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Village Diary

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Trees for Hampton Wick (not)

Monday 4th March 2019

Trees for Hampton Wick (not)

About three years ago the council published its programme for tree planting in the Borough. We noticed that Teddington, for example, had been offered 30 new trees while Hampton Wick had been offered … zero.

The HWA went to the council and asked if we could have some trees for Hampton Wick too. Eventually the Tree Officer came back and offered us ten trees. This seemed like good news.

Unfortunately, all the sites offered were in Teddington. They were in Hampton Wick Ward (which is part Hampton Wick, part Teddington) but none were in Hampton Wick (the village/community). We pointed this out to the council and again requested some trees in Hampton Wick and then we chased and chased and chased for a response. We didn’t receive one.

The Trees for Hampton Wick campaign was born.

At the council’s major Question Time event in January 2018 the HWA secretary raised the question of the “non-trees” in Hampton Wick. He received a follow-up reply in February 2018 from Pamela Fleming, then Deputy Leader – Cabinet Member for Environment, Business and Community. This reply included another list of trees, via the Tree Officer. Again, all the sites were in Hampton Wick Ward but not in Hampton Wick.

We pointed this out again. Pamela kindly offered to go back to the Tree Officer. The Tree Officer went to ground – again.

We decided to try again. So yet again we chased the Tree Officer and in June 2018 we finally got an appointment on-site albeit with the then Locum Tree Officer. The Locum Tree Officer met with the HWA Chairman and another committee member. They (the volunteer HWA committee members) each took the morning off work and spent an hour walking round Hampton Wick High Street and all roads leading off. The Locum Tree Officer was very helpful and recorded at least 40 potential sites – we realised these would have to be prioritised but nonetheless it was promising.

We heard nothing in July when we chased for a response following the meeting and chased again, every month, in August, September, October and November but these yielded little more than “we are trying to consolidate our spreadsheets” or “we are hoping to come back to you” etc.

In November we finally received a list of sites (the third one so far). Amazingly, this time, one (yes, one!) of the trees was in Hampton Wick. Less surprisingly, the other nine were in Teddington, albeit – you guessed it – in Hampton Wick ward. In total, three lists have been produced out of which one single solitary site has been listed in Hampton Wick. Before you get your hopes up too high at this news dear reader, the tree hasn’t actually been planted!

By December 2018 we had failed to achieve any kind of tangible progress over a period of more than three years and countless volunteer man days of effort. So, we suggested escalating the matter to Tree Officers’ line managers and local councillors. This produced a stony silence from the Tree Officers so our Chairman did indeed raise it with Cllr Brown.

Cllr Brown kindly followed this up and (amazingly) actually received a reply from the Tree Officer! Unfortunately, the response said that they are now “focussing on replanting in locations that have lost trees over the last 5 years”. In other words, it seems that they are no longer looking at putting in any new trees, just replacing old ones.

This is immensely frustrating. We have used up vast amounts of well-meaning HWA volunteer time. We have been given a huge run-around by council officers. We feel that Hampton Wick has been cheated of the trees that other parts of the Borough have benefited from, simply because of council officer ineptitude and ignorance of where Hampton Wick actually is. To cap it all, we’re now hearing that we’ve missed the boat because the policy has changed!

We’ll continue to fight Hampton Wick’s corner both with council officers and through our elected councillors. We’ll keep you up-to-date.

Footnotes
1. We wish to make it absolutely clear that we have nothing whatsoever against trees being planted in Teddington. Indeed, we live next door, we are delighted when trees are planted in Teddington. It would just be nice if the Tree Department was sent on a geography lesson to find out where Hampton Wick is!

2. The Woodland Trust think that trees in our towns are a great idea. The Arboricultural Association believe “Urban trees have an important role in sustainable communities, providing numerous aesthetic, social, and health benefits.”

Please let us know what you think.
Email: info@hamptonwick.org.uk

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