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To: Southwark Council

Save the Cox's Walk Footbridge Oak Trees

Save the Cox's Walk Footbridge Oak Trees

Place Tree Preservation Orders on the two oaks they plan to cut down.

Why is this important?

**22nd Nov '20: Trees still standing! Scroll down for BBC London News item and updates. **

These two, hundred-year old oak trees stand on each side of the west end of Cox's Walk Footbridge, Sydenham Hill Woods. They are like sentinels, welcoming and guarding the bridge, and their magnificent canopy dapples the bridge in green shade. But these trees are due to be felled this autumn, just to make life easy for Southwark Council when they carry out repairs to the footbridge. That would be a loss of hundreds of years of life for these beautiful, healthy oaks and the life they support.
• Southwark Council is trying to blame these trees for damage to the bridge but the engineer’s assessment states it is lateral pressure from the soil on both sides of the bridge that is the problem.
• There has been some damage to the brickwork by roots, but ivy roots not oak roots.
• The abutment walls that need repair were rebuilt in the 1980s (exact date unknown) without needing to remove the trees, so we know it can be done.
• No assessment appears to have been done of the impact on the stability of the slope and the water table removal of these trees will have.
• Oak trees have a rich biodiversity, supporting hundreds of insect species, birds, fungi, mosses and lichens.

Sydenham Hill Wood, Dulwich, London, UK

Maps © Stamen; Data © OSM and contributors, ODbL


Reasons for signing

  • The Council appears not to have listened to sound evidence that the damage to the bridge was NOT caused by these trees. Nor has it taken into account the amenity value of these particular trees, or their significance to the local community. 100-year-old oaks cannot simply be 'replaced'. I urge the authorities to allow an urgent stay of execution on the felling of these beautiful trees.
  • Do these trees not have tree preservation orders on them to protect them? If not they should!
  • The immense harm that will be caused on the woodland eco system and wildlife should the council be allowed to fell the trees - there is no excuse for ignorance of such a kind.

Updates

2020-11-23 16:21:34 +0000

5,000 signatures reached

2020-11-22 10:18:51 +0000

https://youtu.be/GHyNczKsHS0
What a week! I thought my next post would say that the trees have been felled. But they are still standing! Some stalwart and committed campaigners are on site at all times. On Monday 16th, when the contractors, they stood under the oaks and refused to move. The contractors then left. We know they will be back but we don't know when or how. The campaigners are talking to everyone and have garnered over 1,500 new signatures since the felling notices went on the trees.

In the meantime, we have had items in the South London Press, Southwark News and News From Crystal Palace and on BBC London News. And check out Twitter @SaveOaks.

Will the Council respond positively now? We are pushing for them to take down the rotten timbers and fix a temporary balustrade and reopen the bridge. We then want 'cooperative negotiation' to find the most cost effective way of implementing our design.

2020-11-10 14:12:29 +0000

Very sad to have to tell you that felling notices have been placed on the oaks, for the week commencing 16th November.
The case for taking them down has not been made. They ignored our arboriculturist report, our engineers answers to their questions, our survey of over 160 users of the bridge, our request for an interim repair. At no point did they approach all the work we had done with support from the community crowdfunder, in a positive way and say ‘let’s see how we can make this work.’
Why do Councils persist in resisting community input rather than working with them?

2020-11-02 13:11:12 +0000

The Council has now sent an email to all who had written to them to express a concern over the loss of the trees. We disagree with the Council’s summary which persists in making many baseless assertions that we have already provided answers to. However, most importantly, the email suggests that a decision has now been taken to proceed with the Council's initial proposal and cut down the oaks but with the offer of 'two large oak specimens' to replace them at the top of Cox's Walk.

This is a difficult moment for the Campaign, and it would be very useful to have a steer from you about how we should proceed. Please send your comments on this and whether you would be interested in participating in a Zoom discussion, as soon as possible to [email protected].

Please see our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/SaveOaks for more information and links to documents.

