 after a hedgerow was unlawfully removed next to a new housing development in Harrogate.
Persimmon Homes PLC was also ordered to pay £9,468 in costs and a victim surcharge of £170 following a ruling at Leeds Magistrates Court.
The company pleaded guilty to the charge of causing or permitting another person to carry out the removal of the hedgerow on Penny Pot Lane between March 15 and March 29 last year, breaching the Hedgerow Regulations Act 1997.
Harrogate Borough Council brought the case against the developer and afterwards said the result sent out a clear warning.
A spokesman for HBC said: “We are very pleased with the result of this court case. The substantial fine and the award of costs should send a clear warning to developers and builders that they cannot simply ignore the law.
“The regulations on hedgerows are there for a good reason, to protect hedges from damage or destruction. We take these matters very seriously and the case proves we will not hesitate to prosecute when the law is broken”.
Simon Usher, Managing Director for Persimmon Homes Yorkshire speaking after the case, reiterated the company’s apology for the removal.
He said: “Whilst the judge ruled that there was no ecological and environmental impact, we accept the court’s decision on this matter. We apologised at the time the hedge was removed and apologise again. In order to ensure this does not happen again we have put measures in place.”
Keith Wilkinson MBE, who supplied details of the lost hedgerow for the case, applauded the efforts of HBC.
He said: “This was an important and vital wildlife corridor, linking the lower part of Oakdale to the countryside. I am delighted with the result and impressed with Harrogate Borough Council for the firm stance they took against a large national company.”
He added: “In all my years of conservation work I cannot find an equivalent case like this.”
Henry Pankhurst, Chairman of the Harrogate Civic Society, who initially raised the alarm over the removal said:“It was wrong to think that anyone could get away with what was a criminal act and what happened there should be more widely known.”