A tree surgeon and homeowner have been fined after they cut down a protected willow tree.

Francesca Schillaci, of Nazeing and Tom Casey of Casey Tree Services, were fined a total of £3,000 for ignoring a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) at Basildon Magistrates Court this week.

In March 2017, tree and landscape officers from Epping Forest Council noticed the willow tree in Mrs Schillaci’s garden, in Back Lane, was missing.

Mrs Schillaci admitted she knew the tree was protected but claimed it had been damaged during Storm Doris in February 2017 and posed a danger if not removed immediately.

Mrs Schillaci stated that she had contacted the council and having explained the situation was given authority to have the tree felled.

Tom Casey of Casey Tree Services confirmed that he had cut down of the willow tree after Mrs Schillaci incorrectly informed him she had permission from the council to do so.

Officers confirmed that a telephone call had been traced from Mrs Schillaci, but the officer she spoke to did not give her permission to cut down the tree.

He had instead advised her to arrange for the tree to be inspected by a tree surgeon and send in a photograph of its alleged dangerous state.

Mrs Schillaci and Mr Casey were each found guilty of cutting down the willow tree without authorisation.

Magistrates said they Mrs Schillaci’s evidence inconsistent and advised Mr Casey as a professional tree surgeon he should have known not to accept what he had been told without written proof.

Mrs Schillaci was fined £1500 and ordered to pay a contribution towards the council’s prosecution costs of £1,000.

Mr Casey was given a 6 month conditional discharge, ordered to pay a contribution towards the council’s prosecution costs of £1000 and has been removed from the Council’s approved list of contractors.