Southwark Council is “disappointed” after the High Court refused to grant it an injunction to stop campaigners defending two century-old oak trees it wants to cut down.

Campaigners have been guarding the two oaks in Sydenham Hill Wood in Dulwich, thought to be 155 and 115 years old, day and night since mid-November.

See related: Campaigners camp out to stop Southwark felling oak trees

The council says the oaks, which sit on either side of the western end of a footbridge on Cox’s Walk, must be felled so the bridge can be repaired.

But campaigners, who have the backing of more than 6,300 signatures on their petition to save them, say it is “not inevitable” that the oaks can’t be saved and felling them is an “active choice” by the council.

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The Save the Footbridge Oaks Campaign was launched after the council gave itself planning permission to fell the trees in January 2019.

Its permission lapsed on Thursday, though Southwark has already submitted another planning application.

The campaigners say this “will allow a fresh process that will fully engage with a public now well informed of the need to preserve this mature woodland”.

The High Court also rejected an application from the council for an interim injunction this week, that would have made the campaigners' actions illegal. 

See more: Southwark council injunction app refused by High Court

Southwark’s cabinet member for environment, leisure, and roads, said the council is “disappointed” with the turn of events.

Cllr Catherine Rose said: “We are disappointed that we cannot yet fix the footbridge and reopen a safe route along Cox’s Walk to local people: people with buggies, wheelchair users, those who are less firm on their feet and all of the children who used to follow nature trails along this now closed section of the Green Chain Walk.

“But we will of course continue to follow the letter of the law, and work to reaffirm the planning permission required, consulting with local people as part of this work, before taking any further action.”

The campaigners, who have produced an alternative proposal for the bridge repairs which would save the oaks, are now urging the public to make their voices heard.