Objectors attack plan to recreate wood as 'absurd'

A PLAN to create a replica ancient woodland to replace one that will be destroyed by a six-lane trunk road was described as a 'Disneyland absurdity' in the High Court yesterday.

Conservationists are challenging proposals that would cut in two Oxleas Wood in south-east London. The woodland lost would then be 'recreated' on nearby fields.

Nigel Pleming QC, for the objectors, said ancient woodland was a national treasure that could not be recreated. The result would be 'some kind of pale pastiche - a Disneyland woodland', he told the court.

Nine people who live near Oxleas are appealing against the compulsory purchase procedures in a hearing that could have wide repercussions for the road-building programme. It is thought to be the first test of the obligation to provide new land of 'equal advantage' where public open space is lost through a compulsory purchase; lawyers say the phrase has not previously been defined.

The 'Oxleas nine' are personally liable for the costs of the case, which could be up to pounds 100,000 if it goes to appeal. Their campaign is backed by conservation groups and environmentalists including Professor David Bellamy and Jonathon Porritt.

Outside the High Court yesterday, Mr Porritt described the dispute over Oxleas as 'absolutely critical' for conservation in the United Kingdom. 'It is a national issue which epitomises the Government's vandalism and folly,' he said. Dr Bellamy said this was the first generation which, 'knowingly and with malice aforethought', was destroying its heritage.

Friends of the Earth said that of the 161 sites of special scientific interest threatened by roads, at least five could be affected by the outcome. These are at Chobham, Hindhead and Thursley in Surrey, Snelsmore in Berkshire and Blows Down in Bedfordshire. The Oxleas case could set up a 'legal road-block' in the path of the Department of Transport, it said.

Compulsory purchase of open space must be subject to special parliamentary procedure unless 'equally advantageous' land replaces it. The objectors are challenging the Government's failure to invoke that procedure.

Mr Pleming said the Government's case rested on the plan to take top soil from Oxleas to nearby Woodlands Farm and plant trees there. During the 10 to 14 years that the trees were growing, the public would be excluded from nine-tenths of the new site.

'Fourteen years is almost a generation. It is certainly a generation of children and they would be excluded from 90 per cent of the exchange land,' he said.

Experts were virtually unanimous that ancient woodland, typically 8,000 years old, could not be recreated, he said. Oxleas, which is the largest ancient woodland near London, was saved in the 1920s after a public subscription against urbanisation. 'The exchange of a field, with promises, for an existing forest is simply absurd,' Mr Pleming said.

The European Commission has yet to decide whether the Government has breached environmental assessment procedures in giving permission for the scheme. The case continues.

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker