Wisley under threat from A3 plans

Update on Highways England’s M25/A3 plans

View of Lime trees by the A3

Thank you for your ongoing support to help us save RHS Garden Wisley’s important trees, and the local Thames Basin Heath Special Protection Area, from Highways England’s M25/A3 plans. We now have an updated summary of the activity below:

  • Our petition reached 46,000 signatures and received an official Government response. This demonstrated our members’ dedication to sharing our petition nationwide to ensure that the highest levels of Government heard our message. This has helped us in advancing our shared goal of protecting the historically significant RHS Garden Wisley for future generations to enjoy.
  • On 7 September 2020, we were able to work with our supporters in the House of Lords to ask a series of questions to the minister. It is a great honour for us to have the support of Peers, such as Baroness Floella Benjamin CBE, Lord William Bradshaw and Baroness Rosie Boycott. We are pleased to inform members that because of these questions, Highways England agreed to meet with us to try and find a solution to our concerns. These talks are ongoing, but we have managed to save some of our precious trees.
  • Highways England’s scheme is currently being considered by the Secretary of State for Transport with a deadline for a decision to be made by 12 May 2021. The RHS has engaged constructively with elected representatives, Highways England, and others throughout this process. We will continue to do so over the next few months to ensure the best possible outcome for our concerns on the environmental, economic and heritage impacts of this application.

​Background story: Why we took action

Back in 2018, we launched a campaign to save Wisley’s trees and more than 134,000 of you signed our petition calling for our objections to be listened to. The petition was a powerful statement on the importance of RHS Garden Wisley and the difference it makes to the local community, but also the national relevance of the garden and the future of horticulture. We cannot thank you enough for your support, but sadly, while the ‘garden grab’ plans were changed, the proposals that remained still caused many critical concerns for the future of Wisley.

The threat to our environment

The impact of Highways England’s earlier proposals would have placed 44 trees along our boundary with the A3 at risk. The plans that were being signed off by the Secretary of State would have seen 17 Grade II Heritage Trees being cut down. It  would also have seen 27 trees, including North American redwood species (Sequioadendron giganteum) and 5 Grade II* Heritage Trees being put at risk because the development could have adversely affected the health of the trees by undermining root strength. Anyone who has seen these magnificent trees in person will tell you of the awe that they bring.
The environmental harms of the proposal may have gone much further than our trees and the future of our garden. Highways England had failed to correctly assess the impacts of the unnecessary extra mileage and the resulting pollution of their scheme on the Thames Basin Heath Special Protection Area. This was important because an RHS Alternative Scheme was provided to Highways England, which reduced the impact on the local villages, and the heathland surrounding the garden. By failing to take account of this fact, we were deeply concerned that our environment could be unnecessarily being damaged for the future.

The threat to the RHS

The Highways England’s scheme would have seen those wishing to visit the garden having to pass the garden up to four times and then have to negotiate a new junction twice. We used this information, and expert advice, to calculate the costs to the RHS of these delays. We learnt that this could have seen a reduction in our income of an estimated £6.6 million during the construction period alone. The reduction in income the RHS would face over the subsequent 10-year operational phase would total £19.2 million.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.