A LANDOWNER has been fined £2,000 for illegally cutting down protected trees in the New Forest.

The National Park Authority (NPA) took action after 15 oak trees, a field maple and a group of hawthorns were chopped down in December last year.

It happened in a conservation area on land beside Ringwood Road, Bartley.

In a case heard at Southampton Magistrates' Court, David Qayumi, of Pereira Road, Birmingham, pleaded guilty to contravening tree preservation orders.

An NPA spokesperson said: "Large fractures and splits were left in the trunks, and several other oaks had been marked with an ‘X’, suggesting they were also going to be chopped down.

"The site has a long-standing woodland tree preservation order.

"It’s classified as a priority habitat of broadleaved deciduous woodland, with badgers, hedgehogs, at least six types of bat and more than 25 protected bird species found in the area.

"The Authority acted immediately and was successful in securing a High Court injunction to prevent further unauthorised felling.

"Sufficient evidence was put together against the landowner, who pleaded guilty in court. The court issued a £2,000 fine and the landowner was also ordered to pay the Authority’s costs."

Steve Avery, director of strategy and planning at the NPA added: "The Authority will prosecute where there is enough evidence to support unauthorised tree removal and wanton destruction of protected trees, which are an important element of the special qualities and landscape character of the National Park.

‘We are disappointed that the fine was on the low side of the range available to the courts but it shows that we will pursue such unauthorised action.

"The next step will be to secure replacement planting to safeguard the long-term integrity and landscape character of the site."