A petition to save the last mature tree on a Lewisham street has received more than 46,000 signatures online.

Those living in Senlac Road have been fighting to the more than 70-year-old tree from being felled after discovering in June 2021 that it was going to be removed by Lewisham Council.

The tree has been an ongoing matter of investigation since it was first investigated for causing subsidence to a neighbouring house in 2011.

Tree surgeons arrived to remove the tree on Thursday (December 1, 2022) but neighbours and activists occupied the tree to prevent its removal.

Anna Moore, who lives in Burnt Ash Hill, launched a petition to save the tree 18 months ago, and didn’t expect to receive such a huge response.

The 39-year-old said: “I was amazed to get so much support.

“We heard that the tree was coming down in June last year and we’ve had intermittent meetings with the council from then on.”

According to Lewisham Council, the decision was made to remove the tree after investigations to stem the spread of the tree’s roots and prevent subsidence were unsuccessful.

However, Anna claims that public feeling is that Lewisham Council has not provided those involved with enough information to confirm that the tree is unsavable.


Anna explained: “None of us as residents have seen the survey that says that this tree is implicated in the subsidence, there’s no kind of transparency with any of this.

“Lewisham Council has said it has considered root barriers but it’s too close to the property, but who decided that and where is the report?”

However, Lewisham Council said that the documents are not able to be shared in the public domain due to their legal nature.

Anna added: “We want to help Lewisham Council to protect the house and the tree, and we don’t think the two are mutually exclusive.

“We’re not saying we should keep this tree at the expense of the house, we know that homes are important.

“There are ways of protecting the house at the same time as saving the tree.”

As a respiratory doctor, Anna knows the effects that climate change is having on our lives and our health and is passionate for trees like the one in Senlac Road to remain wherever possible.

She continued: “Because we are losing trees, we are getting hotter summers which is adding to subsidence.

“I’m a respiratory doctor, so I really care about air pollution, and I care that my children are breathing in polluted air.

“We are facing catastrophic consequences of climate change and these trees are one of the things standing in the way of that.”

Children who live on Senlac Road have also been campaigning for the tree to remain by writing messages and sticking them around the trunk.

News Shopper:

Chair for Climate Action Lewisham, Zaria Greenhill believes that the tree should remain on account of the environmental benefits it provides to Senlac Road and those who live there.

Zaria said: “The removal of the tree has been disputed and campaigned about for ten years in total.

“We want to support every single tree that can stay, if possible, we’re about trying to preserve mature trees for their preserving of carbon, flood mitigation and cooling potential for local homes.

News Shopper: Chair of Climate Action Lewisham, Zaria GreenhillChair of Climate Action Lewisham, Zaria Greenhill (Image: Emily Davison, Newsquest)

“We object to the idea of felling healthy trees for financial risks, the main concern here is about subsidence but there are many elements that cause subsidence for homes not only trees.”

Residents are calling on the council to consider funding the underpinning of the affected house as an alternative to felling the tree. Zaria added: “Many of the properties along the street have been underpinned and have been very successful.

“However, those that don’t have underpinning are showing cracks, so underpinning is a useful thing to do in this context.

“Subsidence in clay areas is very common, especially with the heat and London is mostly clay.

“Therefore, there have been many insurance claims about the subsidence of homes, insurance companies are trying to avoid paying out and the best way of doing that is to force a local authority to fell a tree.”

Lewisham Council has pledged in a statement made on their website to plant ’17 trees’ to replace the larger mature tree in partnership with Street Trees for Living.

However, Zaria argues against their effectiveness and who will be covering the costs to plant these trees.

Zaria said: “These trees are much, much smaller and the residence pay for them themselves and they will not have any impact on the neighbourhood for many years to come.

“Some estimates say that for one mature tree you should be planting 150 trees and we’ve lost five mature trees in this area to the same problems.

“Lewisham Council are claiming they have replaced the trees, but it’s the residents who pay for them.”

A spokesperson for Lewisham Council said: “Unfortunately, we have been left with no option but to remove a tree on Senlac Road which has been implicated in subsidence of a nearby property.

“Since a report of subsidence at the property in 2011, we have explored all possible options for retaining the tree in Senlac Road and implemented extensive mitigation measures, but sadly these have not been successful in preventing further subsidence.

“As a local authority, we have a legal duty to take all reasonable steps to prevent damage occurring to a third party’s property.

“Failing to remove the tree would go against the professional advice given by our insurers and could lead to the Council incurring considerable costs as a result, meaning less money would be available to fund vital local services and initiatives to tackle the Climate Emergency.

“We will be planting 17 new street trees on Senlac Road and nearby roads to compensate for the loss of this tree, in partnership with Street Trees for Living. These 17 trees are being funded by Lewisham Council.”

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