United Kingdom

Property developer has £300K fine cut to £100K on appeal

A property developer who had a 176-year-old giant redwood tree chopped down to make way for new 80 homes has had a £300,000 fine slashed to £100,000. 

Fiorenzo Sauro, 49, who is the director of Enzo Homes Ltd, paid for 70 protected trees to be felled to make way for new homes at a site in the Penllergaer Estate, Swansea, south Wales. 

Among the trees to be chopped down was a 90ft redwood tree which was planted in the area in 1842 - ten years before redwood seeds are credited with being brought to Britain from America. 

A court heard the towering tree was estimated to be worth more than £66,000 but, in reality, it was 'irreplaceable'.

Mr Sauro and his company were originally ordered to stump up a fine totalling £300,000 by a district judge in Swansea.

But the company boss appealed against the fine and said the redwood 'was never meant to come down' and the felling was 'an accident'.

An appeal hearing at Swansea Crown Court has now ruled Mr Sauro and his company must pay £100,000.  

Fiorenzo Sauro, 49, who is the director of Enzo Homes Ltd, paid for 70 protected trees to be felled in Swansea, south Wales

Mr Sauro said: 'The whole matter had an effect on the company's reputation. We had abuse on social media, on email, by letters, we had threats'.

He added that there was 'no financial gain' from chopping down the historic tree.

The court heard Mr Sauro had visited the site with a tree consultant in August of 2018 to mark protected trees with spray paint.

He said the trees had already been marked with a silver tag as a 'belt and braces' way of showing which ones should not be felled.

The company boss told the court that any tree that did not need to be preserved was then marked with a red cross.

But he was then told the following morning that there had been a 'balls up' and he needed to get to the site.

The court heard Mr Sauro arrived on site and was told by contractor Arwyn Morgan: 'The tree had die back on it and it had to come down and it was not marked'.

Mr Sauro said: 'It was clear the tree protection plan showed the redwood was to be retained.

'Anyone who saw the tree protection plan would know this was never meant to come down'.

Mr Morgan, 50, a self-employed contractor felled the 90ft tree to make way for the new houses.

Among the trees to be felled was a 90ft redwood tree which was planted in the area in 1842

The redwood tree (pictured after it was chopped down) was estimated to be worth more than £66,000

Self-employed contractor Arwyn Morgan felled the 90ft tree to make way for the new houses

He was previously fined £120,000 after pleading guilty to contravening tree preservation regulations. But that fine has now been reduced to £4,000 on appeal.

The redwood tree was planted in 1842 by keen botanist John Dillwyn Llewelyn who imported trees from all over the world.

Swansea council received an anonymous phone call informing them the trees had been felled.

Judge Clee, sitting in the appeal hearing at Swansea Crown Court, said Mr Sauro had failed to follow a tree protection plan, and failed to appoint a specialist to oversee the felling as he had been advised to do.

The judge said he was satisfied on the evidence he had heard that there was no financial advantage to felling the trees.

But they had been destroyed not due to a mistake but due to negligence on the part of Mr Sauro and site manager Carl Anderson. 

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