Cox's Walk Bridge Closure

Southwark Council Highways Department has proposed to close Cox’s Walk bridge from Monday 27th January 2020 for a unspecified period due the bridge is unsafe due to the conditions of the brick abutments on the Sydenham/Dulwich wood side as the roots of the two large oaks which are over 100 years old on each side are affecting the structure. The trees was due to be felled last year, but a petition was set up to stop this happening has Southwark Council held a public consultation was over Christmas 2018 for the “minimum legal period”; the plans for the healthy, mature oaks were not communicated to the London Wildlife Trust which the council strongly objects; and research into alternatives to felling were conducted behind closed doors, she claims. The letter went on to say: “Everything we have suggested, from getting the advice of a specialist conservation engineer, with expertise in restoring historic structures in sensitive environments, to having a full, open consultation on alternative solutions, including re-routing the path, has been dismissed without discussion.
“Please listen to us now: put the bridge repairs on hold and conduct a full, open, public consultation on all the options. That is the way to empower communities.”

If you wish to join the campaign please see links below:

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-the-cox-s-walk-footbridge-oak-trees

Please see e-mail dated 24th January 20202 from Southwark Highways below for new update on situation:

Dear all

I apologise for the delay in sending an update on the latest situation with the proposed works to refurbish Cox’s Walk Footbridge. As you may know, we commissioned an investigation into potential alternative construction options and are currently reviewing the results and will advise everyone as soon as possible on our proposed way forward.

As most will be aware, a report prepared in 2018 demonstrated that the footbridge was in a hazardous condition, due to the potential failure of the abutments (supporting walls). A more recent inspection has also determined a further, significant safety issue with the timber parapets, which were due to be completely refurbished as part of the overall works.

It was considered in 2018 that the risk to the public was relatively minor as works were planned to be carried out within 18 months. However, the deterioration in the condition of the timber parapets, in addition to the potential failure of the abutments, is such that the safety of the structure is now significantly compromised and we have no option but to close the footpath across the bridge until full repair works can be undertaken.

The closure will be put in place on Monday 27th January with full diversion signage in place between Sydenham Hill and Lordship Lane.

If you should have any queries on the above, please contact highways@southwark.gov.uk.

There is new information on the footbridge after local consultation. This is a very important route for local walkers, and of some historical significance as a bridge over the now lost High Level railway from Nunhead to Crystal Palace. There seems a possibility of compromise, and there is a crowdfunder launched to investigate. email received today.

Dear Friends,

Many thanks for completing the Cox’s Walk Footbridge Repair Survey: to determine how people used Cox’s Walk and the footbridge and their preferences for its future. You are receiving this email because you asked to be kept informed of progress. The Survey closed on 19th June with over 160 responses and the full report can be found here. (If you have trouble accessing the report, or would like a copy emailed to you, please respond to this email.)

Overview of the Results

The clear message from the Survey was that retention of the oak trees was of paramount importance. Most people (over 90%) favoured a bridge repair or replacement, as long as the trees were retained . First preference was for a bridge that preserved the historic design of the existing bridge, but with minor changes if necessary. However, a change of design was still more popular than losing the bridge altogether. The third choice was for the path to be re-routed through the woods, with no bridge, rather than lose the oak trees. LB Southwark Highways Dept current plan was the least popular, with only about 70% of respondees selecting it as an option at all, and most of those had it as their last choice.

There was a strong emphasis on exercise, mental health and relaxation in the reasons people gave for using the footpath and the woods. Most journeys that used the footbridge were going into or leaving the woods rather than using the length of Cox’s Walk as a through route. This means that re-routing the path would be a realistic option in the unfortunate circumstance of a technical solution that retained the trees and repaired the bridge not being accepted by the Council.

Recommendations

We are therefore making the following recommendations to Southwark Council:

· The Council agrees to the retention of the two oak trees and revokes the planning permission to fell them.

· The Council acknowledges that its current repair option is unacceptable to the vast majority of the community and withdraws this plan.

· The Council continues to consider alternative engineering solutions that preserve the trees. If a solution cannot be agreed on, the Council should work with London Wildlife Trust to re-route the path through Sydenham Hill Wood.

New Design Solution & Crowdfunder Campaign

I would also like to share with you the exciting news that the Campaign has been approached by an independent, local structural engineer with a design solution that repairs the footbridge and both retains the oak trees and the main features of the existing historic design. We have shown this proposal to an arboriculturist, a conservation architect and another structural engineer who all agree that it is feasible, of low risk to the trees and meets the Council’s longevity criteria. More than that, we also believe that this design is likely to save tax-payers’ money.

There is still some work to be done before we can present this proposal to Southwark Highways Dept and we have started a Crowdfunder Campaign to raise the funds necessary. These will support the engineer in working up his design proposal. He has so far volunteered his time, but it will take many hours work to get it to the stage where we can take it to the Council. Funds will also enable us to pay for a professional arboriculturist report as supporting evidence that the risks to or from the trees are low. If you are able to help with a donation, any contribution would be hugely appreciated.

