Save the Footbridge Oaks Campaign

by pennieh in London, England, United Kingdom

Save the Footbridge Oaks Campaign
We did it
On 28th July 2020 we successfully raised £2,665 with 73 supporters in 28 days

We are campaigning to save two mature, healthy oaks by providing an alternative solution that retains the trees and repairs the bridge.

by pennieh in London, England, United Kingdom

Council Refuse Permission to Fell Footbridge Oaks

Dear Friends,

On Tuesday 19th January, Southwark Planning Department decided not to allow Highways application for the oaks trees to be felled.  Instead they issued a provisional group Tree Protection Order (TPO), covering Cox’s Walk and Sydenham Hill Wood.  

This is tremendously important and hopeful news, showing that there are people working for the Borough who recognise the importance of saving trees and our green spaces wherever possible.  It is also a tribute to the huge and continuing community support for keeping the footbridge oaks: 177 objections to the application and 6,692 signatures on our petition.  This is what we hoped for: Council and Community working together for our shared concerns in mitigating climate change, promoting biodiversity and protecting the green spaces that sustain us.

I’m still absorbing all the information in the Officer’s Assessment, which is the reasoning behind the decision to apply the TPO.  For some reason it is not currently available on the planning application page and so here is a link to it.  Just to pick out some samples of the thinking:

On balance, it is considered that relevant national, regional and Southwark policies outweigh those of retaining highway infrastructure within ancient woodland, which is a priority habitat.

The proposed removals are not therefore generally compatible when seen within the context of recently adopted and emerging policy or practice. In particular, the benefits of the proposed bridge reconstruction do not clearly outweigh the biodiversity impacts or seek appropriate compensation.

Both trees are healthy, in good condition and as a keystone species within their habitat can be expected to grow for a considerable length of time. They have significant historical and cultural value as part of the Great North Wood.”

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Costing of the preferred engineering design does not account for the net value of trees proposed for removal. Option 2 costings represent an additional £144k in comparison to the preferred design.

However, when the tree value (Capital Asset Valuation of Amenity Trees) is discounted from the estimated full cost of the alternative design, this makes it both the most economical and ecologically sensitive option, depending on further design iteration. Overall, costings for different designs are a lesser consideration where the scale of engineering works are similar or can be reduced.

Obviously our hope is that Highways will accept this assessment and now work with its engineers to perfect the most cost effective design that retains the trees.  However, the TPO is currently  provisional and objections can be made until 16 February 2021.  It is possible that they will try to overturn it, in which case the TPO would be considered by the Planning Committee.  If the TPO is confirmed, it offers greater protection to the trees and any proposed works would need to be supported by more detailed evidence and subject to more conditions.   

Meanwhile, we have received the response from Highways to our Stage 1 complaint about the process used to assess our alternative design, and it is far from satisfactory.  We will therefore be making a Stage 2 complaint in the near future, which will be reviewed by the Council’s Customer Resolution Team.  

Wishing you the best possible 2021,

Pennie Hedge


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