Two of Sydenham Hill Wood’s most beloved trees will be felled by the time this weekend is out unless campaigners’ last-ditch efforts can force the council to reverse its decision.
This week, Pennie Hedge sent an open letter to Southwark Councils’ deputy leader Rebecca Lury, pleading for the historic trees to be saved, slamming its claims that the chop is the best way forward.
In the letter, sent on behalf of Save the Cox’s Walk Footbridge Oaks Campaign, she argued the decision-making process had excluded the community and the charity that owns the woods.
A public consultation was held over Christmas last year for the “minimum legal period”; the plans for the healthy, mature oaks were not communicated to the London Wildlife Trust which strongly objects; and research into alternatives to felling were conducted behind closed doors, she claims.
The letter went on to say: “Everything we have suggested, from getting the advice of a specialist conservation engineer, with expertise in restoring historic structures in sensitive environments, to having a full, open consultation on alternative solutions, including re-routing the path, has been dismissed without discussion.
“Please listen to us now: put the bridge repairs on hold and conduct a full, open, public consultation on all the options. That is the way to empower communities.”
Southwark Council says the trees have to go so it can complete work on the embankment on either side of the footbridge, which will be deemed no longer safe to use without the maintenance work.
Councillor Rebecca Lury told the News earlier this year the trees had to go as they were well within a five-metre clearance zone.
On Tuesday Lury, cabinet member for culture, leisure, equalities and communities, told the News: “The council does not fell any trees unless there is very good reason to do so, and when we have no choice but to remove a tree, we will always plant at least one new tree wherever possible.
“In this instance, we have already planted fifteen semi-mature oak trees along Cox’s Walk in advance of the removal of the two trees.
“Cox’s Walk footbridge has failed a load assessment, which shows that the walls supporting the bridge have deteriorated. If the work does not proceed, the bridge will not be safe and will have to close.
“We have explored alternative options but relocating the trees, or working around them, is not viable and while the loss of the oaks is unfortunate, this solution will ensure that the footbridge will remain open for years to come.”