A petition calling for two ‘century old’ oak trees in Sydenham Hill Woods to be saved from felling has reached more than 1,000 signatures, but Southwark Council says the trees are in the way of construction work to fix a footbridge.

The trees are due to be felled to make way for repairs to Cox’s Walk footbridge, with its embankment walls having deteriorated.

The walkway will have to close if the work doesn’t go ahead, with cutting down the trees the most cost effective and practical solution, Cllr Rebecca Lury, cabinet member for leisure, said.

“Cox’s Walk footbridge has failed a load assessment, which showed that the embankment walls supporting the bridge have deteriorated,” she explained.

“If the work does not proceed, the public highway can no longer be considered safe, and the bridge will have to be closed.

“While the trees are not the principle cause of damage to the embankment, they are just 1.5 meters from the bridge and within the five meter clearance zone needed for the safe construction of the essential  work.

“Sadly, relocating the trees is unlikely to be viable on this occasion, as there is no guarantee of success. The process of undercutting and the severance of roots would need to take place over a number years, before removing the trees with a tree spade, all at a great cost.

“We have undertaken a range of assessments and inspections in order to arrive at our proposed solution, which is the most practical and cost-effective for the structure.”

She said the council would plant at least one new tree for every felled tree.

“In this instance, we have planted 15 semi mature Oak trees along Coxes Walk as mitigation, in advance of the unfortunate loss of the two trees,” she added.

But Pennie Hedge, from the Save the Footbridge Oaks campaign, is calling for the council to find another solution to fixing the footbridge.

“We collected over 200 signatures on the footbridge and have a petition and have an online petition with 1,000 signatures asking the council to protect these trees. People are really upset and want the council to find an alternative solution,” she said.

“We have written to the council, showing the amount of public unhappiness there is with its decision to fell the trees, but it has refused to protect the trees whilst discussions continue,” she added.

Cutting down the trees would also impact on carbon emissions, she said.

Southwark Council declared a climate emergency in April, as part of a commitment to combat carbon emissions and rising global temperatures.