Photographs above: Cllr Joanna Biddolph; the cherry tree avenue on Turnham Green to which new cherry trees of a similar type were to have been added 

Cllr Biddolph “delighted” Cherrygate trees will be planted in Heston

Cllr Joanna Biddolph has told The Chiswick Calendar she is “delighted” that the cherry trees which were to have been planted on Turnham Green will instead be planted in Sutton Row Park in Heston.

Hounslow Council announced on Wednesday that the trees would go to Heston, following the row over whether or not cherry trees were the right kind of trees to be planted on Turnham Green. Cllr Joanna Biddolph blocked the tree planting on 15 February because she said members of the Friends of Turnham Green community group had raised ‘concerns’. Jill Spencer, a member of the Friends’ Landscape committee, had complained that the decision hadn’t been made properly, despite a majority 21-7 vote at the Friends’ AGM in January in favour of planting the non-fruiting trees to fill in the gaps in an existing avenue of cherry trees.

Cllr Samia Chaudhary, Cabinet Member for Leisure Services, said:

“Despite productive meetings between members of the local community, unfortunately the tree planting event organised by the Friends of Turnham Green, which was postponed from February 15, has not been able to progress. The council has ambitions to see thousands of trees planted across the borough. We appreciate the efforts residents went to to get the cherry trees and understand their disappointment that the planting hasn’t happened. We have agreed to reimburse the costs of the trees and are relocating them to Sutton Row Park, Heston, where the local community has been planning a planting. The council always likes to support community groups who want to improve their local areas, and the borough, and hopefully agreement can be reached and and new trees will be planted on Turnham Green soon”.

The trees were to have been paid for by a private donation, along with other trees, yet to be decided on, elsewhere on the Green. But as a result of the cancellation of the tree planting the anonymous donor withdrew the offer.

Karen Liebreich of Abundance London, who organised the planting, said she was happy the ten non-fruiting trees would be going to a good home in Heston, “where the local Friends group and the parks department are delighted to have such beautiful trees”. She announced that the six fruiting trees would be staying in Chiswick. They will be planted on Acton Green, opposite Turnham Green tube station, which is in the Borough of Ealing. “They have been welcomed with open arms by the councillors and parks department of Ealing Council” she said. “We are delighted they will remain in Chiswick”.

As for Turnham Green, “Congratulations to the minority supported by Joanna Biddolph who succeeded in blocking the planting” she said. “The whole episode has been very time-consuming and depressing, and Abundance is reviewing how it works in future”.

Since the cancellation of the planting on Turnham Green the trees, which are several metres high, with big root balls, have been stored at Hounslow parks department’s depot. Cllr Biddolph said:

“They never were ‘just lying around’ as has been alleged.  Nor was it accurate to say that they were left to “languish in a depot in Hounslow”.  I checked soon after the planting was postponed that they would be looked after carefully and this was confirmed immediately.  I checked again – earlier this week – and was assured they were in safe hands, in the care of the horticulturalist at Greenspace360, Hounslow’s wholly owned company that maintains its parks and open spaces. There is huge pride and professionalism in the parks team and this must be recognised. No-one wanted these trees to be neglected or wasted and that was never a risk.
The issue, as has been emphasised throughout, was the importance of having a long term plan for Turnham Green – suggestions for which trees should go where followed by consultation in the wider community.  I understand that remains the case.  Meetings and discussions continue to take place between all those involved with the aim of taking a long term view of this most prominent open space in the heart of Turnham Green ward.

Both Karen Liebreich of Abundance London, who organised the planting, and Rebecca Frayn, former chair of Friends of Turnham Green, resigned from the group in protest.

“Once a tiny minority, supported by Councillor Joanna Biddolph, successfully blocked our planting day last Saturday, despite the overwhelming vote in favour of the tree-planting at our well attended AGM, it became apparent that they had now set a precedent whereby a motion passed by a majority of our members will only actually be implemented if that vocal minority, together with Councillor Biddolph happen to agree with it” said Rebecca.