A SUPERMARKET chain has been fined hundreds of pounds for illegally cutting back protected trees.

The Lidl store on Oxford Road was refused planning permission to replace an unauthorised sign due to a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) in June 2016.

An officer at Reading Borough Council spotted the changes after an appeal was made by Lidl, but the store and contractors denied any wrongdoing at a hearing this week.

It later admitted to the causing or permitting the unauthorised works to the protected tree at Reading Magistrates' Court on November 23 and was fined £1,500 and ordered to pay costs of £1,200 to the council.

The TPO breach was spotted by the same council officer who dealt with the original planning application in 2016.

Councillor Tony Page, deputy leader of the council, said: “TPOs are put in place by the council to offer a level of protection which help preserve trees for future years. The Council will not hesitate to take action against any developer or land owner who ignores a TPO.

“I would like to congratulate the sharp-eyed council planning officer who spotted the breach on her walk to work.”

Contractor Greg Whitelaw, hired by Lidl’s contracted Facilities Management Company SGC, was fined £500, ordered to pay the Council £400 costs and pay a victim surcharge of £50.

One of the reasons for refusal was that the protected tree would have to be maintained at a smaller size due to its proximity to the sign, which would have reduced its contribution to the Oxford Road street scene.

The planning decision was upheld in a subsequent appeal against the refusal of consent for the sign.