Lewisham residents challenge town hall chiefs over plans to chop down beloved trees and build houses on top

Residents are challenging a development which could see scores of trees chopped down in their local wood.

Lewisham Homes, which manages the council’s housing stock, is planning to build more than 20 homes, at affordable rent, by the Hillcrest estate.

Residents have set up a petition, which has attracted more than 700 signitures, in opposing plans which would see 30 garages and a community centre demolished, while up to 50 trees will be lost from the nearby Hillcrest Woods.

Pat Trembath, president of the Sydenham Society, said; “This amount of trees loss is ecological vandalism. There are development spaces at Willow Way or Bell Green which are crying out for an imaginative, mixed housing development.”

Hillcrest Woods has been named a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation by Lewisham council.

Hillcrest Estate resident Natasha Ahmad, who started the petition, said: “The friends of Hillcrest Woods, Sydenham Society, Longton Avenue Residents Association and Friends of Sydenham Wells Park are against the development.”

Mathew Frith, director of conservation at the London Wildlife Trust, said: “The woodland at Hillcrest Estate represents one of the last surviving fragments of ancient woodland in this part of London and is an important part of the Great North Wood.

“While we recognise the need for building new affordable homes, the application as it stands would cause irrecoverable damage to this habitat, and potentially undermine the enhancements London Wildlife Trust have been working on with local residents.

“We urge a rethink on the design, so that the conservation of the ecological assets of the estate are fully protected.

“New planning rules came into effect on July 24, giving ancient woods and trees the highest level of protection from insensitive and unnecessary development.

“The Government has amended the National Planning Policy Framework so the plan to build on Hillcrest Woods is in direct contravention of this.”

A spokeswoman for Lewisham Homes and Lewisham council said: “At Lewisham Homes we’re committed to improving the wellbeing of all our residents: to do this we aim to strike a balance between providing much-needed homes for people in severe need of accommodation, and preserving our natural spaces for all to use. We listened carefully to the concerns put forward during the consultation process.

“Because we appreciate the value of the site and want to provide homes as well as green spaces, we’ve commissioned additional research into the impact of tree removal, to be undertaken by an independent ecologist. The findings will be shared and will inform part of the decision making of the planning process.

“Lewisham Homes and Lewisham council are committed to creating 1,500 social homes by 2022. It’s an ambitious target which reflects the critical need for homes in the borough. We’ll continue to work in close partnership with the council: paying close attention to what locals told us in the consultation process in March, taking independent environmental advice, and ensuring that the environmental impact of creating new homes is done with care.”

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