Environmental activist comes out of the closet

It could so easily be the plaintiff cry of a Nimby, concerned about the destruction of an area he holds dear: ‘The removal of this tree will have a severe impact on the appearance of the area … causing a major deterioration from a country landscape … into one of an urban nature.’

mkdbw.jpgBut in a twist that will raise eyebrows in the village which Imperial College plans to treble in size, these words were written by David Brooks Wilson — the man in charge of the Wye Park project, a scheme which would result in the felling of hundreds of trees to make way for 4,000 homes. Until now, Mr Brooks Wilson, pictured right, has kept his environmental concerns very much to himself. But Imperial’s property advisor came out of the closet to protest against an application to fell a cherry tree near his home just outside Milton Keynes. Janet Croston, of Woodley Headland, Peartree Bridge, wanted to remove the tree at the house which overlooks the Grand Union Canal and Woughton marina. Ms Croston’s cherry tree was one of many planted on the ‘sought-after’ development — a 1980s estate on the edge of the once quiet 14th century village of Woughton on the Green, a half-timbered community which has been subsumed into the suburban sprawl of Milton Keynes.

Ms Croston’s application to remove a tree preservation order and chop it down — which was lodged with Milton Keynes Council on May 22 — provoked a rapid response from Mr Brooks Wilson, who spends the working week at his apartment home in East London. In a letter of objection, he wrote:

‘My wife and I have lived in Woodley Headland since 1987 and consider this application would have an adverse effect on the character and amenities provided to all residents by the location of the said cherry tree. It should be noted that with the exception of one tree which was destroyed, it is believed, due to illness, that every house in the road has a cherry tree in the front garden and, indeed, it was part of the overall nature and quality of the original development that called for the location of these trees which are now beautifully matured.

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Brookside or David Brooks Side? Woodley Headland without the felled tree (centre of picture)

‘My wife and I consider the removal of this tree will make the area into much more of an urban landscape and not be in keeping with the requirements of the original covenants in the title deeds to the said properties in Woodley Headland.

‘It follows that we both believe that the removal of this tree will have a severe impact on the appearance of the area and indeed the overall character of the street bearing in mind that all the houses contain such a tree. It is also felt that the removal of this tree could be the catalyst for the removal of further trees thus causing a major deterioration from a country landscape fronting the canal into one of an urban nature.’

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The marina at Woodley Headland with its view of Milton Keynes

Sadly, Mr Brooks Wilson’s green efforts were in vain… permission was granted last month and the tree duly fell to the chainsaw.

Would a concordat or a series of secret meetings with the great and the good of Buckinghamshire have made a difference? We have no idea, but as the Wye Park project threatens to go down with all hands, perhaps as great a dedication to cultivating contacts with the councillors and officials of Milton Keynes as he has shown with their counterparts in Kent might have saved not just the cherry tree, but also Mr Brooks Wilson’s precious rural ambience.

save-wye.org recognises that perceptions differ from person to person but we are interested in Mr Brooks Wilson’s definition of rural England. Woodley Headland, with its brown brick terrace houses, roads, empty business centre, modern pub where the lunchtime carvery can be enjoyed for just £3.50 and views of the glass boxes and smoke stacks of Milton Keynes, is clearly an alternative version of the countryside to the one we are all trying to defend in Wye. We wonder what Mr Brooks Wilson really makes of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on his visits to the area and how he rates it alongside his beloved ‘country landscape’ of Woodley Headland.

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About David Hewson

Professional novelist, published in more than 20 languages. Creator of the Nic Costa series set in modern Rome. Most recent book the novel of the Danish TV series, The Killing.
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One Response to Environmental activist comes out of the closet

  1. John Rogers says:

    What a wonderful story! Hypocrisy rules and blind greed prevails.

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