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Sarah Ferguson urges public to save beloved oak trees near childhood home

EXCLUSIVE: The Duchess of York speaks to HELLO! about the petition

Danielle Stacey

Sarah, Duchess of York has revealed she is "heartbroken" after learning of the council's plans to cut down oak trees in the village where she grew up.

Approval has been given by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council for a warehouse at Oakdown Farm in Dummer – which will reportedly be occupied by Amazon - which means that the oak trees that line the old road into the village will be chopped down.

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The Duchess grew up at nearby Dummer Down Farm, which is now run by her younger brother, Andrew Ferguson.

The trees are part of Sarah's happy childhood memories and she is urging locals and the public to sign a petition to stop their destruction so that they can be enjoyed by the next generation.

The oak trees even inspired one of her children's books, The Enchanted Oak Tree, set in a magical secret garden.

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Sarah with her children's book The Enchanted Oak Tree

Speaking exclusively to HELLO!, Sarah said: "My father taught me to love everything about the incredible world of nature, and particularly instilled a sense of awe at the magnificence and importance of trees in the landscape.

"I remember loving the oak trees in and around Dummer, where I grew up, including those that form an avenue on an old road into the village. These trees actually inspired one of my children's books, The Enchanted Oak Tree, which is designed to pass on the magic of trees to the next generation."

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Sarah with her father Major Ronald Ferguson and sister Jane in 1968

She continued: "So I was at first heartbroken and then deeply angry to hear about plans to cut down the woodland corridor of 67 mature oaks in Dummer, to make way for an enormous warehouse.

"One oak tree is home to up to 2,300 species of wildlife and we simply can't afford to keep losing trees from an already fragmented landscape. I'm urging people to sign a petition against these plans, which must be brought to a halt before it's too late."

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council Executive Director of Residents Services Rebecca Emmett tells HELLO!: "The Development Control Committee considered two applications for land at Oakdown Farm on the A30 near junction 7 of the M3 in April. An outline application for the construction of four commercial and industrial units was refused as the committee agreed that the scale of the development would be detrimental to landscape and views from nearby settlements.

“After deliberation, the committee voted, six to four, to resolve to approve the other full application for one storage and distribution warehouse. The decision to grant conditional planning permission, subject to a legal agreement including landscape management, protection of retained trees and conditions on felling, came after consideration of the impact on the landscape of the surrounding area.  

"This was balanced against factors including the benefits of the development, such as job creation and the need for storage and distribution, especially in a location so close to the M3 junction. The amount of land not developed, with an ecology and landscaping management plan to improve biodiversity at the site, was also a reason for approval. 

"At this stage the Secretary of State is considering a request from local MPs to call in the application, so no planning permission has been issued."

To save the oak trees, sign the petition at https://www.change.org/p/stop-the-destruction-of-67-oak-and-3-beech-trees-at-oakdown-farm-warehouse-site

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