Image above: Cherry trees on Turnham Green
90% in favour of cherry trees in public consultation
Chiswick residents have voted massively in favour of the council planting more trees on Turnham Green, and in particular for planting more cherry trees.
LB Hounslow opened the planting plan out to public consultation after plans to add to the existing avenue of cherry trees became controversial in 2020. Friends of Turnham Green voted by a majority of 75% at their AGM to add to the avenue, an individual donated £5,000 to cover the cost, the trees were bought and with the parks department’s blessing and volunteers were all set to plant them.
The initiative came to a thundering stop when Cllr Joanna Biddolph ‘called in’ the decision the day before the trees were due to be planted, forcing the council to postpone the planting, which in effect meant stopping it, as saplings need planting in the spring.
READ ALSO: Life is just a bowl of cherries, not
The cherry trees were planted elsewhere, the donor refunded and Friends of Turnham Green went into abeyance while they were reconstituted and held fresh elections, as it was alleged the AGM vote had been undemocratic.
The chair of Friends of Turnham Green, environmentalist Rebecca Frayn, was re-elected with an overwhelming majority. Jill Spencer, who had called on the councillor to intervene and then stood against Rebecca for election as chair, polled only 21%.
Image above: Cherry trees on Turnham Green
Two years on, the Council decided they would seek a mandate for planting trees in a public park (the first time I have heard of this in 40 years in journalism). The public was asked to vote on the Council’s Tree manager’s proposals for each part of the Green. Almost 400 people took part – 396 online and three on paper.
The result – a minimum of 81% respondents were in favour of more tree planting, rising to 90% in favour of particular species at specific locations. 89.90% liked the idea of adding more Cherry Prunus avium plena trees to the avenue. The consultation ran for eight weeks between 17 November 2021 and 7 January 2022.
Hounslow’s assistant director for the environment, Wayne Stephenson, told The Chiswick Calendar they do not undertake consultations about tree planting as standard:
“but wherever plans are controversial and where it’s going to change the fabric of the location we do consult.”
Is tree planting often controversial? “No it isn’t”
And how much did it cost us to confirm what the Friends of Turnham Green wanted all along and what councils usually feel confident enough to decide for themselves?
“About 36 hours of officers’ time. in the region of £2,000.”
Image above: Rebecca Frayn, Chair of the Friends of Turnham Green
“Delighted the whole saga can be put behind us”
Friends of Turnham Green say they are delighted ‘Cherrygate’ is coming to a close and they can get on with planting. Chair Rebecca Frayn said:
“We are delighted by these results which are a great step forward for this much loved park and will make a valuable contribution to the climate crisis. It’s a great pity we were forced to delay planting by two years, but I’m delighted we can now go forward. I hope that with the planting of the new trees – now democratically endorsed twice over – the whole saga can be put behind us.
“Much time, money and goodwill has been squandered by the actions of Cllr Biddolph, actions which raise serious questions about her suitability to represent the community given her on-going
opposition to popular local initiatives, green enterprise and democratic mandates.”
In December Rebecca launched a furious attack on Cllr Biddolph, calling her behaviour “undemocratic” and “deranged” when Cllr Biddolph criticised the consultation process, wanting it to be totally open for residents to suggest plants.
Rebecca said the work of her group of community volunteers was being made “increasingly untenable” by the “high handed autocratic and self-serving behaviour” of the councillor.
Cllr Biddolph appeared to be on a “one woman mission to prevent any new tree planting on Turnham Green” and was “apparently prepared to go to quite extraordinary and undemocratic lengths to achieve this goal.”
Image above: With homage to Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Like Monty Python’s black knight ‘picking a completely unnecessary fight’
On publication of the Council’s consultation, Friends of Turnham Green secretary Ed Stanley said:
“Cllr Biddolph does looks a bit like the black knight in Monty Python; picking a completely unnecessary fight with King Arthur who proceeds to chop off his arms and legs in a sword fight.
“Limbless and undeterred, he still screams ‘come back and fight you bastards’. Maybe she is blogging somewhere that ’tis but a scratch.”
LB Hounslow says the planting will now go ahead in March. By the end of March we should have an Indian Bean tree, a Tulip tree, Foxglove and Magnolia, Lime, Elm, Whitebeam, Crab apple and cherry trees added to the Green.
Hounslow Council’s Cabinet Member for Leisure Services, Councillor Samia Chaudhary, said:
“We believe that any opportunity to gain the views of residents and community groups on projects such as this is positive. We believe in working in partnership with our communities towards our shared goal of making Hounslow a cleaner, greener and healthier place to live.
“It is great news that residents have confirmed their support for this project through the consultation. We are now looking forward to seeing this tree-planting project take shape.”
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