As National Tree Week begins, plans to fell hundreds of apparently healthy trees in Beckenham Place Park has caused anger among residents and campaigners
Opponents to the work have taken to Twitter, asking why trees are being cut down at a time when Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is highlighting their importance in tackling London’s dangerous levels of air pollution.
— Rosalind (@Augusta_74) September 24, 2017
Air pollution is Lewisham is up to six times higher than WHO guidelines.
Others have branded the work “vandalism” and a waste of resources.
@LewishamCouncil Stop your vandalism of Beckenham Place Park! Cutting down trees is offensive to me and also a big waste of money which could be better spent in more worthy areas of the park like the buildings!
— John Gaffen (@JohnGaffen) November 21, 2017
Here we go – #Lewisham Council cutting down healthy trees in #BeckenhamPlacePark today. Just because they can – using public money of course! #SE6 #SE13 #BR1 #Beckenham #Downham #Trees @WoodlandTrust @wheelchairrides @Teammitchellrun @wildlife_lodge https://t.co/8SxEs4Bk3E
— Jane (@jay_hp) November 21, 2017
The council says that trees are being removed as part of “normal tree maintenance”, including thinning some areas to promote the healthy growth of more mature trees, as well as the felling of 80 dead or diseased trees. They stress that 12,000 whips – small woodland trees – have been planted across five acres of the park with Greater London Authority funding.
The works, due to take place until February 2018, are part of wider plans to improve the 98-hectare park – Lewisham’s largest open space – using £4.9m funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The council says it aims to “attract many more visitors to enjoy many more activities” in the park.
In July 2017, the council pledged just under £2m to the regeneration.
Lewisham-based writer and researcher Carole Hope said: “We have so much debate and dialogue about air quality in London; to be felling healthy mature trees is crazy.”
— ♻Michael J Keane ♻ (@KeaneMJ) November 24, 2017
The felling of the trees is the latest in a series of clashes between the council and campaigners regarding the changes taking place in Beckenham Place Park.
Hope started campaigning in mid-2014, when she first heard about the proposed closure of a golf course based at the park. The golf course – the last 18-hole public golf course in inner London – closed in October 2016, shortly before the park was granted HLF funding in December 2016.
Hope feels that regular users of the park were not consulted about the closure of the golf course until the decision had already been made: “As a daily user of the park, I never saw any notice about the change. It was a unilateral decision to close it.”
A paper petition opposing the closure was signed by more than 8,000 people and delivered to Mayor Steve Bullock in late 2015.
When the petition had reached 5700 signatures in November 2015, Lewisham Council countered that only a quarter of those who signed the petition were Lewisham residents.