2020-10-29 18:43:45 +0000

We have emailed the Council to ask for the rotten timbers on the bridge to be removed immediately, so that the bridge can be reopened. This would mean a temporary loss of the timber superstructure but it would allow time for them to work with us for a cost-effective repair that retains the oaks, keeps the bridge and reinstates the timbers.

At a time when Councils are strapped for cash because of Covid-19, and TfL, who are a major funder of Southwark Highways, are having to seek government bailouts, spending over a quarter of a million pounds on a woodland footbridge seems wrong. We have therefore asked Southwark to put this on hold and only carry out the work necessary to reopen the bridge, until public finances are healthier.

2020-09-28 10:16:13 +0100

Regrettably, I now have to report that the Council has paid lip-service to its commitment for an assessment and meeting, but there is no sign of any continuing or meaningful engagement. It’s beginning to look as if it might stick with the cheaper, less robust original scheme and cut down the trees.

Cllr Andy Simmons also complained that ‘the comments received from the campaign group are a relatively small minority of the views that I’ve received overall..’ as if a group that has the backing all of you who signed this petition and crowdfunded for a design to retain bridge and trees, count as just one voice. He obviously wants to hear from more of us! Please, could as many of you as possible email or tweet Cllrs Andy Simmons and Catherine Rose to politely show them that the majority want to save the oaks? Thank you.

[email protected] @andysimmons10 [email protected] @RoseCllr

2020-08-25 16:07:44 +0100

Trees safe - for now!
After a nail-biting few weeks, as the planned works start date of 1st September loomed ever nearer, we finally heard from Cllr Richard Livingstone last night that:
"The council is proposing a meeting soon with local stakeholders before any decision is reached…I can confirm that any decision on proceeding with felling the trees will not be taken until both this meeting and the assessment that you have requested have taken place."

Cllr Livingstone has taken over the political lead on the footbridge repairs from Rebecca Lury. He is Cabinet Member for Environment, Transport and the Climate Emergency with responsibility "To continue to improve the borough’s environment and our contribution to a greener city and a greener planet." We therefore have high hopes that he will be actively encouraging Highways to work with us to find a solution that saves the trees.

2020-07-30 13:06:29 +0100

Great News - the Crowdfunder Campaign raised 106% of our target!! Thank you to all who contributed. We have now sent our detailed proposals to Southwark, along with costings and supporting evidence from an arboriculturist.

We have also asked Rebecca Lury, Deputy Leader of the Council and political lead on this issue, for assurances that the Council would carry out the public consultation and engagement it promised earlier in the year, and that the oaks would not be felled before that process has been completed. This would ensure that we could have a debate about re-routing the path, if Highways is unable to accept a technical solution. We have yet to hear back from her. So, the good news is that the Council has engaged with our proposals; the less good news is that the process of assessing them has so far lacked any openness or transparency. See more information on our proposals on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/SaveOaks

2020-07-11 15:33:03 +0100

Thanks to your fantastic support, we've now raised 96% of our target funding - just £100 to go! Could you help us get over the line by publicising the Save Oaks Crowdfunder https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/saveoaks
on social media? Any help much appreciated. We're so ready to present this great solution to the Council! Thank you.

2020-07-03 16:36:52 +0100

We've launched a Crowdfunder Campaign https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/saveoaks to raise the money we need to present our independent engineer's repair solution to the Council. This saves the oaks and keeps the bridge with its main historic features. This is our best chance of getting the Council to change its mind. We've already raised nearly 80% of our target, so any amount you are able to donate would be really helpful towards getting that last 20%. Thank you.

2020-06-26 15:36:15 +0100

It’s been a while since the last update, but things have been progressing. The really good news is that an engineer has found a way of repairing the footbridge that both retains the oak trees and the main features of the existing historic design. This was the favourite option in our Survey (see below). This design has been seen by an arboriculturist, an architect and another engineer, who agree that it is feasible, of low risk to the trees and likely to save tax-payers’ money. We now need to crowdfund for the engineer to work up his design to present to the Council, and for a full survey and report from the arboriculturist. Watch this space!
The Cox’s Walk Footbridge Repair Survey attracted over 160 responses. The clear message was that keeping the oak trees was of paramount importance. Over 90% favoured a bridge repair or replacement. Failing that, the preference was for the path to be re-routed through the woods, with no bridge, rather than lose the oak trees.

