Catholic environmentalists have joined Alan Titchmarsh in protesting against a road-widening scheme that could result in the loss of 2.5 acres of woodland at a popular garden.
The Royal Horticultural Society says plans to widen the A3 in Surrey as part of improvements to junction 10 of the M25 include options that would be a huge ‘garden grab’ on Grade II* listed RHS Wisley Gardens.
The garden, which attracts more than a million visitors a year, could lose 500 trees, including one planted by the Queen to mark her silver jubilee, if one of the options being considered by Highways England goes ahead, the RHS warned.
RHS ambassador Alan Titchmarsh has called on the UK’s “army of gardeners” to oppose the plans, insisting they “must stand together and protect our gardens”.
The RHS said there were two options to widen the A3, one on the road’s east side, and one on the west alongside the century-old garden.
The west option would take out the protective bank of trees which separates the busy road from the trials field where varieties of blooms are assessed, as well as part of the woodland garden, worsening noise and air pollution at the garden.
Historic trees that are more than 100 years old, five trees identified as ‘threatened and endangered in cultivation’, and huge giant redwoods would be lost if the scheme went ahead, the charity said.
Ellen Teague, of Columban Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation, described the plan as “a garden grab for the sake of road-building” and said it demonstrates the Government’s “poor appreciation of the vital role that trees play in tackling climate change, providing a habitat for wildlife, and cleaning our air”.
She added: “A study of 86 road schemes, commissioned by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) earlier this year, found most roads increased traffic while destroying the countryside. In Laudato Si, Pope Francis urged us to care for creation,” she pointed out, adding: “Challenging this road building project is one way of doing that.”
Dr Edward Echlin, an eco-theologian and Honorary Fellow at Leeds Trinity University, described tree-felling for road widening as “an abuse against our fellow creatures” and warned that if it was allowed to happen to Wisley Gardens, it would set a worrying precedent.
“Trees and hedges near Wisley Gardens are especially precious, indeed invaluable,” he told The Universe. “If magnificent specimen trees, such as those at Wisley, are under threat from road widening what hope is there for trees anywhere in these isles? We should be planting trees not felling them for yet more roads.”
Alan Titchmarsh said Wisley is Britain’s centre of excellence for horticulture and horticultural science and helps millions of people to garden and grow plants. He said: “I’m calling on the UK’s army of 27 million gardeners to make it known that a disregard for these important trees and lack of appreciation of the national importance of this garden would not be acceptable if the short-sighted and environmentally damaging option was chosen.”
The RHS is urging Government agency Highways England to choose the option on the east side, which it said would not take any woodland or fell trees at Wisley.
To sign a RHS petition to save Wisley Gardens and its woodland visit: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/en-gb/takeaction/372/679/924/
Picture: TV presenter Alan Titchmarsh standing by the line of trees, some over 100 years old, which could be lost at Wisley in Surrey.