THOSE who hack down trees to increase the value of their homes can expect to be hauled before the courts, council officials have vowed.

As reported in the Daily Echo, scrap metal millionaire David Matthews, 67, took a chainsaw to eleven trees in the garden of his home in Arrowsmith Road, Canford Magna last year.

This week, he was ordered to pay a record sum for the damage done at his £1.4m property, Flambards. In total, Matthews must pay £137,500 to cover the proceeds of crime, a £12,000 fine for cutting down the trees, £20,000 costs and a victim surcharge of £170.

A judge found Matthews had “full knowledge” that the trees, which included a mature oak, a beech and sweet chestnuts, were protected by a preservation order, yet “deliberately” cut them down to illegally add to the value of his property.

It comes just weeks after another wealthy homeowner, 40-year-old Samuel Wilson, was ordered to pay out nearly £40,000 after destroying a protected tree that blocked the light to his new Juliet balcony.

Wilson, of Frankland Crescent, Canford Cliffs, was told he must reimburse the taxpayer £21,750 - the amount his illegal act added to the value to his £1m property. He was also fined £1,200 and ordered to pay £15,000 costs.

The council has also launched an investigation after a number of mature pines were felled at Parkstone Golf Club.

Residents living in homes that back onto the course accused the club of ‘wanton environmental vandalism’ after discovering the clump of pines, which lie next to a wildlife pond, had been ‘axed without warning’. Andy Dearing, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council’s team enforcement manager, said: “The destruction of the eleven trees subject to a tree preservation order at Flambards was a deliberate act undertaken by Mr Matthews. This was despite having previously received a written warning from the council regarding unauthorised tree works at his property in 2015.

“Mr Matthews has secured a considerable advantage to his property both in terms of light and amenity on the eastern side following the trees’ destruction.

“The Proceeds of Crime Act order reflects the financial gain to Mr Matthews and the seriousness with which the court treats these offences.”

He added: “It also highlights the council’s commitment to protecting the environmental features which make this area so special.”