Film stars and aristocrats join forces to save a suburban chestnut tree

A Hollywood star, an aristocratic photographer, a millionaire philanthropist and others from the great and good of one of the most select neighbourhoods of London have become embroiled in a dispute over the future of a chestnut tree.

They talk, supposedly, of nothing else in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Dustin Hoffman and Lord Snowdon are among those who object strongly to the proposed plans of Vincent Meyer, the president of the Philharmonia Orchestra, to develop his £6.5m mansion which could imperil a tree that has been happily growing in his back garden for decades.

They made their representations when Mr Meyer, who is Swiss, put forward planning applications for renovations, said to cost £4m, that would have included chopping down the 70-year-old tree, forcing the council to take out a tree preservation order.

Now, residents fear, the construction work at the site threatens to kill the tree's roots, amid counter-claims that the the tree is shutting out light and undermining neighbouring properties.

The residents' concern has been intensified by the demise of another tree in the area that led to celebrity protests earlier this year. A 100-year-old horse chestnut was cut down in Bury Walk, Chelsea. Among those angered on that occasion were the designers Theo Fennell and Anoushka Hempel who had business premises but did not live on the road. Mr Fennell said, "The entire neighbourhood is feeling bereft" while Ms Hempel said: "The council does not care about trees. Sometimes they fine builders but what does that matter when the extra footage the builders have achieved by knocking down the trees is worth so much to them?"

On this occasion, the council says, all they can do is try to ensure that Mr Meyer does not break their tree preservation order. "We are keeping a close eye on the old chestnut. We shall see if it is abused," a spokesman said.

Nick Eden, the technical director of the Arboricultural Association, said: "We have got reams and reams of correspondence on this. This is, however, a rare occurrence in this borough. The fine imposed for the destruction of the tree can be twice its value and it could also be one tenth of the value of any construction that replaces the tree. It also carries a criminal record. But the chances are that the penalty would be imposed on the contractors rather than the homeowner."

Yesterday, a neighbour of Mr Meyer whose grandfather Andre was one of the founders of Lazard-Freres bank, said: "This is a highly emotive issue around here. We are all very upset this tree may disappear. It is nothing personal, but he must understand the culture of this neighbourhood."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury
music
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own