HOUSEBUILDER Taylor Wimpey UK Limited has admitted damaging protected trees in Bordon. The firm was fined £26,500 by Aldershot magistrates on Tuesday after pleading guilty to wilfully damaging two trees – a Scots pine and a Douglas fir – 'in a manner likely to destroy them'. It also pleaded guilty to a second charge of 'wilfully damaging a further Scots pine'. The trees were covered by a 2004 Tree Preservation Order that prohibits work being carried out on the trees without the consent of East Hampshire District Council. The offences were committed during the contruction of 70 houses at Laing Homes' Wellington Gate development in Lindford Road,. The court was told that officers from the council visited the site in September 2006 to check that fencing had been put up, to protect the trees from construction works five times in five weeks to ensure the necessary fencing was in place. A month later an electricity substation was constructed, without planning permission too close to three trees covered by the order. A trench was dug, severing their roots, which in time will lead to the death of two of the three trees. Taylor Wimpey UK Limited was fined a total of £26,500 and ordered to pay £1,445 towards the council's court costs. EHDC arboricultural officer Stewart Garside said: "It is important that people realise a preservation order also protects the roots of a tree as well as the bits you can see. "The roots are the most sensitive part of the tree and the most easily damaged. "Often the impact on the tree is not seen for two to three years but will often result in the tree dying back significantly or even dying altogether. "As the consequences can be so severe the cutting of roots on a protected tree is considered a very serious issue, and an offence that will usually result in the council bringing a prosecution. "The roots of trees are often close to the surface, so it is important not to carry out any excavation too close to them. In the event of any doubt, professional advice should be sought." EHDC's planning portfolio holder, Patrick Burridge added: "It is always a shame when it gets to the point where the council has to take this type of action. "Trees are, however, a very important element in the beautiful landscapes we have in East Hampshire. "We, therefore, take their protection very seriously and this decision shows that the courts share our view. The level of fine should serve as a warning to other developers in the area and encourage them to ensure important trees are properly protected."