Christchurch Gardens a triumph for Tree Conservation

2014 started off badly for the Christchurch Druitt gardens. Back in April of 2013 planning permission was granted to build retirement homes adjacent to the gardens. Subsequently the developer decided seven 50ft sycamores also had to go. The trees were over the boundary, in the Druitt Gardens, but it was felt they would overshadow the new homes. Plans to start work were imminent by the New Year.

History of the Gardens

The Druitt Gardens of rest were bequeathed to the town more than 60 years ago. The gardens are a bird sanctuary and home to the likes of woodpeckers, redwings and nuthatches as well as to protected bats. Since the council took over the gardens they have removed some non-native trees and maintained what were overgrown spaces in order for the gardens to be an open, green space within the town (as was originally intended)

The argument for tree conservation

The council received 350 letters of objection relating to the proposed tree felling and the council planning control committee met on January 9th to discuss the recommendation that the trees were not made the subjects of a tree preservation order and thus could be felled.

The campaigners were concerned on two counts – firstly that the constant development of the green spaces would be detrimental to the townsfolk and wildlife alike. Secondly, it was felt that the plan to cordon off 800 sq ft of the gardens to allow construction vehicles access to the site could frighten off the wildlife for good.

Peter Fenning, secretary of the Christchurch Conservation Trust said “These gardens are the ‘green lung’ of the town and were left to the people of Christchurch as a gift from the late Charlotte Druitt”.

Saved from the Axe

On January 10th the news broke that the council voted 6 to 5 to save them and instead gave the mighty Sycamore’s preservation orders. Read the BBC article on the Christchurch Druitt Gardens here.

The council felt that the planned development could still go ahead without the need to rob the gardens of such a large part of its natural habitat.

Lessons to be learned

Development needs to happen and homes need to be built but the Druitt Garden controversy makes an important point.
Apart from the obvious; that trees make oxygen for us to breath and we forget that at our peril, there is also the important matter of harmony. Careful consideration needs to be taken when developing green spaces. It is a false economy to fell everything in sight for the sake of development. Our green spaces, apart from being a ‘green lung’ are the home to a large array of wildlife and we should ensure that the food chain remains intact as much as possible. One last point – we never go to a built-up area to feel a sense of well-being do we? We head for the nearest gardens, or park, or woodland.

It was good to see that the council listened to the representations of the people and that the development can go ahead with a more well-balanced approach to the people and wildlife of Christchurch.