Tree Felling Proposals Part of a "misguided, fatuous aim"

Chiswick House Trustees defend plans to cull hundreds of mature trees

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Anyone wishing to comment on the planning applications (Ref 00176E /TA3 /P13 /L14), should contact the Planning Department at

London Borough of Hounslow
Civic Centre
Lampton Road

Tel: 020 8583 2000

Chiswick House Trust

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In a letter published to today's (19th September) Times, Chiswick resident Roger Morsley-Smith has condemned proposals to fell a huge number of mature or semi-mature trees as part of Chiswick House and Grounds regeneration scheme.

He writes "The grounds have been poorly maintained for many years but this destruction of healthy trees would be vandalism. It stems largely from a misguided, indeed fatuous aim: “to restore the gardens to their appearance at the time of Lord Burlington’s death.”

"Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, architect of the present Chiswick House, who inherited in 1704, died in 1753. He was a great patron to artists, architects and musicians, and in his “Epistle to Lord Burlington” Alexander Pope urged him to: “Consult the genius of the place in all.” But times have changed - the place is now described in consultants’ leaden words as: “a valuable asset that currently fails to reach its potential.”

"The Environmental Assessment provides a scrupulous evaluation of the possible effect on bats but not on human beings. Intrusive lighting, new roads and a glaring café with a footprint as large as the house itself are planned. The ecological and aesthetic effects of removing so many large trees, including oaks (Quercus robur), from visually sensitive historic areas are not mentioned at all.

"We cannot go backwards in time and any attempt to recreate a scene of 250 years ago is doomed. Climatic conditions are very different now and new plantings may never mature to provide the sought-after effect. That the sylvan beauty of Chiswick House Gardens should be ruined for such an arbitrary and ill-conceived aim would be tragic. Pope’s plea: “In all, let nature never be forgot” was never more relevant.

"May I urge all who love trees to let Hounslow Borough Planning Office TW3 4DN, know how they feel about these proposals by 21 September. Those interested in forming a pressure group to fight the plans are invited to communicate with me by email:"

In response Rupert Hambro, Chairman, Chiswick House & Gardens Trust, stated "Mr Roger Morsley-Smith’s letter was disappointing in that he missed the point of what the Chiswick House and Gardens Trust, not English Heritage, are attempting to restore in the gardens at Chiswick. The project to regenerate the gardens is a once in a lifetime opportunity to restore this internationally important landscape, that so inspired the likes of Alexander Pope. The park’s decline over recent decades has eroded ‘the genius of the place’, and this needs reversing and a sustainable future established for this wonderful estate.

"Trees are one of the glories of Chiswick House Gardens. There are an estimated 3,500 trees in the park, from venerable cedars and sweet chestnuts to woodland trees, but like other elements of the landscape, the tree stock now needs careful management to arrest a continuing long-term decline in quality.

"Woodland areas for example have been allowed to get out of balance – dominated by self-seeded sycamore, holly and laurel, lacking in light, and unable to develop healthy young growth and a good mix of woodland plants and wildlife. Safeguarding and enhancing the tree stock for future generations to enjoy, will involve removing selected trees alongside the planting of around 1600 new trees.

"Far from wanting to go backwards in time, as your correspondent has suggested, we have been at pains to develop a project that integrates the views of all interested parties. The result will be much improved access and park facilities as well as conservation and restoration of the site’s historic fabric.

"This project has taken a number of years to develop with a great deal of input from local people and amenity groups. This is Chiswick’s one and only chance to receive the investment it so badly needs, so I would urge people to look at the long term future and support the planning application that is currently being considered by Hounslow."

September 21, 2007