An alleged wealthy homeowner poisoned a tree protected by a herbicide and forced it to be cut down because it blocked the sunlight coming from his luxurious property.

Robert Page (68), allegedly planned to remove the 65ft tall mature pine from his front yard in Poole Harbour, Dorset after several unsuccessful applications to the local authority. 

The Tree Preservation Order (TPO), which protected the ‘huge, historic’ specimen that had existed in Lilliput’s upper-class neighbourhood since 1950, was issued. 

Salisbury Crown Court has brought Mr Page to trial. There, he has pleaded no guilty to all charges related to breaching the Tree Preservation Order and intent to remove the tree.

Robert Page, 68, leaving Salisbury Law Courts, where he is standing trial accused of killing a decades-old pine tree which blocked the sun from his £900,000 home

Robert Page, 68, leaving Salisbury Law Courts, where he is standing trial accused of killing a decades-old pine tree which blocked the sun from his £900,000 home

The tree pictured in 2019 towered above houses in the Sandbanks area
The tree left a noticeable absence after it was felled

Before and After: This tree (photo left in 2019; right in 2021), was 65 years of age and towered over houses in Sandbanks.

In 2015, Page filed a request to have the tree removed by his local council. In 2018, after its last request was rejected, the evergreen began to die. Despite having many decades of natural life ahead it, the jury heard the case.

M. Page employed a landscaper to email the town hall, informing them that the tree was dying and would need to be removed.

The message prompted a tree officer to visit the £900,000 detached house that is close to Sandbanks to inspect the Monterey pine.

According to the court, an expert had discovered that it was sabotaged.

It is claimed Mr Page sought to remove the tree as it blocked sunlight from his luxury £900,000 property

It is claimed Mr Page sought to remove the tree as it blocked sunlight from his luxury £900,000 property

The trunk was then drilled with holes and the herbicide was poured in. To eliminate oxygen, concrete was placed around the base.

They also “ringbarked” the tree, meaning that they removed a portion of its bark in order to stop it from taking nutrients.

Jurors heard from Mr Page that he told his wife Nicola, who was his financial advisor, when he returned from a bike trip to locate the tree expert there. 

The stump left behind in the garden of the house in Poole, Dorset, after the decades-old tree was felled

After the tree had been felled over a decade, the stump was left in Poole’s garden.

Nick Cotter was the prosecutor and told Salisbury Crown Court, that Page “permitted” the tree be cut down because its canopy overshadowed Page’s south-facing house.

According to Mr Cotter, “It was an enormous historic Monterey Pine protected by law.” It had at least 64 year of age, and it was planted in 1950.

“It is situated within 26 Avalon’s grounds, which is mostly large detached homes. Sandbanks Beach is only a short distance away.

“It occupies a significant portion of the front yard of my home, and it provides lots of shade. The tree can be clearly seen even from far away. It’s an integral part of the local landscape.

It is still at the beginning stages of its natural lifespan. The animals do not grow to their full potential until about 80 to 100 years.

The TPO was created in 1989, well before Page arrived on the property in 2006. The TPO applies to the Poole and Sandbanks areas.

The court heard Mr Cotter tell the story that it was the local council that first learned that the tree was in danger of dying back June 2018.

Mr Page denies charges of breaching a Tree Preservation Order with intent to destroy the tree.

Page denied the charges that he had broken a Tree Preservation Order in an attempt to remove the tree.

James Roberts, a tree officer discovered that it was killed deliberately.

He said that concrete had been placed on top of the root structure, at the base. It removes oxygen from it and makes it suffocate. This also blocks the roots’ ability to take in water.

Ring-barking was evident, but it has only one purpose: to remove the tree. The bark of a tree is the same as its veins. The tree will be unable to absorb nutrients if it is removed.

The holes were then drilled in the tree, and the tree was then injected with herbicide, Glyphosate.

“The defendant came out and denied knowing about the injury to the tree.”

Following the discovery of apparent sabotage, Page gave a written statement to Council officers.

Salisbury Law Courts, where Mr Page is currently standing trial

Salisbury Law Courts where Mr Page is currently being tried

He said that Mr Page had employed a landscaper to take down the tree, three years prior, because it was “decaying” and threatened to kill local people.

Mr. Cotter stated that there have been many applications for the Tree since 2015. All of these were denied because it had a public benefit-value. It is not dying or decaying. It will eventually die.

Roberts testified that the pine had gone into a’substantial decline,’ losing its green color. 

Page said that there was no evidence of tree damage and claimed the application to plan was not made for the tree’s’severe lead’.

Fines up to thousands of pounds can be imposed for violations of a Tree Preservation Order. The Proceeds of Crime Act allows local authorities to bring criminal prosecutions. They can seize the homeowner’s property if they believe the tree felling has increased its value.

Continue the trial.