Irton tree: decision made on legal fees

A COURTroom dispute between two councils over the legal fees for the Irton Tree saga has been resolved.

North Yorkshire County Council and Scarborough Borough Council were fighting it out over who should foot the bill for the legal costs.

Both councils accused each other of behaving unreasonably throughout the episode which ended with the beech tree – the subject of a Tree Preservation Order – being controversially felled in October last year.

The issue has now been resolved after a judgement was handed down at York County Court dismissing North Yorkshire County Council’s application.

The authority had made a third-party costs application against Scarborough Council.

However Judge Roger Ibbotson, who originally ordered the felling of the tree, made an order that the county council pays the legal costs of Scarborough Council.

The cost to be paid by the county council is limited to a maximum of £100,000, which the authority says is covered by its insurers.

Scarborough Council said it was not in a position to comment on the judgement at this time.

However County Cllr Gareth Dadd, executive member for Highways, said: “It is regrettable that the matter has had to come before the courts again, but it was not possible to reach a negotiated settlement with Scarborough Borough Council over the costs,”

The tree had been the subject of a long-running legal battle between villagers, the two local authorities and a nearby homeowner, who successfully applied to the judge to have the beech cut down as he claimed its roots were damaging drains and a wall at his home.

The story was first covered by the Evening News in 2005.

The order for the felling of the tree was made during a hearing at Scarborough County Court in August last year, when Judge Ibbotson deemed the county council responsible for the operation, despite the tree preservation order which had been enforced by Scarborough Council.

There had been an ambitious attempt by supporters of the tree to raise £10,000 so that a High Court injunction to remove protesters fighting to prevent the felling could be challenged, but the fund fell well short.

Once the tree was axed the county council sought legal advice, and applied for a ruling for legal costs.

The case was heard at a hearing in December last year, but was adjourned until the decision on Wednesday.