Alistair Collier, 41, and Harvey Lee, 66, purchased land in Dorset for £4.5 million, intending to construct three luxury homes worth £11million. In 2010 their application was refused because one of the homes would have stood too close to large trees that were under tree preservation orders.
Less than a month later the trees were ring-barked, which involves removing bark from the bottom of the trunk, resulting in the plant's death. Three Corsican pine trees and two Scots on Sandbanks Road had more than a foot of bark removed from their trunks.
The damage was reported by a neighbour.
The Bournemouth Echo
reported that Collier and Lee denied being responsible for the damage, suggesting local residents did it in order to get better views or that it was done by creditors who were owed money by his company.
"I respect the law," the BBC
quoted Lee as saying.
"But unfortunately we know better than judges... simply because we know what we did and what we didn't do and in this case we did nothing."
Russ Fisher, arboriculture officer at Poole council, said there was clinical precision to the damage, which indicated it was a professional job.
"The prosecution says this was not an act of vandals or of vandalism, but was done professionally by someone who knew exactly what they wanted to achieve and the extent of damage required to ensure the trees did not survive," The Telegraph
quoted Michael Tomlinson, prosecuting for Poole council, as saying.
"The prosecution case is that the site was potentially more valuable with three houses on it and that no other property benefited from the destruction of the trees."
More information on Tree Preservation Orders can be found on the Borough of Poole