Tree Laws

Homelessness €311,500: The Cost of Loving Nature

Urgent Appeal for Legal Representation

Alian worldOn the 28th April 2015 long standing Environmentalist and Campaigner for Animal Liberation Alain De Coessemaeker was ordered by a court in Bruges (Belgium) that he could have to pay an astonishing €300,000 to his next door neighbours plus €11,500 in court costs for the ‘crime’ of loving nature. Alain’s neighbours are attempting to take advantage of a prehistoric law that states that any tree growing within two metres from the border of your neighbours property is an offence. Consequently the proprietor of any such trees can be fined daily until they are removed. However, some of the trees in Alain’s garden have been growing there for more than 50 years, in which case a more recent law states that any tree aged 30 years or more should not be harmed irrespective of its proximity from ones neighbour; only if such a tree presents a serious danger can it be removed so long as all possible alternatives are properly considered.

Brief History

Mr Alian De Coessemaeker has lived in his property at: Vondelstraat, 8310 Brugge in Belgium since the day he was born; it was built by his parents in the 1950’s, who were amongst the first families to live there. Half of the trees in Alain’s garden were planted by his parents before he was born in the 50’s, and the remainder were planted when he was a young boy in the 60’s & 70’s. Alain’s mother died in 1969 when he was only four years of age, thereafter, the garden became a place of sanctity for him by which he gradually developed a deep connection with nature beginning with the flowers, plants, trees and animals through which his mother lived on. Alain went on to become an environmentalist and animal rights campaigner whose actions became 100% consistent with his beliefs the day he became a vegan in the early 90’s. Alain’s next door neighbours (to the south) had also lived there from the start and were good friends with his parents. These neighbours also planted trees in their garden and they were Alian’s Godparents. Their house was eventually inherited by their son who later sold the house in 1987 the same year Alian’s father died which also left Alain the sole proprietor of what was the family home.

The Problem

One by one Alain’s new neighbours began to remove the shrubs and trees from their garden before tarmacking the surface and then targeting Alain. These neighbours have conspired with Alains North side neighbours who like the Coessemaeker‘s have lived there from the beginning. These neighbours had originally got on well with the Coessemaeker’s until the husband of the house died. Eventually the widowed lady and her new companion began to complain about Alian’s trees and would even threaten him to cut down them down. These are the ones to initiate legal action against Alain, but it was not long before his southbound neighbours jumped on board.

Together they claimed that the trees in Alain’s garden were blocking their light, and producing falling leaves which they felt were life threatening. Of course, Alain volunteered to clear up any excess autumn leaves that ended up in his neighbours garden. Moreover, if necessary Alain was prepared to cut overhanging branches as to minimise the amount of leaves falling into their garden and to allow more light through, he made every effort maintain a civil dialogue with them and eventually trimmed many of the branches as this picture shows. Alain compromised as far as his conscience would allow but one thing was for sure and that was he was not prepared to kill the trees in his garden, he did not have it in himself, he has a great respect for their lives and for him it would be a crime against conscience if he were to kill or facilitate the killing of those trees.

Law Suit

Alain’s neighbours were still dissatisfied with all his efforts, hence it became clear that it was not so much about the light or any danger of slipping on the leaves and being injured, but rather about vanity and money. On the one hand it seems they want the appearance of Alain’s house to fit in line with their ideals, with very few if any trees at all. Moreover, somewhere along the line they had discovered that they could claim a stupendous amount of money from Alain if the court bought their story in line with Article 35, a Flemish law from 1886 in the book of fields which states that:

“Trees cannot live less than 2 meters from the border of the neighbours property.”

If successful the court may give permission to such neighbours to claim a set amount of money for every day the trees exist in the garden. Nevertheless, Alain had discovered Article 34 (Art. 690 & 691 of Civil court book) states:

Trees over 30 years of age are prohibited from being grubbed, dug up, or displaced unless presenting a danger to life.”

As noted, most of the trees in Alain’s garden have been there a long time, this was confirmed by expert treeologist ‘Dirk Berteyn‘ who showed that the trees in question were at least 30 years of age.

However, Judge Filip De Loof from Beernem who ruling on the case failed to take into consideration this evidence and totally ignored Art. 690 & 691 concluding that Alain was merely “stubborn and unwilling” to cooperate. Consequently ordering Alain to remove the trees and subjecting him to a fixed daily penalty payable to his neighbours for each day the trees remained.

Of course, the Judge’s claim was false, as Alain had already attempted to compromise and had taken various steps towards resolving the problem out of the courts. One would hope that in this day and age Judges be familiar with European Union Human Rights laws set out the safeguard freedom of conscience. It is clear that Alian’s profound love for the natural environment is more than merely a hobby or pass time. He is committed wholeheartedly to the cause and asking him to cut down the trees in his garden would be comparable to asking a Judge to burn down the court, clearly a crime against conscience, an issue that should be afforded due respect in any modern court of law.

