A landowner who benefited from chopping down a protected woodland has been fined £1,500 and handed an £11,280 confiscation order.

Jeff Lane, 73, caused a "devastating loss" to the environment by the illegal felling of 2,000 trees in 2019 on more than eight hectares (20 acres) on Gower, Swansea.

Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court heard the estimated cost of restocking the native and wet woodland on Old Forge Farm in Fairwood was £52,000.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) called it the worst case of illegal tree felling it had seen in 30 years.

Lane, from Lower Fairwood, was found guilty in 2022 of felling trees without a licence and failing to comply with a notice to restock the trees he chopped down.

He later lost his appeal against both convictions.

The first proceeds of crime hearing in relation to the illegal tree felling heard the total value of benefit to him was £78,614.

The retired mechanic bought the land in 2017 for his daughter to run a pony trekking and alpaca walking business.

He claimed the trees were rotting and dangerous. He was given a licence to thin them out but not chop down the entire woodland.

NRW officers were given photos taken by the Gower Society in September 2020 showing an area of wiped out trees.

Nick Fackrell, forest regulation senior officer for NRW, said: “We have a legal duty to protect the natural environment in Wales and that includes ensuring compliance with forestry regulations. 

“We welcome the outcome and hope this sends a clear message that we won’t hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action to protect wildlife and the environment.

“Using the Proceeds of Crime Act to punish illegal felling is a bold step that we hope will make people think twice before acting recklessly against the environment.

“We cannot take our woodlands for granted. Felling licences are part of the system we have in place so we can manage our trees and woodlands effectively and sustainably, protecting them and making sure they continue to benefit us all now, and into the future.

"Actions like these undermine the work of farmers, foresters and land managers working legally and sustainably to look after our wildlife and countryside, grow our food and produce our timber.”