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Compensation bill for council after tree ruins conservatory

A council which refused to fell a 40 foot oak tree, even though its roots were slowly ruining a couple's conservatory, has been ordered to pay them £25,000 in compensation as well as substantial legal costs.

In a landmark decision, the judge ruled that the damage was "reasonably foreseeable" and that the conservatory would have been fine if the council had simply allowed the tree to be chopped down when requested.

The root of the problem

Richard and Nicola Burge, who live in Bradley Stoke, built the conservatory in 2004. When cracks began to appear, a conifer, a eucalyptus tree and a magnolia in the couple's garden were all felled and ruled out as culprits.

Experts soon decided that the oak tree, outside the garden and 13 metres from the house, was responsible.

But South Gloucestershire Council were having none of it and in May 2010 refused the couple permission to fell the tree because it was under a tree preservation order and because cutting it down would affect the area's "visual amenity".

When Mr and Mrs Burge re-built the conservatory with firmer foundations in 2013, the council argued it had never been constructed properly in the first place. Condemning it as a 'candlyfloss conservatory', it claimed an appropriate structure would have coped with the pressure from the oak tree's roots.

Although the council's lawyer said the case had "major implications" and could open the floodgates to similar claims against local authorities the judge ruled that the council is legally obliged to pay up for the couple's loss as the damage was caused by a tree that was the subject of a Tree Preservation Order.

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