A MAN was slapped with a £700 fine for carrying out unauthorised works on a 200-year-old tree in the Yorkshire Dales.

48-year-old Ian Middleton, of Helmside, Dent, was also ordered to pay costs of £1,300 to the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA).

The YDNPA brought the prosecution following a planning enforcement investigation prompted by a complaint from a member of the public.

The charge against Middleton, a tree surgeon, related to works carried out on a 200-year-old tree at Dent, around six miles south east of Sedbergh.

Dent is a conservation area which means certain checks need to be carried out prior to any work on trees taking place.

Middleton entered a not guilty plea at York Magistrates' Court on January 14. His co-accused on the day, Margaret Taylor, of High Laning Caravan & Camping Park, Dent, admitted breaching section 211 of the Town and Country Planning Act and was fined £2,000.

The magistrates' court heard a witness statement from a YDNPA officer, who said the tree would now "die slowly" and argued the extent of the damage was "tantamount to felling".

But when appearing at York Crown Court, Middleton pleaded guilty to 'wilfully damaging, topping or lopping a tree in a conservation area, contrary to Section 211 and 210 (1)(a) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990', receiving a £700 fine and being ordered to pay costs.

A YDNPA spokesman said: “The Crown Court judge made clear that Ian Middleton was misled by Margaret Taylor into thinking that the work on the tree was permissible."

He added: "However, the judge also pointed out that Dent was a well-known conservation area and that Mr Middleton should have known that checks were needed before carrying out any work.”

The case against Taylor and Middleton was the second time in just four months that the national park authority has brought a prosecution related to unauthorised works on trees. In November, two men pleaded guilty to destroying a tree in the Gayle Conservation Area, Richmondshire.