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Neighbours say ‘greedy’ homeowner who poisoned tree is to blame for it falling in Storm Arwen

A ‘greedy’ homeowner who poisoned a protected tree which blocked light from his £900,000 home was today slammed by neighbours who said it was his fault it came crashing down in Storm Arwen, putting lives at risk.

The dying and unstable Monterey tree, killed by Robert Page, collapsed overnight between November 26 and 27 in Dorset amid ferocious gusts. 

It landed on a block of garages, leaving the owners with a bill of thousands of pounds. 

Fortunately nobody was around when it happened in the middle of the night, with many locals fearing passers-by could have been badly hurt, or even killed, otherwise. 

Neighbours of Page, 71, have criticised him for his actions that, they say, ultimately caused the 65ft tall tree to fall.

Last week the retired chartered accountant was found guilty of breaching a Tree Preservation Order that had been placed on the 65-year-old specimen. He is due to be sentenced later this month. 

A slidey graphic shows how the tree looked in 2012, in full health, and in 2019, after it was sabotaged

Robert Page, a retired chartered accountant, was last week found guilty of breaching a Tree Preservation Order that had been placed on the 65-year-old specimen. He is due to be sentenced later this month

Robert Page, a retired chartered accountant, was last week found guilty of breaching a Tree Preservation Order that had been placed on the 65-year-old specimen. He is due to be sentenced later this month

The court heard he had wanted rid of it as it had scuppered a property deal he stood to make £100,000 from. The tree had also cast a shadow over his £900,000 home near to Poole Harbour, Dorset.

In 2016, Page arranged to have it killed after the local council rejected his planning application to have it legally felled.

A deadly herbicide was injected into drill holes in the trunk and concrete poured around its base to choke it of oxygen.

Richard Smith, who lives on the same road as Page in Lilliput near Sandbanks, claimed Page had caused criminal damage to the garage block by his actions.

He said: ‘The price of property in this area is high but what’s the price for a life?

‘That tree could have put someone’s life at risk when it fell over and caused criminal damage, he should be held liable. He killed the tree and then the storm came and blew it over.’

Another neighbour, who wished not to be named, said: ‘That tree could have killed someone when it came down – he needs to take some accountability for that. The financial motivation behind it makes matters worse. It was a very silly decision.’

David Kelsey, chairman of the local BCP Council’s planning committee, said Page’s ‘sheer greed’ had caused his neighbours to suffer.

He said: ‘He should pay for the damage caused to the neighbouring garages, why should they or their insurance companies pay?

‘Nobody should have to suffer because of his selfishness or greed. I hope he gets sued for the damage.

‘I hope the judge hits him with a massive fine and maybe even a jail sentence to send a clear message. £100,000 is the amount he’d have made on his property so that’s what he should pay back.

‘Cutting down a tree is not the way to increase the value of your home. To think someone could be so arrogant that they think they can get around the planning rules.’

Pictures show the tree which collapsed onto garages behind Page's £900,000 home following the storm

Pictures show the tree which collapsed onto garages behind Page’s £900,000 home following the storm

The dying and unstable pine tree that was sabotaged by Robert Page came crashing down overnight between November 26 and 27 during Storm Arwen in Dorset

The dying and unstable pine tree that was sabotaged by Robert Page came crashing down overnight between November 26 and 27 during Storm Arwen in Dorset

However, some neighbours leapt to Page’s defence and instead blamed the local council for not removing the dead and dangerous tree sooner.

Richard Cole, who manages the block of flats and garages the tree fell on, said he had told town hall officials about it three years ago.

Mr Cole, 78, said it cost £2,000 to remove the tree after it fell.

He said: ‘I had been concerned for years that the tree was leaning towards our garages, there were two large branches right over them.

‘The council repeatedly ignored my requests to have it removed. It’s been dead for years, since 2018 at least, if not before.

‘In May, I wrote to them and said: ‘I am extremely concerned about the safety of residents as the tree has started to shed branches. We need to do something before somebody is injured.’

‘In June, I again mentioned to them that branches were falling.

‘In October they apologised for the delay and confirmed that the tree could be removed.

‘But it keeled over in Storm Arwen. There was a loud, almighty crack which woke me at around 6am. We got out of bed and we saw it across the garages.

‘It could have killed somebody – that was my concern. If it happened later, there might have been somebody walking beneath it.

‘If it wasn’t for the incompetence of the planning department, we wouldn’t be in this position now where we’re having to get repair work done.’

When asked for his thoughts on Mr Page’s actions, he said: ‘He is a good friend and it is not for me to comment.’

A spokesman for BCP Council said: ‘A couple of refused planning applications and a tree works application for the removal of the tree had already been submitted on behalf of the landowner prior to its destruction.

‘Communications suggesting it was dying raised our suspicions. Once we became aware the said tree was in serious rapid decline, we were quick to commence a criminal investigation which included a number of site visits to determine the cause.

‘It soon became apparent that blatant attempts had been made to destroy the tree.

‘The evidence gathered by our teams allowed us to bring forward a strong case to the Crown Court and we are pleased it has now been concluded, resulting in a successful prosecution against the landowner.’

The council refused to respond to allegations that they ignored residents’ requests to have the tree removed sooner.


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