WOKING members of Wisley Royal Horticultural Society are being urged to sign a petition to save hundreds of trees threatened by the axe.
It follows a rallying call by TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh who is shocked by the latest moves at the RHS’s flagship gardens.
The RHS has described the proposal as “the ultimate land grab” of more than 10,000sq metres of Grade II listed woodland that includes 500 trees.
The RHS says there are two options to widen the A3 in Surrey as part of M25 improvements and one would lead to the loss of magnificent specimens, including one planted by the Queen to mark her silver jubilee.
In a letter to members, Wisley Royal Horticultural Association said: “We are worried that some potential Highways England plans could cause irreversible damage to Wisley in the future and hope you might help us to protect this very special and much loved place.
“If Highways England decide that widening the west side is the preferred option then irreplaceable historic trees that are over 100 years old, and still have centuries more to live, could be eliminated for a short-sighted road improvement scheme, which would increase air pollution and noise pollution and destroy the habitats of a wide range of wildlife and the beauty of the garden.
“If you are also worried about the potential destruction of these 500 beautiful trees and impact this will have on RHS Garden Wisley please show your support and sign our petition.’’
Visitor David Basnett, from Farnham, said, “It will ruin an important part of the garden that we visit regularly. We hope that the plan will be stopped and Arno and his little sister Lyra will be able to continue to enjoy this place.”
RHS ambassador Titchmarsh has called on gardeners to oppose the plans and declared: “We must stand together and protect our gardens.’’
Titchmarsh, said: “This potential garden grabbing plan would be another unacceptable example of this government’s poor perception of horticulture and lack of appreciation of the vital role that plants play for the environment, for the nation’s health and well-being and for the UK economy.
“Wisley is the UK’s centre of excellence for horticulture and horticultural science and helps millions of people to garden and grow plants.
“I’m calling on the UK’s army of 27 million gardeners to make it known that a disregard for these important trees and lack of appreciation of the national importance of this garden would not be acceptable if the short sighted and environmentally damaging option was chosen. We must stand together and protect our gardens.”
The RHS says it has carried out expert highway studies and is calling on the government agency to choose the “east option”. It does not encroach on woodland from the Garden, does not threaten the trees and would improve road access to Wisley, which welcomes 1.2 million visitors a year.
Sue Biggs, RHS Director General, said: “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.
“We’re currently investing over £70 million into RHS Garden Wisley in horticulture, new laboratories, learning buildings and visitor facilities, making the garden an even more important centre for science, and a better place to visit.
“The role that these trees play in mitigating pollution, giving a home to wildlife and providing a visual and noise barrier to preserve the peace and productivity of the garden cannot, and must not, be underestimated.”
Important trees that would be lost forever include “The Queen’s Tree”, planted by the RHS Patron Queen Elizabeth II to mark her Silver Jubilee and a number of trees that are rare in cultivation.
Highways England says in a Have Your Say planning document: “This section of the M25 is of nationally-strategic importance, as it is vital for access to and from Heathrow and is a key route from the Kent ports to much of the rest of the country.
“The cost to the economy of ongoing delays here would be considerable if left unchanged.’’
A brochure and questionnaire about the Highways England project can be picked up from Woking library.
The preferred route will be announced later this year when there will be a full public consultation.
Work will get under way if planning consent is agreed in 2020.