We're very concerned to learn of a planning application made by Southwark Council for permission to chop down four mature poplar trees and eight ash and maple trees in Bessemer Grange Nature Garden (also known as Nairne Grove Nature Garden).
This small, biodiverse garden is used by pupils from Bessemer Grange Primary, as well as for Forest School community activities. The school's catchment area includes three large council estates - Champion Hill, Denmark Hill and Dog Kennel Hill. Many of the pupils live in flats without gardens. For them, the chance to learn about nature in a woodland setting is rare and highly valued.
This photo from the school's website shows a Year 1 class in the garden.
The trees are covered by Tree Protection Orders and the garden is listed as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation by Southwark Council, as well as being in a 'Critical Drainage Area'.
The reason that the tree felling is being considered is that there is subsidence to a neighbouring house. The structural engineer's report notes:
It is well known that councils are under severe pressure to avoid litigation from insurers who may find it convenient to blame trees for soil movement. But due to climate change, all homes built on London clay are now affected by increased 'seasonal variations in moisture content': more winter rain, more summer heat.
Urban trees help slow climate change by soaking up carbon. But they are also vital in helping cities adapt to (already occuring) climate change: their roots soak up winter rain and stabilise soil; their shade reduces overheating in summer.
It would therefore be very unwise to cut down these trees without a very good reason in a climate crisis. It might well make the subsidence to the neighbouring house worse, as well as reducing the beauty and biodiversity of the nature garden.
Bizarrely, the council is proposing to cut down more trees than the insurers have asked for. An independent arboricultural report for the owner's insurers (supplied with the planning application) suggests felling two poplar trees and simply pruning two smaller ones that are further away. So why is the council asking for permission to fell all four? Is this a simple error or a reckless choice intended to save on future maintenance costs?
(Below, a screenshot from the arboricultural report, giving height of the four poplar trees (19m, 15 m) and their distance from the house (17.3m and 22m), with the recommendation to prune the small trees, rather than fell.
We hope the council will look at this application in the light of the climate emergency, taking advice from its own Tree Officers and Ecology Officers, and from its Climate Change Programme Director, and reject this application. We will be commenting here https://planning.southwark.gov.uk/online-applications
Search for application 20/AP/0540 | TG1
A governor of a local primary school has spoken of his great concern about the impact of budget cuts on our local schools.
David Powell, who is also a visiting instrumental tutor in several Southwark primary schools, said: "It seems very likely that there will be a big reduction in Southwark this year, and possibly further cuts in future years. Despite some careful budgeting by schools aiming to protect excellence in teaching and learning, with the likely decrease in Pupil Premium it looks likely that children from poorer families are going to lose much-needed support. Many schools are already finding it difficult to cater for the significant rise in Special Educational Needs, particularly autism.Read more
The playground of Goose Green Primary School in East Dulwich is full of activity: there’s a water area where children can create rushing rivers or meandering streams and a music station with percussion and wind instruments, as well as plenty of joyful running about for no apparent reason. But the playground is adjacent to a very busy road carrying 5 bus routes, a main route between Camberwell and the South Circular. It’s one of 1,148 schools in London within 150 metres of roads carrying 10,000 or more vehicles per day.
In 2017, David Jennings and Eleanor Margolies, members of Southwark Green Party, measured nitrogen dioxide levels outside the school as part of an area-wide study.Read more
Southwark Council is consulting on the status of Camberwell Grove. The road goes over the railway via a bridge, just south of the junction with McNeil Road. This bridge has been closed to all motor traffic since October 2016, due to structural failure.
The council website says: 'Repairs to the bridge will soon be completed by Network Rail, which will allow it to be reopened for small motor vehicles (under 3 tonne) with traffic lights allowing alternate one-way flows to cater for both north and south-bound traffic'. The council wants to hear your views before taking a final decision on reopening the bridge. The consultation page is here (closing Monday 30 October).
We encourage Southwark residents to respond. Read on for our comments.Read more
It should be ancient history... but it isn't yet!
In July 2012, Southwark Green Party members made a deputation to Southwark Council calling for urgent action on air pollution. Southwark News reported...