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  • Writer's pictureBilly Pearce

40-Year-Old Poplars Saved from the Shredder

Updated: Apr 8, 2020

Trees for Bermondsey campaigned to adapt designs to save trees in Dickens Square

Discussing the plan to revamp Dickens Square with Southwark Council officers

In addition to planting new trees it is important to retain as many healthy, mature trees as possible. The trees in the streets, parks and open spaces are ours. We have to look after them and look out for them. It's time to "make room for trees".

Prompt action by Trees for Bermondsey saves 40 year old trees

Plans to revamp the urban woodland site of Dickens Square have come and gone over the years, but a decision was finally made in February 2020 to reclaim the area for local residents. Unfortunately, the plan bore all the hallmarks of a planner’s idea of an urban park: lots of open space, a tidy and sterile environment and it involved the loss of 98 trees, with a mere 20 being planted to replace them.

Trees For Bermondsey contacted Southwark Council to protest against the loss of so many trees, particularly the mature trees that provide valuable canopy cover and habitat for wildlife. The Council responded by offering to meet with us, on site, to explain the losses in detail. As explanations were made, it became obvious that the area had suffered from long-term neglect and many of the trees earmarked for felling were self-seeded sycamores and in poor condition. Nonetheless, as assets, they still warranted replacement. In addition to these, several white and black poplar trees; aged 20 and 40 years, respectively, were part of the quota.

Prior to our meeting, the Council had decided to retain the white poplars (pictured above) along with some of the black poplars. During discussions, it became apparent that some of the older, but healthy, trees were only being removed for "design" reasons to fit in with the somewhat sanitised aesthetic vision of the landscape architects and so after some strong objections on our part, the Council officers agreed to consult with the architects, with a view to retaining the 40-year-old black poplars. Soon after, we received the great news that plans had been adjusted to save all but one of the poplars, thus retaining much needed canopy cover.

Southwark’s Tree Department have also pledged to replace all those trees lost in Dickens Square with an equivalent number of new trees which are to be planted within a 1km radius of the park. We await the promised revised list of species and locations.

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