RHS Wisley accuses Highways England of land grab over plan to widen
Aerial view of RHS WisleCredit:Invicta Kent Media/REX/Shutterstock The Walled Garden at RHS Garden Wisley “Wisley is the UK’s centre of excellence for horticulture and horticultural science and helps millions of people to garden and grow plants.”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.”Sue Biggs, RHS director general, said the charity was investing £70 million at the gardens in horticulture, new laboratories and visitor facilities.”It would be criminal for this irreplaceable woodland to be lost when another viable plan would avoid cutting down these century-old trees and still meet the important need to widen the A3,” she said.The role the trees play in mitigating pollution, providing habitat for wildlife and creating a noise and visual barrier must not be underestimated, she added, warning the noise of the A3 without them could impact on visitors and the future of the garden. Five trees identified as “threatened and endangered in cultivation” and huge giant redwoods would be lost if the scheme went ahead, the charity said.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. It would also provide better road access to the gardens, which get 1.2 million visitors a year, the charity said. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Highways England said the RHS was presenting the “worst case scenario” as if there had been no mitigation and insisted that they took their environmental responsibilities “very seriously”.A spokesman said the current access road to Wisley was “not particularly safe” and often caused traffic to queue onto the A3.The agency has proposed to close that road and build a new access road half a mile down the road as part of improvements to junction 10 of the M25.It is expecting to announce its preferred route within the next month, which is the “starting gun on the planning process.”After that, a detailed design will be submitted to the planning inspectorate before there is another public consultation.Work is not due to start before 2020. The Royal Horticultural Society has warned that one of the UK’s most popular gardens faces losing acres of woodland in a “criminal garden grab” by Highways England.Plans to widen the A3 could result in the loss of 500 trees at RHS Wisley in Surrey, including one planted by the Queen to mark her silver jubilee, and some that are more than 100 years old, it has claimed.RHS ambassador Alan Titchmarsh has called on the UK’s army of gardeners to oppose the plans, saying: “We 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. Titchmarsh said: “This potential garden-grabbing plan would be another unacceptable example of this Government’s poor perception of horticulture and lack of appreciation of the vital role that plants play for the environment, for the nation’s health and well-being and for the UK economy.