THE chopping down of a much-loved, mature sycamore tree in a conservation area in the Yorkshire Dales National Park has resulted in criminal convictions and fines for two men.

Edward Fox, of Hawes, and Neil Dinsdale, of Bainbridge, entered guilty pleas this morning at York Magistrates’ Court, after being charged with the unauthorised destruction of a tree on their land by the Pennine Way in the Gayle Conservation Area. Mr Dinsdale appeared in court, but Mr Fox did not.

They were fined £250 each for breaching section 211 of the Town and Country Planning Act. The court also ordered them to pay in full the legal costs incurred by the local planning authority, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, which amounted to £2,400.

The felling of the perfectly healthy sycamore tree on Gayle Lane in April this year was reported to the park authority by the then chairman of Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council, the late Cllr John Blackie, who said local people were “very cross” about what had happened.

The court heard this morning that Dinsdale had said he had been advised to remove the tree as it might have restricted future development of the land.

Member champion for development management at the park authority, Jim Munday said: “Local people in Gayle and Hawes were upset by the totally unnecessary felling of this healthy mature sycamore tree.

"It was part of the character of the area and greatly enhanced the local environment. I hope this case serves to underline that trees in conservation areas are protected – and that the park authority will prosecute landowners who cut them down without any consultation or consideration.”

Magistrates were also due to hear a case relating to the felling of a tree in the Dent Conservation Area. However, that case has been adjourned until January.