RHS Garden Wisley and more than 500 of its important trees are under threat from Highways England’s M25/A3 plans
The RHS is asking gardeners to help it oppose a plan to widen the A3 which could result in the loss of over 10,000 square metres (2.5 acres) of woodland at RHS Garden Wisley. The loss of this 30m (100ft) barrier of trees on Wisley’s boundary would be visually devastating, says the RHS, and would also increase noise pollution. 500 trees are threatened, including some rare and endangered species and some large specimen trees which are important in the landscape.
There are two proposed ways of widening the A3: one on the west side, which threatens Wisley land, and one on the east. The RHS is calling on Highways England to choose the east option, which would spare its trees and better improve access to Wisley. RHS Director General Sue Biggs says, “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.”
Unfortunately it’s not quite that simple; the land on the east side of the road is also wooded, and that’s ancient woodland – one of the UK’s rarest habitats. Woodland Trust Director of Conservation Austin Brady says, “The proposed expansion of the A3 is stuck between a rock and a hard place, with both suggestions likely to have a huge environmental impact.”
Green campaigners are therefore asking if there might be a third option, which focuses instead on transforming public transport links – specifically, in this instance, to Wisley, which attracts 1.2 million visitors a year. Wisley already offers discounted tickets to people who come by public transport or bike – but it also has a 1,000-capacity car park, and all those visitors are part of the problem which the road widening seeks to address.