EVEN now at 61, and as a new grandmother, I have the most vivid and happy memories of growing up on a farm in Dummer, near Basingstoke.

I remember my father telling me always to recognise and be grateful for the beauty of our surroundings, a lesson I have carried into adulthood and passed on to my own daughters. One lesson he taught me in particular was to admire trees: to look up and drink in their magnificence and to feel a sense of awe at their importance in the landscape.

To me they are always to be respected and nurtured. We need to be deeply grateful for how they support Mother Nature.

As a girl, I remember particularly loving the oak trees in and around Dummer, including those which formed an avenue on the old road into the village. These trees inspired my children’s book The Enchanted Oak Tree (in honour of and in thankfulness for my father, my oak tree has his big red bushy eyebrows!) which was published last year. The book was designed to pass on the magic of an old oak tree to the next generation, inspired by the trees I grew up with.

Sarah, the Duchess of York, is calling on the public to stop the M3 warehouse plans from going ahead. Pictured: Sarahs childhood home in Dummer

Sarah, the Duchess of York, is calling on the public to stop the M3 warehouse plans from going ahead. Pictured: Sarah's childhood home in Dummer

So I was absolutely horrified to hear that approval has been given by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council for a massive, 220,000 square metre warehouse – apparently to be occupied by Amazon -- which will mean these trees being brutally chopped down.

The proposals will destroy the woodland corridor of 67 mature oaks and three mature beech trees of Grade A status on the old road into Dummer, plus a further 13 oak trees. Wildlife experts say that some of these trees are 130 years old, and each one supports up to 2,300 species of wildlife, including important bird and insect species and bats.

According to Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, the development will also block the movement of wildlife across the site which is located adjacent to two Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation – Ganderdown Copse and Peak Copse. The wooded avenue that I remember so well is therefore a stepping stone for wildlife, something that is supposed to be recognised in local and national planning policy. Species using networks of ancient woodland for migration, dispersion or movement to adapt to climate change will be badly disrupted.

Up to 1,750 houses are already being built next to the warehouse site, and there will be an extra 1,600 HGV movements every day emanating from the warehouse. The oak trees and others on the site combat CO2 and NO2 gases from existing traffic, but if the warehouse is built, the trees won’t be there to act as lungs for the local community or inspire all the new families moving into the area.

A petition has garnered more than 95,000 signatures. (Credit: Change.org/ Christine Northam)

A petition has garnered more than 95,000 signatures. (Credit: Change.org/ Christine Northam)

We cannot afford to keep losing valuable trees from an already fragmented landscape.

A petition aimed at stopping the felling of the trees has now gained more than 95,000 signatures. The strength of opposition is clear from this massive support. But we need more local people to sign up in order to force the council to rethink its plans.

If you want to save the trees, sign the petition here then lobby your local councillor and MP to intervene as well. Already, several MPs from across the county have signed a letter to the Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, asking him to have the plans inspected by a public enquiry and decided on at a national level.

In my view, this development is unsustainable and completely at odds with Basingstoke and Deane’s recent declaration that we are facing a climate emergency and commitments to a net zero borough by 2030.

I really cannot bear the thought that anyone would think it possible to cut down these incredible trees that have inspired me for decades for storage space. These plans must be brought to a halt before it is too late.