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Guildford Lib Dems Push to Save RHS Wisley Trees Tory MP Says He’s Already Saved

Published on: 27 Nov, 2020
Updated on: 29 Nov, 2020

RHS Wisley: A3 entrance and exit from/to the A3

A Guildford Lib Dem campaign to save threatened Grade II* trees at RHS Wisley seems to have hit the buffers, because Tory MP Sir Paul Beresford says his intervention has already saved them.

They had backed a planned early day motion by Daisy Cooper, their MP for St Albans, to raise concerns about the proposed M25/A3 junction 10 alongside the Gardens.

The proposal involved 44 trees along their A3 boundary, felling 17 Grade II heritage trees and 27 other trees, including North American redwoods and five Grade II* heritage trees having their roots undermined.

A spokesperson for Guildford and Cranleigh Liberal Democrats had said: “It is disappointing none of our local Conservative MPs have been leading on this issue. This has caused so much concern for both RHS, its members and local residents. Their silence is noticeable.”

Sir Paul Beresford MP

But constituency MP Sir Paul promptly hit back. “They are disappointed their local Conservative MPs have not been leading on this issue?” he said.

“I don’t know where they’ve been but I have been working with Jonathan Lord [MP for Woking] with the RHS and with Highways England for months and months on this. Rather than getting up and waving banners what we are doing is sorting it.

“The heritage trees are now safe because in part of our discussions we managed to get an agreement that the A3, on the RHS Garden side, would be moved across, using ground under the central barrier, taking the road away from these heritage trees. Special reinforcing was to be inserted to protect the roots.

“We’ve also discussed the deep concern the RHS has that the original proposal would have meant a large increase in the length of time visitors coming from the south of the garden because of the roundabout way in which they would have to enter and exit.

“We all reluctantly accept that Highways England is right that the present entrance and exit and on the A3 to and from RHS Wisley is dangerous, particularly the exit.

“So we accept we’ve got to have the overhead bridge and what we are doing is in discussion with the minister and with Highways England to try to put two strip roads on the roundabout just south of Wisley that will dramatically cut the distance the cars have to travel.

“This has been put to the minister and is under discussion. So the comment that the silence is noticeable, it’s not my silence, it’s theirs.”

And Guildford Tory MP Angela Richardson added: “Far from being silent on this, I have responded to all 31 constituents who have written to me on it.

“I also met with the Highways England regional policy director on October 2 to discuss the project and raise concerns.

“Sir Paul gives a substantive response regarding the project in his constituency and for which he has rightly led on and he has my full support.”(See Ms Richardson’s response to constituents below.)

Another Lib Dem spokesperson said: “It’s unfortunate none of this information has been conveyed to the residents who have contacted us about the impact on RHS Wisley and the serious impact that will be felt in Ripley.

“The regular busy periods on the roads are highly likely to have additional traffic seven days a week as visitors to the RHS take an alternative route through the village centre. It’s really important for residents and the council to be kept informed and our MP has been silent on this issue.”

Zoe Franklin

Zoe Franklin, Guildford Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Parliamentary matters, said: “It is good to hear Ms Richardson and Sir Paul have been working on this behind the scenes but it would have been helpful if they could have communicated this more clearly with the local councils and also the wider public.

“I appreciate it is not always possible to share the full details of the work they are doing on an issue but given the clear and real concerns of local people it would have gone a long way to provide reassurance.”

Ms Cooper said whether she will now withdraw the EDM depends on information she has requested from RHS Wisley and Highways England.

Cllr Colin Cross

The borough councillor for the area, Colin Cross (R4GV) said: “I am much encouraged by Sir Paul’s actions in trying to protect Wisley RHS and the Lovelace Ward from the chaos this road works would permanently inflict on this area and its residents.

“This is not a political issue or one for party point-scoring but an opportunity to work in combination to find more sensible solutions to the present traffic problems in the area.

“I would be pleased to hear further details of his proposed alternative scheme involving the new roads off the Ockham roundabout (or nearby).

“In fact, I am sure all three Lovelace villages and their residents would wish to be consulted on his proposals so we all have a chance to contribute to this debate before it is too late.

“The worst example of the ‘over-engineering’ involved is the absurd new road and bridge to run from the A3 Ockham roundabout, over the A3 and into Wisley RHS.

“This will then replace the present A3 connections and will be the sole access for the A3, whether travelling north or south. Any traffic going south will end up having to go via Ripley and northbound cars will end up with a six-mile-plus detour over the present route.”

Andy Jasper, head of site at RHS Garden Wisley, said: “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.

“With the support of all our valued local stakeholders such as MP Paul Beresford and many others, Highways England agreed to meet us to try to find a solution to our concerns. These talks are ongoing, but we have managed to save some of our precious trees.

“Our petition has reached 46,000 signatures and received an official Government response. This demonstrates our members’ dedication to sharing our petition nationwide to ensure that the highest levels of government hear our message.”

Guildford MP Angela Richardson’s response to constituents

Thank you for contacting me about Highways England’s plans for improving junction 10 of the M25.

My understanding is that Highways England believes the scheme is needed to address the heavy congestion which occurs on a daily basis at the junction, and the associated issues this creates.

It is envisaged that improving the current layout of the junction and interchange will increase road capacity, reduce congestion and delays, result in better journey time reliability and enhance road safety.

I hear your concerns about the proposed scheme, including about the loss of a number of trees and habitats that would occur during construction in the surrounding area.

While it will ultimately be for the Secretary of State for Transport to decide on whether a Development Consent Order should be granted, I am happy to pass on your concerns to the Department for Transport.

If it is of any reassurance, I know the Highways England scheme proposes a number of environmental mitigation measures.

To reduce the effects of the scheme on biodiversity, vegetation and tree clearance would be conducted in such a way that avoids harm to the species that might be present and would avoid sensitive seasons wherever possible.

In addition, to compensate for the permanent loss and division of areas of designated sites and notable habitats, the scheme would provide new areas of heathland, woodland, wood pasture and open acid grassland habitats.

It would also establish new habitat links between areas of existing heathland or woodland and implement modifications to enhance the biodiversity of existing habitats.

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test One Response to Guildford Lib Dems Push to Save RHS Wisley Trees Tory MP Says He’s Already Saved

  1. David Roberts Reply

    November 27, 2020 at 12:28 pm

    With the UK entering its biggest recession for 300 years, how can a new bridge into Wisley Lane possibly be a public spending priority?

    This lack of realism is compounded by Taylor Wimpey, who are using the idea to justify building 2,000 houses in Ockham (at the former Wisley airfield), by promising a wonderful new bus service over the bridge to Byfleet. But (a) no-one wants to go to Byfleet, (b) no such bus service would be commercially viable and (c) no bus would be able to get over the canal bridge at The Anchor pub.

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