City of Westminster
Westminster City Hall
64 Victoria Street
I object to the application for the removal of the Pear Tree in the back garden of 37 Newton Road, W2 5JR.
I love this Pear Tree; every morning I look at it from out of the window to see how it is. It hurts me to see it mistreated (in the past couple of years some savage “pruning” has been inflicted on it – inept tree surgery – which to put right and repair the damage caused by the previous cutting back has removed the south-facing leaf canopy to expose the moss and lichen on the main branches and trunk to the full force of the sun for the first time in decades).
To think of this venerable tree being wantonly cut down breaks my heart.
I do not own this tree, it was growing there before I was born and if tended to and cared for could be growing there after I die.
The present owners of the Pear Tree want to kill it now for the sake of the studio/study they mean to build at the bottom of the garden. A house, independent of the main residence, with its door opening onto the next street. The perception some people I have spoken to have is that this is clearly an investment opportunity which maximises the assets that the property can realise.
Will the Planning Sub-Committee while approving this development consider that ownership also carries with it a sense of custodianship? This is particularly relevant if one moves into a Conservation Area, as the Applicant recently has. Is there no duty of care for the living things one acquires with the property? I would also ask whether it would not have been possible and preferable for Mrs Coren and her partner, having obviously set their hearts on having a “painting room” and “study area” separate from the main house, to which they can get away, to commission their Architects to design a structure which embraces nature rather than seeking to destroy it.
Countless composers, writers and visual artists, with the resources to do so, have had work places built which do just that – imaginatively embrace nature with great design. Although I suspect this suggestion is likely to fall on deaf ears, not least because of the insensitivity shown so far to the magnificent character of this tree. It is possible if their eyes are opened to the beauty and magnificence of the Pear Tree, which up until now they have regarded as an ugly, “misshapen” thing to be got rid of and replaced. As a visual artist myself I can assure you that its shape and structure should be treasured.
Is it true that the Pear Tree pre-dates the house and garden where it grows? I understand that the only other remaining pear tree of this orchard between Newton Road and Westbourne Grove was taken down in 1994, as its roots were damaging the house, the owners were reluctant to do so and the lady of the house still bemoans the loss to this day. From research done at the time we learned that the orchard produced a particular brand of pear juice very popular with the Victorians.
Coming to the proposal to substitute a birch for the pear – to get rid of an eccentric, ecologically rich, thick trunked, mature specimen for a younger, slimmer and more compliant version (with bird-boxes and bat-boxes attached) – how can this be a fair exchange? How can an all-purpose, popular, nursery tree, a West Himalayan Birch, compare with this historic variety of Bayswater Pear Tree? Pretty as catkins and birch leaves are, with its fan of white branches in Winter the charm of a West Himalayan Birch tree is very superficial compared to the richness of the Bayswater Pear Tree’s blossom and the fruiting – with mistle thrushes feasting. Will one be able to replace this tree by popping along to the garden centre to get another one indistinguishable from all the others on display?
In Spring the Pear Tree’s exuberant white blossom glows against bright green; in Summer its broad canopy houses a mini eco-system with birds nesting and bats flying at night (or used to before the Pear Tree began to “suffer death from a thousand cuts” [as one neighbour put it]); in late Summer nestled among the leaves, the Tree is covered with small, amber coloured pears, which, as I mentioned, are not a domestic variety for eating (although the birds find them delicious) but were cultivated for their juice. After the leaves turn and fall in Autumn, in Winter-time it can be admired for its muscular, twisting trunk reaching up in an arc towards the west, although, as I said, it has been many years since any considered, sympathetic thought has been given to the way the tree should be pruned, so the outer branches of the Pear Tree have a more straggly, haphazard look compared to the solid, determined air of its trunk. Its wounds…, have they been treated? The cuts look very raw. Is it correct to suppose that if one prunes a tree in Spring, when the sap is rising, one should carefully seal where one has cut? Be that as it may, the fate of this tree is in the balance.
It rests on the decision as to whether a commonplace, imported, ornamental tree is preferable to one which is rare, special and quintessentially local. To state as the applicants do that there’s no real difference because they will retain the concept of a tree is a bit like saying a paper cup and a fine, hand-crafted, china tea-cup is the same concept. Do we really think so?
The applicant argues that because the Pear Tree happens to be growing at the end of a little side street it can be discounted as being of very little interest and amenity value. I hope you will be of a different opinion. I believe many local people see and appreciate this Pear Tree, whether they live nearby or see it in passing.
As the nub of the applicant’s argument is that there is little or no interest in this Bayswater Pear Tree (which is more a reflection of their own attitude), I shall invite artists, photographers and film-makers to record the tree and hold exhibitions of the results. It will be interesting to see the results. Maybe this is the beginning of a story. Maybe it will run and run. That would be good.
Please allow the Bayswater Pear Tree to live out its life-span
(…and also, may I request, should the Sub-Committee decide to retain the Tree Preservation Order, that you send in one of your best arboriculturalists to consult with on how best to maintain and preserve this still vigorous Tree.)
I attach a photograph of the Pear Tree taken two weeks ago, just as the spring blossom was passing.
Thank you for considering this letter