A district council has been forced to apologise to a couple after failing to tell them about plans to cut back a protected tree in their own garden.

The couple has also called for anyone who “blatantly ignores” council restrictions on cutting down greenery to be prosecuted, following repeated attempts by a neighbour to chop back protected trees on their property.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman – the final stage of complaints about councils – found South Bucks District Council (SBDC) is at fault following a series of complaints made by the couple, named only as Mr and Mrs X in a report.

The pair claimed South Bucks District Council (SBDC) had not told them about their neighbour’s latest plans to cut back a tree on a shared spot of land on their property’s boundary.

In a report published on the ombudsman’s website, the couple accused the neighbour of cutting back more branches than  permitted.

They claimed the neighbour then attempted to chop down parts of other trees until Mrs X was forced to intervene.

SBDC has continued to show a lack of “due regard, diligence and care” to the status of protected trees in the garden, according to the couple.

They called for the council to tell them about any future application involving so they can comment on the work before planning permission is granted.

Following an investigation, the ombudsman found it is “universally accepted” that SBDC was at fault as it failed to tell the couple work was due to be carried out on the shared boundary.

The council has apologised to the couple and paid them £100 “to reflect the unnecessary time and trouble Mr and Mrs X were put to in pursuit of this matter”.

However, the ombudsman said SBDC would not be able to guarantee everyone who damages or destroys a protected tree in the future will be prosecuted, as each incident is investigated on a case-by-case basis.

The report stated: “Here, I note Mr and Mrs X’s sense of grievance that protected trees within their garden have not been given the level of protection they warrant by the council.

“But this service cannot offer a remedy for frustration. Enforcement action is necessarily reactive and so it is unlikely the council can offer the level of protection Mr and Mrs X would like.

“It is also for the council to consider the merits of prosecuting anyone who damages or destroys a protected tree on a case by case basis and so it cannot offer the guarantee Mr and Mrs X want on prosecution.

“But it is clear Mr and Mrs X lost the opportunity to comment on the application and have their comments considered by the council.

“This exacerbates their sense of frustration. Given this loss of opportunity, I consider a time and trouble payment is warranted in this case.”

“I recommend the council pays £100 to them to reflect the unnecessary time and trouble Mr and Mrs X were put to in pursuit of this matter.”

A spokesman for SBDC said: “South Bucks District Council accepted the Ombudsman’s decision and a payment to the complainant has been made as agreed.

“The issue was a result of human error, and further training is being provided to all relevant staff, along with additional checks being introduced, to reduce the risk of similar errors being made in the future.”