Grower takes U.K. council to court over Tree Preservation Order

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Grower takes U.K. council to court over Tree Preservation Order

A soft fruit farmer is vowing to take his local town hall to the U.K. Supreme Court in a battle over a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) he says is "devastating" for his berry business. assorted-berries_74556565 - 1 small

Bulgarian-born Slavey Slavchev owns EU Plants, which includes a 35-acre farm in the picturesque countryside of Berkshire, England, growing strawberries, raspberries and blackberries that he exports to Finland, the Netherlands, France and Spain.

Wokingham Borough Council has placed the TPO on a stretch of willow trees on Slavchev's land that he says run alongside an access track he regularly needs to use. The grower tried  to overturn the decision in the Court of Appeal late last year but it was thrown out by judges. Now, the defiant farmer plans to go "as far as it takes" through the legal justice system.

In an interview with, Slavchev describes his feelings of disgust and sadness over the ruling that bans him from pruning the trees, which he claims will affect his overall business.

"When I first bought the farm, we planted 15,000 trees and native species in order to restore the native landscape of the farm and help it become its own eco-system. What I now have in return is an order banning me from touching other trees," Slavchev says.

"I have gently pruned the trees in question, but have in no way ever touched the trees in a detrimental way; I would never do that. However, the local council does not see it this way and now there is a TPO in place.

"This will have a terrible affect on my farming business in terms of the money I have already spent trying to overturn this unnecessary ruling and the finances I need to continue my fight."

He says he would like the backing of the National Farmers Union in his push to take the case to the Supreme Court.

"Farmers should stick up for themselves as we are a major part of society and should not be treated so unfairly.

"I feel I need to maintain the entire farm in order to allow the growth of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries and I need to keep using the track which runs alongside the stretch of trees because it is a main access into my farm."

Slachev has lived in England more 17 years and has been running his fruit farm since 2011. He claims to have spent more than £100,000 (US$164,645) so far on his court battle which he should instead be spending on keeping his business afloat.

"I am a farmer and lover of the land; all I try to do is be in tune with nature. Running this business is extremely difficult at the moment because I’ve spent so much on legal fees.

"This had been a very stressful time for me and my family and it’s putting an extra strain on the business. I wanted to employ more people and focus on my exports but this is taking up all my money."

In a statement given to, Wokingham Borough Council says the TPO was made to protect "significant trees" within a designated area of special landscape importance and any future legal challenges to the TPO would be "robustly defended" to ensure they were "protected and retained for the benefit of the local landscape in the future".

"The trees are clearly visible in views from the public highway…the site was subject to an agricultural application to install a traditional hard surface road adjacent to the trees," the statement says

"Without engineering solutions to the roadway construction, there was potential for significant harm to the trees.

"In view of this, it was considered appropriate to include the trees in a TPO so that they could be adequately protected during any future construction works on the site."

This is not the first time Slavchev has been involved in a dispute with his local council. In April 2012, he finally got approval to build polytunnels on his land after locals complained the constructions would spoil their view. The costly planning application was to build two hectares of polytunnels in order to grow six million fruit plants.




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