BY JAMES TWOMEY
Resident are furious at a plan by a town hall to cut down two oak trees that are more than 100 years old .
More than 1,000 people have signed an online petition asking Southwark council to rethink its plan to cut down the trees in Sydenham Hill Woods.
The woods are crossed by a public footpath, Cox’s Walk, which includes a 154-year-old footbridge over an unused railway that now needs to be repaired, and the council says the trees must be removed so it can fix the footbridge.
Pennie Hedge, a member of the Save the Footbridge Oaks Campaign, said: “Southwark council sneaked its consultation through over the Christmas period last year.
“It claimed that the two oak trees at the west end of the bridge had caused root damage, but their own photo showed a picture of ivy roots, not tree roots.
“The real reason they wanted the trees to go was because it would be easier for the council to get its machinery in place with them gone.
“But there was only a need for such heavy machinery because the council had ignored the best value repair, recommended in the Structural Assessment it had commissioned, in favour of a full-blown excavation of the walls and foundations and their subsequent rebuilding.
“This project was estimated to cost in excess of £200,000 by an official from the Highways Department.
“I feel very sad and frustrated at the way the council has bullied this decision through and is still not willing to discuss alternatives.”
A report from the London Wildlife Trust which was part of the council survey of the land, said: “With the information presented we are not convinced that the felling of the oak trees will assuage the problems referred to in the report.
“We accept that access is required but why either or both trees need to be felled is not clear.
“Neither tree was touched during the last time the bridge was repaired in 2005.”
Southwark councillor Rebecca Lury said: “The council plants at least one tree for every tree that we have to fell where possible, and we are careful not to remove trees without good reason.
“In this instance, we have planted 15 semi-mature Oak trees along Cox’s Walk as mitigation, in advance of the unfortunate loss of the trees.
“Cox’s Walk footbridge has failed a load assessment, which showed that the embankment walls supporting the bridge have deteriorated.
“If the work does not proceed, the public highway can no longer be considered safe, and the bridge will have to be closed.
“While the trees are not the principle cause of damage to the embankment, they are just 1.5 metres from the bridge and within the five metre clearance zone, needed for the safe construction of the essential work.
“Sadly, relocating the trees is unlikely to be viable on this occasion, as there is no
guarantee of success.
“The process of undercutting and the severance of roots would need to take place over a number years, before removing the trees with a tree spade, all at a great cost.”