Sarah Ferguson wins battle to save historic trees in Hampshire countryside that were due to be destroyed to make way for a massive ‘Amazon’ warehouse
Historic trees which were due to be destroyed to make way for a ‘massive’ warehouse have been saved after the Duchess of York campaigned to keep them.
Sarah Ferguson said she was ‘absolutely horrified’ to discover that dozens of 130-year-old trees in ancient woodland close to her childhood home were to be felled to make way for the enormous warehouse.
Under the proposals – which had previously been given the green light – a beautiful part of the Hampshire countryside would have been ‘brutally chopped down’ for a 220,000 square metre distribution hub, thought to be used by Amazon.
Sarah Ferguson said she was ‘absolutely horrified’ to discover that dozens of 130-year-old trees in an ancient woodland in Hampshire were to be felled to make way for an enormous warehouse
The avenue of 67 oak trees and 3 mature beech trees which line the old road into the village of Dummer near Basingstoke, Hampshire
But the local council has now U-turned on its original decision after Fergie gave an impassioned plea to save the trees and 100,000 locals signed a petition opposing the plans.
The area affected by the plans was the village of Dummer – which is where the 62-year-old Duchess of York grew up on a farm and was taught by her father, Ronald Ferguson, to love the very trees that came under threat.
In total, 67 mature oaks, three Grade A mature beech trees, plus 13 other oak trees – all of which support 2,300 species of wildlife – were to be wiped out under the plans.
A birdseye view of the Oakwood Farm business units (circled) and surrounding land (outlined in red) which forms the planning proposal for a warehouse along the old road into Dummer, near Basingstoke, Hampshire
The Duchess of York campaigned to save the trees as they inspired her to write her children’s book ‘The Enchanted Oak Tree’, which was created to pass on the magic of an old oak tree to children.
In her plea to keep the trees, the Royal said: ‘Even now, I have the most vivid and happy memories of growing up on a farm in Dummer, near Basingstoke.
‘I remember my father telling me always to recognise and be grateful for the beauty of our surroundings, a lesson I have carried into adulthood and passed on to my own daughters.
‘One lesson he taught me in particular was to admire trees – to look up and drink in their magnificence and to feel a sense of awe at their importance in the landscape.
‘To me they are always to be respected and nurtured. We need to be deeply grateful for how they support Mother Nature.
‘These trees inspired my children’s book The Enchanted Oak Tree (in honour of and in thankfulness for my father, my oak tree has his big red bushy eyebrows) which was published last year.
‘The book was designed to pass on the magic of an old oak tree to the next generation, inspired by the trees I grew up with.
The planning application, which had previously been given the green light, would have seen dozens of oak trees ‘brutally chopped down’ for a 220,000 square metres, 23.5 metre-tall distribution hub – thought to be used by online giants Amazon
Sarah, Duchess of York’s childhood home in Dummer, Hampshire, is surrounded by ancient oak trees which were at risk of being cut down under the planning proposals for a warehouse
Sarah Ferguson gave an impassioned plea to save the trees and 100,000 locals signed a petition opposing the plans
‘So I was absolutely horrified to hear that approval has been given by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council for a massive, 220,000 square metre warehouse – apparently to be occupied by Amazon – which will mean these trees being brutally chopped down.’
Amazon refused to confirm or deny it was behind the controversial warehouse plans, with a spokesperson saying the company does not comment on ‘rumours or speculation.’
Historic trees have been saved after the Duchess of York campaigned to keep them
The Duchess, former wife of Prince Andrew, added: ‘I really cannot bear the thought that anyone would think it possible to cut down these incredible trees that have inspired me for decades for storage space.’
The plans, put forward by Newlands Property Developments, were approved at a Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council meeting six months ago.
But this week, the council voted down the plans as they decided the landscape impact of the large development would be too great.
They also cited that the development would prejudice the green infrastructure strategy, biodiversity and connectivity, and that there was no overriding public need for the proposal.
According to Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, the development would have prevented wildlife from moving between two sites in what is a wooded avenue that Fergie ‘remembers so well’.
The plans were met backlash from scores of locals, politicians, and even councillors from Basingstoke and Deane.
Six MPs, including Basingstoke’s Maria Miller, called on central government to ‘call in’ the decision.