Row breaks out over pruning tree in woman's garden

The tree in Swift Hollow, Woolston, Southampton. <i>(Image: Google)</i>
The tree in Swift Hollow, Woolston, Southampton. (Image: Google)

A disgruntled resident has accused Southampton City Council of ‘tricking’ her after slapping a protection order on a tree she wanted to trim.

Jurgita Smulskiene wanted a contractor to prune a large oak tree as it blocks sunlight to her property next to Swift Hollow in Woolston.

She asked the authority if the tree was protected and was told no - but the council then a day later issued a protection order meaning it could not be pruned.

Ms Smulskiene said the order was put in place due to a "huge misunderstanding" when the city's tree officer inspected the site.

In a letter, tree officer Gary Claydon-Bone told the homeowner: "I understand that you state that your intention was only to remove some branches to allow sunlight to the garden, however whilst on site on Friday, your contractor on site made it very clear that he had advised that the tree should have been felled last week, before the order was applied.

“This statement by the contractors on site would only strengthen my concerns and that the TPO is appropriate as there is the potential that it may have been felled.”

Ms Smulskiene objected to the TPO - made on December 16 after she called the council - and said: “We just wanted to do everything right, we never said we want to remove this tree, the reason simply was that due to the branches we have no sun in this garden and even lawn have completely disappeared due to this reason.”

At Tuesday’s planning committee meeting, Ms Smulskiene accused the council of ‘tricking’ her, by using her own information request to prevent her pruning the tree.

She said: “It was never never, never our intention to hurt the tree."

Ms Smulskiene added: “(The contractor) never said that this tree was supposed to be removed – they were genuinely shocked because the council gave it to us just because we asked the question. Genuine, genuine shock.”

She insisted that when the contractor said ‘we could have completely removed it weeks ago and nothing would have happened’.

She said he was merely emphasising the point that after the TPO was placed that it could not be trimmed, let alone removed.

She added: “I don’t think it should be used as a reference that we wanted to get rid of the tree.”

But Mr Claydon-Bone told the planning committee on Tuesday that this is how trees are often protected.

He said: “The council don’t wander round the city to find trees to protect. It’s the way it normally is.”

The planning panel voted unanimously to uphold the TPO. Breaching it could lead to a £20,000 fine.