A British Airways pilot and his neighbour have been prosecuted for pruning 15 branches off a tree outside their homes.
Gareth Williams-Gardner, 45, and David Evans, 39, were fined a combined total of £3,000 for ignoring the protected status of the mature cedar.
The 50ft tall specimen now looks ‘disfigured’ and bare, a court heard.
There are fears it won’t recover from the radical work as there is now little to protect it from the winter winds.
The cedar, which sits in the grounds of Mr Williams-Gardner’s home near Poole Harbour, Dorset, has been subject to a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) for 36 years and any work to it has to be approved by the local council.
The two men took matters into their own hands and chopped branches off the tree, they feared branches might fall from the tree and injure children, it is understood
But the pilot and neighbour Mr Evans, who runs an IT consultancy, decided to saw off branches without making any checks or getting permission.
The two neighbours claimed the straggly tree posed a risk to life and property as debris had started falling from it.
It is believed both men felt their young children were in danger of being hit by falling branches and Mr Williams-Gardner had also been told he would be liable if any debris injured pedestrians or damaged cars in the road because the tree is on his land.
Ten years ago the former owners of the two properties unsuccessfully applied to the council to have the same tree felled.
On that occasion a large branch had snapped off in strong winds, prompting safety concerns.
A horrified neighbour complained to Poole Borough Council in July after seeing the stripped back tree following Mr Williams-Gardner’s and Mr Evans’ handiwork.
An investigation resulted in the pair being charged with contravening a TPO by wilfully damaging the cedar.
They both admitted the charge and were fined £1,500 each and ordered to pay a total of £800 in costs and victim surcharge.
The incident happened some time between July 19 to July 26 this year.
Andy Dearing, of Poole Borough Council, which brought the prosecution, said: “They decided the tree in Mr Williams-Gardner’s front garden was, in their view, a health and safety hazard.
“They said bits were starting to fall out of the tree.
“They shinned up the tree and cut off a significant number of branches.
“What is surprising is that these are both professional individuals and they didn’t seek permission and get a professional in to do the work.
“They took the view that they were just going to get on and do it.
“Fifteen branches were removed and we found three large rubble bags filled up with logs.
“The tree has been significantly disfigured and stripped back. The amenity value of the tree to the street scene has been mullered.
“It is still living but there is a concern that it will not recover.
The branches absorb the wind and the more you take off the more the tree suffers the impact of wind damage.”
The cedar was made the subject of a TPO in 1981.
In 2008, the former owner of the property the tree is on applied to have it cut down after a large branch fell onto the road in high winds.
The bid was supported by a doctor neighbour who described it as a significant hazard to both person and property.
But the application was refused by the council on the grounds the tree was an extremely prominent amenity feature of the area.
Instead it was recommended that the then owner hire a professional to crown the top of the tree.
A neighbour, who didn’t want to be named, said: “I’m not surprised they have gotten in trouble for it, I think it looks awful now.”
But Pamela Green, who lives opposite the house, said: “It’s an enormous tree and if that came down it could fall on my property too.