Many thanks again for engaging with the Survey and following the Campaign’s progress. However, if you no longer wish to receive updates, just respond to this mail to let me know.

Best wishes,

Pennie Hedge

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Thank you for posting this - you beat me to it! Although Sydenham Hill Woods are in Southwark the postcode distribution of those who completed the Survey showed that 17% were from SE23 and 22% from SE26, both mostly Lewisham postcodes, so this an important issue for our residents.

We have our best chance of getting Southwark to change its mind, with the design solution put forward by an independent engineer, which saves the oaks and keeps the bridge with its main historic features. We have raised nearly 80% of our target, and so any support you are able to give the Crowdfunder in these challenging times would be most helpful.

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I can see why it needs repairs - check out the hole in the horizontal beam…

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Funnily enough the rot in the timbers is not the main problem. They’re not structural, but do support the steel balustrade and so were the main cause of the bridge’s sudden closure. Cost to replace timbers c £30,000. The expensive bit is repairs to the abutment walls at each end, which are under pressure from the surrounding soil. That’s why the solution the Campaign to Save Cox’s Walk Footbridge Oaks is proposing uses small diameter piles which the soil can move around. The Council’s current preferred design is for another concrete raft with a wall on top, which would be susceptible to soil movement. And the stability of the soil and slope would be further compromised by removal of the two large oak trees. Cost to repair structure c £250,000.

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@PennieH are there many reasons not to get rid of the bridge entirely? It leads to steps so isn’t a disability access issue and it is a fairly non-historically significant bridge. Replacing with steps would reduce maintenance costs, it might actually improve access (you get from under the bridge to over it) and all the trees would be saved.
If you do it over school holidays I could probably find a dozen teenaged boys who could knock it down in half an hour (couldn’t promise they would clean up afterwards)

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@John_Wilson, you are not alone in thinking that the bridge should just be removed, but when we did a survey recently it showed that over 90% of respondees did want to retain some form of bridge, preferably with something close to the current design. The design, although not most of the bridge, dates back to 1865, so has some heritage value. Pissaro also painted a famous picture of Lordship Lane Station from it and many people like the idea of standing where he stood… although, or maybe because, the view has changed out of all recognition. The London Wildlife Trust is also worried that an increased footfall along the path under the bridge would damage the understorey, including some ancient woodland indicator species. That area is currently gated, a dead end and dogs are not allowed, which helps to limit the number of people going there. Or did, until the bridge closure led to lots of new paths opening up across the cutting!

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Not much happening here. Any news?

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The Campaign to Save Cox’s Walk Footbridge Oaks has 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 be a temporary measure that would allow time for them to work with us for a cost-effective repair that retains the oaks, keeps the bridge and reinstates the timber superstructure. There is more information now on the Facebook page, linked above.

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The Council has now sent an email to all who had written to them to express a concern over the loss of the trees. Here is the text with anotations from the Campaign in red. We are not in agreement with the Council officer’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. More information and links on the Campaign to Save Cox’s Walk Footbridge Oaks Facebook Page

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The bottom of Cox’s Walk has been padlocked and fences have been closed all around the bottom entrance. Really not called for.

The fencing has been taken away, but the padlock was still on at 10.15ish this morning. Here’s an encouraging update, though, on Twitter from Councillor Andy Simmons:

Thanks for flagging this up. Council officers report this was not the action of the council or its’ contractors and is being re-opened. Lots of problems with illegal events in recent days in the area so both the police and LWT have been notified.

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Who would have access to the padlock and fencing if not the council or their contractors? :face_with_monocle:

On a side note… can we also open up (remove) the golf course so everyone can have access to green space, not just those who pay a membership. I don’t have a massive agenda against golf courses… but perhaps shouldn’t exist inside zone 4

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Posts over on the East Dulwich Forum are speculating that it was the work of people using the woods for an illegal party over New Year.

Certainly the London Wildlife Trust seem to know nothing about it.

I am one of the volunteer for the site and informed the London Wildlife Trust over the weekend about this issue and their confirmed that have nothing to do with fencing and padlocking of Cox’s Walk also Crescent Wood Road gate was locked and evidence of an illegal rave over the New year also the gate next to the former Upper Sydenham Station on Wells Park Road was also padlocked.

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Bit rude I didn’t even get an invite

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There are plenty of open spaces in the area - we are very lucky to have so much on our doorstep !

I’m not sure removing a 120+ year old golf club where people can exercise and have a hobby is viable or fair !

But perhaps it could be opened to the public to use to walk in whilst London is in yet another lockdown.

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Yes but the population has increased by about 4 million since then.

I believe the reason they couldn’t last time was due to concerns around some open deep lakes on the course which might prove to be dangerous. Additionally it raised an issue over insurance as golf courses are often targets for vandalism. The course, as is all that land; sports pitches, park, etc is owned by Dulwich estate who can be contacted and these questions asked.

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