2020-03-05 18:35:35 +0000

If you use(d) Cox's Walk footbridge, please fill in this very short (<4 mins) survey https://forms.gle/Aqng4U4bwTW7TP5PA. We are still hoping that a technical option to repair the bridge and retain the trees is possible, and will be getting a risk assessment of the new designs by an arboriculturist. But if this isn't feasible, we want to have an informed debate about the practicality of re-routing the path, which means finding out how people used the bridge and their preferences on the repair options. Thank you.

2020-02-22 15:43:52 +0000

Southwark Highways have set up a webpage about the footbridge repairs and the oaks. https://www.southwark.gov.uk/transport-and-roads/highways-defects-and-improvement-maintenance/bridges-subways-and-walls?chapter=3

Sadly, despite some very promising options, they are currently insisting that the original design is the best, although it means losing the oaks. We are working on challenging the assumptions that this conclusion is based on.

Whilst we still believe that a technical solution would be best, we will also be looking in more detail at the possibilities of re-routing Cox's Walk.

2020-02-09 20:25:20 +0000

We've been told by Andy Simmons, one of the Ward Councillors that he's been "given assurances that no works will be undertaken to the trees whilst alternatives to the previous proposals are considered." and also that "The aim is to ensure time for more detailed engagement with residents over the coming months."

This is welcome news as it gives us more time to discuss the options, because no tree work can be done during the bird breeding season, March - August inclusive. We have asked Andy Simmons to make sure that the public engagement involves all users, and not just Southwark residents.

2020-01-24 13:21:05 +0000

Southwark Highways announced yesterday that they are closing Cox's Walk Footbridge from Mon 27 Jan for 'safety' reasons. We believe this is unnecessary as any safety issues could be met by propping and extra support for the parapet. The notice has been timed to coincide with Head of Highways being away until 3 Feb, and in the 4th week of the month when there are no councillor surgeries, limiting the possibility of stopping the closure. How disappointing that Southwark is again resorting to the old tricks of avoiding public dialogue.
It is this reluctance to engage that has led to the lengthy delay in the repairs. It took 3 months and a general election for them to agree to an independent review of alternative construction options. And it’s over 2 months since the works were put on hold with promises of fact sheets and more information in the 'near future'. But this decision is the first response since then. The email added they are reviewing the results of the consultation.

2019-12-23 13:49:12 +0000

Things are starting to move again after the election and I handed our petition of over 2,700 signatures to Cllr Andy Simmons on Friday. Andy Scholes from the Protect Dulwich Upper Wood Trees campaign handed his petition in too. (You can read about and hopefully it sign here https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/protect-dulwich-upper-wood-trees-farquhar-road?share=0db12f9b-05c0-4071-b258-7ebcd85c603a)

In November Dale Foden, Head of Highways emailed that the repairs were on hold to allow an "independent consultant to undertake a further evaluation of possible practical alternatives to the current proposed works". On Friday Andy and I asked Cllr Simmons if he could set up a meeting for us with the Highways engineers to discuss the brief they have given the consultant. We hope that this is the start of Southwark Council leading the way on inventive, practical engineering solutions to preserve as many of our mature, carbon capturing trees and bio-diverse environments as possible.

2019-11-07 14:33:29 +0000

Temporary halt on felling the trees!!
Tweet from Helen Hayes today:
'Pleased to say that following further discussion and representations from me,
@CatherineRose6 & @AndySimmons10 Southwark Council has agreed to halt the decision to fell two oak trees in Sydenham Hill Woods so that further options can be explored & community engagement take place'

So many thanks to all of you who have signed this petition - 2,500 people can make a difference!

