Page last updated at 10:21 GMT, Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Wealthy residents 'killing trees' in Dorset

Sandbanks is one of the most expensive areas in the UK

Wealthy residents living in Dorset's exclusive Sandbanks peninsula have been killing protected trees to gain valuable sea views, a council has said.

There were up to 15 attacks on trees with preservation orders last year, according to the Borough of Poole Council.

It said offenders are prepared to risk a fine of up to £20,000 to profit from a sea view or extra development space.

"A hard core believe they can ride roughshod over the council," it added.

Other incidents included a 100-year-old protected oak tree having its crown cut off with a chainsaw.

We keep trying to address this problem and get them in to court
Andy Dearing, Poole council

Andy Dearing, Poole council's planning enforcement team leader, said: "It's not kids doing it, it's quite simply people who have control of their own land and are seeking to maximise the development or view potential.

"We are talking about Sandbanks where per square foot it is one of the most expensive places to live and develop in the UK.

"The majority of people are law abiding but a hard core believe they can ride roughshod over the council.

"We keep trying to address this problem and get them in to court.

"Some of the trees are hundreds and hundreds of years old.

"We won't get them back. Any tree growing around the harbour is a miracle because it is all sand. That's why we value them so much, but it's a conflict of land prices and views."

The peninsula is ranked among the most expensive places in the world to purchase properties.

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