Cheshire East Council has confirmed a tree preservation order it made earlier this year in Wilmslow after an oak was pruned ‘within an inch of its life’.

Councillors were also told anyone who breached a TPO anywhere in the country could face hefty fines of up to £50,000.

There is no question the person who pruned the tree referred to in Altrincham Road was in breach of any order because the TPO had not been in place at the time.

But when High Legh councillor Kate Parkinson (Con) asked arboricultural officer Emma Hood, hypothetically, how far a TPO goes to protect a tree and what enforcements can be made if someone is seen damaging a tree, the officer replied: "It would be subject to investigation and possibly enforcement.

"On some occasions, some local authorities have taken it further and there’s been a prosecution based on it.

“It could result in very hefty fines, up to £50,000.”

The matter was raised at Wednesday’s meeting of the northern planning committee when members were being asked to consider confirming the tree protection order on one tree and two groups of trees on Altrincham Road in Wilmslow.

Ms Hood told the committee five residents had objected to the TPO.

“The trees were assessed and they were found to have obvious high amenity,” said Ms Hood.

“At the time of the officer’s assessment, a tree had been quite heavily pruned. Originally this tree was the same size as other trees in the row and part of the circumstances that arose regarding considering these trees, was because of disputes regarding ownership, the way that the council's maintained them and safety issues.”

Knutsford Guardian: The oak tree in Altrincham Road, WilmslowThe oak tree in Altrincham Road, Wilmslow (Image: Newsquest)

The officer told the committee that land ownership ‘doesn’t really make a difference’ - the TPO serves to protect the trees.

Knutsford councillorTony Dean (Con) told the committee: “I’ve got TPO trees in my garden and I’m not allowed to touch them.”

Wilmslow councillor Mark Goldsmith, speaking as a visiting councillor, asked the committee to back the TPO for several oak trees in Altricham Road.

He said: “The trees in question are still growing but pre-date the houses nearby, therefore all the residents adjacent to them moved into their homes with full knowledge of the trees’ existence.”

He added: “Their canopy covers the slip road but not the residents’ driveways or properties.”

He said the verge, the trees and the slip road had all been maintained by Cheshire East Council and its predecessors.

“Cheshire East is happy for them to be trimmed but not to the extent requested. The council’s arborists think it would be too severe and would be harmful to the trees, therefore a TPO has been requested so the interests of these oak trees are put foremost.”

Cllr Parkinson said: “Looking at the picture of the tree that has been pruned within an inch of its life, it’s a pretty sad thing to see.”

Cllr Nick Mannion proposed the committee confirm the TPO and councillors voted unanimously in favour.