A tree surgeon accused of scaling Big Ben in central London has denied trespassing on a protected site.

Ben Atkinson is alleged to have climbed up the clock tower at the Palace of Westminster before unfurling two Extinction Rebellion flags from the top on October 18 last year.

The 43-year-old is charged with trespassing on a protected site, namely Elizabeth Tower - the name for the tower structure commonly referred to as Big Ben.

It is alleged that Atkinson ignored warning signs about entering the premises.

Atkinson, of The Hermitage, Rydal, in Cumbria, stood barefoot in the dock at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Wednesday where he pleaded not guilty to the trespassing charge.

Chief magistrate Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot set a trial date for April 14 at Westminster Magistrates' Court.