One of my earliest memories of Stratford upon Avon is the beautiful willows along the banks of the river. But now someone wants to chop them down. The Bancroft trees, along with the footbridge, face the axe as part of the ‘World Heritage’ proposals for Stratford upon Avon, and the Tory-run council is planning to approve the plans this week. What madness is this? The trees are part of the historic character of Stratford, which makes its waterfront a world attraction. True, some of the trees have become diseased. Most have not — but the spurious argument being put forward is that the only way to protect the remaining trees is by chopping them down. Protect… by chopping them down… ? Willow trees take hundreds of years to grow. The real reason for the proposed cull is to ‘create vistas’ as part of Stratford’s regeneration. As everyone knows, I am a strong supporter, and have been since my days at West Midlands Arts, of the plans for the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. But these plans do not involve, or require, the destruction of trees. Nor is Stratford an urban-deprived council estate in need of drastic surgery to make it habitable again.As one tour guide points out: “Stratford entrances with its natural scenic beauty, its graceful swans, weeping willow trees and shady riverside walks.” These, of course, are willows which, once gone, would take hundreds of years to regrow. One of the most distressing aspects of the 20th century was a willingness to casually chop down trees and destroy England’s heritage for the sake of short term city-planning or architectural fads. But this is the 21st century. As a nation, we are now aware of our heritage. We are aware of our environment. We are concerned about global warming. We plant trees, rather than destroy them. Except, it seems, here. This is why I’m backing Stratford Voice’s campaign to oppose these brutal changes. I challenge you to do the same.