Alain was now at risk of loosing his family home as there is no way he could pay the kind of money proposed by the court, he was also lumbered with the task of finding a way to remove the trees from his garden without killing them. These trees were somewhere between the ages of 30 & 55, and had evolved intricate root systems (as all tree do) which in many cases support the ground beneath nearby houses. Nevertheless, with a lot of support from Pimpampoentje and other friends Alain was able to transplant most of the trees to a safe location outside of the city. This was a massive operation which required a lot of effort and technical expertise.

Unfortunately this was not the end of it, even after all this Alain’s neighbours continue to dispute even the small trees remaining in his garden which cannot even be claimed to be a problem to the neighbours. On the 25th of April 2015 the court concluded that Alain is liable to payout up to €300,000 to his neighbours at their discretion plus an additional €11,500 for their court costs. Alain is already in debt by more than €17,000 through dealing with this case and can by no means afford to pay more, he has no significant savings. The bailiffs have already come to inspect his property, if he loses his house he will be a homeless man. How could Alain’s neighbours be so cold? How can the legal system fail to uphold the law and protect Alain’s basic human rights?

Please support Alain by signing the following petitions. Belgium is among the largest consumers in the world, using up natural resources at an alarming and unsustainable rate. It has the fifth largest ecological footprint in the world. At the same time, Flandres, the densely populated and industrialized North part of Belgium, has also one of the lowest amount of trees in Europe. The air pollution in Belgium is also among the highest in Europe. Chronic exposure to the current pollution concentrations in Belgium is estimated to shorten the statistical life expectancy by almost one year. This is one of the highest impacts in Europe. Despite all of that, the few existing trees do not count on enough protection by law and practically anyone can come up with an acceptable excuse to demand the cutting of a public tree or of a tree in a neighbour’s garden. Trees are extremely essential to clean up the air and also to compensate the carbon emissions ~Lyra Alves – Please help to put pressure on the Belgian government to improve the law enforcement that protects trees, please sign & share:

[emailpetition id=”2″]

Please also contact the European Commission:

Janez Potocnik
Commissioner for the Environment
European Commission
B-1049 Brussels, Belgium

…expressing your concerns about this misuse and negligence of basic law in protecting the economical the interests over those of the natural environment.

Alain is now looking for anyone with experience in legal matters concerning the environmental issues to consider helping him take the case further and possibly representing him in the high courts.

Alain’s recent environmentalism has helped expose corruption in Belguim environmental groups hide behind the term environment when in reality they work closly with the logging companies. In July one company proposes to massacer a whole forest in Belguim claiming that the trees are not fit for Belguim and are cuaseing some artitary problem. We need people to come out in numbers to help protect these trees. Alain also has identified how the so called directors of the Jane Goodall institute in Belgum have desecrated the surrounding trees.

Red Ryckevelde van de totale kaalkap

Please help the Global Tree Rights Movement grow so that we can unite across the world and be more affective in prevent this profit driven destruction of the nature across the planet.

Being confronted with our mass deforestations worldwide, as the same happening in my country where Officials feelinglessly kill our last Trees (6 years ago I informed the press when our officials killed illegaly 300 Old Trees 500 meter from where I live) while a Tree is seen as an object, same like an Animal, following the by Rene Descartes` influenced Code Napoleon law system, till in my own garden where judges obliged me last year to kill all Trees till even in my own garden. This however did motivate me in April this year to start the Global Tree Rights Movement in order to help break this old Cartesian laws Worldwide which not only degrade our Animals, but even our Trees to senseless objects. Only a paradigm shift without creating a dichotomy between Trees & Animals can help support a real mentality change in order to respect every Individual being in its Intrinsic value it lent to itself. It is clear that fighting for Animal Rights includes fighting for the rights of our Trees as well.

It is very sure that a vegan diet is one necessary step to reach this paradigm shift as by eating vegan we save the Lifes of up to 80% more Trees & Plants and 100% more Animals, like Prof. Dr. Anteneh Roba explained us in his speech at the IARC2011 two years ago. So, a paradigm shift can only be workable if we include All living creatures in our axiologie and not make an artificial separation Animal versus Plant.

As long as we consider one species inferior to another, how can we fight speciecism in its artificial roots? As biological creature we need to eat something to survive and to live in the best possible condition, but not without taking into consideration which is the best possible way to survive for as much as possible creatures in the best possible circumstances. This leads us to a Vegan – Fruitarian diet as the less harmful solution. To respect the Intrinsic Right to Live of every creature, we have to save the Lifes of as much as possible creatures, no matter which species they belong to. Every creature should be respected in his/her individual value (s)he lent to her/himself. Our lawmakers should be sensibilized in this way worldwide, which is in the interest of every being on this beautiful Planet Earth we share. In the presentation, I want to discuss the different valuation levels of a Tree as individual & link this with the Animal Rights philosophy as same fight for the recognition of the Intrinsic Right to Live of every creature on this Planet Earth & in order to ban speciecism where possible. Post by Red de bomen, annuleer de dwangsom.

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