A farmer has been ordered to pay more than £2,000 after he cut trees down in an ancient woodland and blocked a public footpath.
Leslie Ford, 71, was fined £2,322.31 by Peterlee magistrates following a prosecution brought by Durham County Council.
The court heard officers received several complaints last April over Ford felling a number of trees in the council-owned woodland at Bryan’s Leap in Burnopfield, which is classed as a Conservation Area.
It is at least 400-years-old and the felled trees, mostly oaks, were around 100-years-old.
In cutting down the trees, Ford, who wons fields adjoining the woodland, also blocked a public footpath through the woodland.
The farmer, of Hollinside Farm, Whickham, pleaded not guilty to three charges of damaging trees in a Conservation Area and one of obstructing a public footpath.
Appearing for trial on Friday, he denied felling the trees, saying vandals or trespassers must have been responsible.
Ford also disputed that the trees were within the Conservation Area, but magistrates found him guilty of all charges.
Adrian White, Durham County Council’s head of transport and contract services, said: “Ford’s actions in cutting down trees in an ancient woodland and blocking a footpath were reckless and caused lasting harm to a site which is protected by law.
“We welcome the fine handed out by the court which should act as a warning that we will not tolerate damage like this.”