AN investigation has been launched after a willow tree was chopped down outside a riverside pub.

Wakefield Council has contacted the police over the felling of the tree in front of The Wharf, in Wakefield.

The council claims the tree was on land belonging to the local authority and is in a conservation area.

READ MORE: Sheffield Council sends apologies to tree felling campaigners

David Lockwood, co-owner of the pub, said he had the tree removed as it was rotting and in danger of falling onto the building.

Disputing the council’s claims, he said: “Quite literally, they are barking up the wrong tree.”

Mr Lockwood added: “The council does not own the land, they are mistaken.

“We consulted a tree surgeon because the tree was diseased from top to bottom.

“It was leaning towards the road and the pub.

“I have the photos and video evidence which the council are welcome to have a look at.

“The tree was hazardous to motorists, pedestrians and to the pub itself.”

Complaints were made after a picture of the axed tree was posted on the pub’s Facebook page with the caption: “Willow logs free to a good home. Please help yourselves.”

Mr Lockwood and his wife Leah own Barnsley-based brewing firm The Nailmaker Pub Co.

They officially re-opened the pub, which is beside the River Calder on Thornes Lane Wharf, under a new name last month.

It was previously known as The Jolly Sailor and more recently as The Wharfside.

Mr Lockwood said he leased the land in front of the pub from the previous owner.

The local authority said the tree was not subject to a tree preservation order but was in an area within the Wakefield Waterfront Conservation Area.

Joe Jenkinson, the council’s service director for planning, transportation and strategic highways, said: “Anyone proposing to carry out works to a tree in a conservation area must give at least six weeks’ notice to the local planning authority.

Forestry Journal:

“This notice period gives the local planning authority the opportunity to decide if it wants to impose a tree preservation order on the tree.

“It is a criminal offence to carry out works to a tree where consent has been refused or where notice was required and not served.”

Mr Jenkinson said the offence is punishable by a fine of up to £20,000, or an unlimited Crown Court fine.

He added: “The council is investigating the circumstances around the removal of this tree.

“In addition, as this tree was located upon council land, it will be reported to the police for an investigation into criminal damage.”