2019-10-25 16:56:15 +0100

Notices to fell the oaks have now been tied to the trees. https://photos.app.goo.gl/ei5X4VKUwCaYa57DA They could be cut down at any time from 2nd November. Our latest attempt to delay the works to allow time for a full public consultation have failed without reasons being given. Please respond if you can to [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected].

2019-10-20 12:25:11 +0100

As a result of the site meeting on 8th October, we are now asking for the bridge repairs to be delayed until at least September 2020, to allow time for a full, open public debate on whether to repair the bridge or find an alternative route and save the oaks. This would also give more time to explore engineering solutions to keep the bridge. Any emails you could send to Rebecca Lury [email protected] asking for this would show her that we haven’t given up yet; this campaign is still alive!
The exciting news is that local arborist, John Welton, has climbed both trees and discovered “High in the crown of both trees were 2 bat boxes in seemingly good condition and look as though they’ve been there for some time. Also there seems to be staining at the entrance points which should indicate active use.” Hopefully we will get positive evidence for their use by bats soon, which would stop any work on the trees. Photos
https://photos.app.goo.gl/hBm8ptf9CPSAUKFJ6

2019-10-05 15:47:20 +0100

Short Notice: We have been offered a meeting with Council Officers at the bridge on Tuesday 8th October 2019 at 10 am. It's the nearest thing to an open public consultation so far. Please come along if you can. If you have questions you'd like asked, email them to [email protected].
Hope to see some of you then!
Pennie

2019-09-26 10:23:09 +0100

Things have now reached a critical stage and we need your help again. Thanks to your fantastic support so far there is a temporary delay in felling the trees. We fear that this process is near its end, and that the trees are again in imminent danger of being cut down. The Council has still not provided any evidence to support its abandonment of the low impact, best value rebuild recommended by its structural assessment.
Please email Rebecca Lury, [email protected] Southwark Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment to request two things:
· that the Council commissions a second structural assessment and recommendations on the Cox’s Walk Footbridge from a specialist conservation accredited structural engineer.
· That the Council holds an open meeting to consult the public on its plans for the bridge and the oak trees as soon as possible.
Many thanks for your continued support.

2019-08-28 18:26:46 +0100

1,000 signatures reached

2019-08-24 13:07:19 +0100

The Council has turned down our application for the Tree Preservation Orders, insisting that it still needs to take them down for access. But we have now seen that the repairs they are proposing are far more drastic than those recommended in the engineer's report. Instead of rebuilding the walls with some reinforcement, onto the existing foundations, as recommended, they are planning to dig out the whole foundations start again! Why would they want to add so much expense and disruption to the repair work? It is also highly likely that the trees could be spared if they only had the original repairs to carry out.

The Dulwich Diverter is running a story on the Campaign in its next edition. It would be great if any of you could come to the bridge tomorrow, Sunday 24th August at 11 am for a group photo for them.

2019-08-20 21:52:58 +0100

Thank you all for your support so far, it's been fantastic and shows how much people appreciate these great trees and all they do for us.
Local Councillor Andy Simmons has talked to Council officers about saving the trees, but so far they are adamant that the trees have to go as they obstruct the repair work. Many issues remain unanswered.
We have now gone to the next stage and written to the Southwark Director of Planning with details of the issues we are raising, and asking for Tree Preservation Orders whilst these serious concerns are investigated. We included a paper petition of over 200 signatures collected on the footbridge and a link to this online petition. The letter was copied Southwark Council Chief Executive, Eleanor Kelly, Helen Hayes MP, councillors Andy Simmons and Catherine Rose, London Wildlife Trust, the Dulwich Society, the Dulwich Estate and the Sydenham Hill Ridge Neighbourhood Forum, so I hope we will begin to see a more public debate soon.

2019-08-13 11:15:26 +0100

500 signatures reached

2019-08-07 16:17:32 +0100

100 signatures reached

2019-08-06 22:07:51 +0100

50 signatures reached

2019-08-06 17:08:10 +0100

25 signatures reached

2019-08-06 12:12:22 +0100

10 signatures reached