Two business owners have been fined after cutting down nearly 400 protected trees.
The trees, facing banking around the Meltham Mills industrial site, were subject to a Tree Preservation Order.
Daniel Bamforth, who runs property rental company Towndoor Ltd, instructed tree surgeon David Wood to remove them.
They said they conducted the work after a former tenant left the site untidy and posing a risk to other users.
Both pleaded guilty to causing or permitting the cutting down of trees in contravention of a Tree Preservation Order.
They were ordered to pay a total of nearly £3,000 after a court heard that both had been cautioned for a similar offence previously.
In June last year Kirklees Council was contacted by a member of the public concerned about the felling of trees around a footpath at Meltham Mills.
David Stickley, prosecuting on behalf of the council, said: “This site is protected by a Tree Preservation Order and concerned two large areas facing banking surrounding the mills.
“No permission was sought or granted for any work to be undertaken to the trees.”
Mr Stickley said that council officials counted remaining stumps of the site and counted that at least 397 had been felled.
These included birch, oak, sycamore, willow, cherry, rowan and ash trees.
Mr Stickley told magistrates: “The first defendant (Bamforth) was negligent because he made no checks with the Tree Protection Order register but he employed the second defendant (Wood) and placed his reliance on his expertise.
“As a tree surgeon he should be expected to make these checks and in failing to do so he was reckless.”
Bamforth, 31, is the managing director of Towndoor which has around 12 sites in West Yorkshire including the large site in Meltham.
His solicitor Ken Green explained that for many years a business subletted a property on the site from the firm and neglected it “significantly.”
Mr Green said: “Overgrown trees were hanging over the banking, the pathway was overgrown causing problems for walkers and there were trees overhanging a nursery as a result of this neglect.
“Due to deficiencies the company went into administration and Mr Bamforth decided to tidy up that site .
“It wasn’t to develop new houses on the site, it was simply to improve its visual appearance and to ensure that it was a safe environment for vehicles, people walking on the footpath and, most importantly, to ensure that it wasn’t a danger to the nursery.”
Magistrates were told that Bamforth, of Lightenfield Lane, Netherton, forked out £15,000 of his own cash to have the trees removed.
To do this he entrusted Wood, who runs Denby Dale-based firm D W Tree Services Ltd, and they had worked together for the past decade.
Mr Green added: “A company must be entitled to instruct a specialist firm to carry out work on their behalf and there’s no duty for them to be checking up on the carrying out of that work when they purport to be a specialist firm.”
Magistrates were told that 59-year-old Wood had 30 years of expertise in his field and regularly deals with Tree Preservation Orders and has made many applications to the council to remove or work on problem trees.
In 2013 he and Bamforth were cautioned for breaching a Tree Preservation Order on the same site after work carried out by Wood’s employees infringed the regulations.
His solicitor Richard Barradell explained that following this he had a conversation with a council tree preservation officer and there was a “genuinely held impression” that work carried out this particular site was not the subject of a Tree Preservation Order.
Mr Barradell said: “He always goes down the proper channels and approached this job with the honest belief that he was not breaching it.
“He’s not a scholar, he’s a very hard-working man and the fact of the matter is it was a genuine error.”
Magistrates were told that Wood, of Wakefield Road in Denby Dale, has planted hundreds of silver birch saplings on the site in the past and will do his best to replace the removed trees.
They fined Wood £480 and told him to pay £835 prosecution costs plus £48 victim surcharge.
Bamforth will have to pay £704 fine, £70 victim surcharge and £815 prosecution costs.