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Dickens Square park makeover

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Tuesday 18 February 2020 1.40pm
When I heard that planning permission had been granted for Dickens Square, I initially expected more of the identikit blocks of flats that are infesting the area, to be earmarked for the site. Therefore, I was relieved to discover that it was actually a revamp for the existing park.
On reading the report (on this site) I learned that a total of 98 trees were to be felled in what is best described, not as a makeover but more of a sanitisation - a purge, if you will.
Ever mindful of the numbers; it seems that the loss of said trees is to be mitigated by the planting of 20 new trees, with another 78 being planted "elsewhere in the borough". All fine then? Except for a couple of things:

1- Simply replanting one tree for another does not compensate for the loss of canopy cover when mature/semi-mature trees are replaced by younger (cheaper to buy) trees. This part of Southwark already has some of the lowest recorded canopy cover in the borough.

2- Southwark is a large borough which stretches from the Thames to Sydenham. Replanting "elsewhere in the borough" leaves a lot of scope. Usually, it's policy to replace trees as near as possible to where the original was lost. This policy comes with lots of caveats: suitability (Right tree, Right place) underground utilities, etc so that doesn't guarantee that the replacements will even be within walking distance of the park.

Since the new park is apparently not suitable for more trees, (odd, since some of them selected the site themselves) where will the outstanding replacements eventually end up? Also, since money for planting trees is tight, why is the Council spending money cutting down trees, only to replace them? Is this to be a Planner's idea of what a nice, neat urban park should look like? What about replacements for the 16 trees listed as lost over the last 2 years? What about the impact that the loss of this habitat will certainly have on the thrushes, woodpeckers and bats that I personally, have witnessed in the area? Will there be a Green Flag?

I hope people will take the time and trouble to press Southwark Council for (satisfactory) answers to these questions. I will.

Billy Pearce
Trees For Bermondsey
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Tuesday 18 February 2020 2.28pm
I sympathise with what you say, but it's hardly as if the area around this park is short of trees. There are are stands of truly magnificent, mature trees across the road in Newington Gardens. I would argue that it is missing green 'spaces'. Tree canopies are very lovely, but when this is what amounts to an urban woodland, which is in perpetual gloom in summer and knee deep in leaves in autumn this does not really brighten people's lives or give them as simple a thing as somewhere nice to sit or play with the kids and enjoy the sunshine. In some repects it is just plain hostile and intimidating.
Tuesday 18 February 2020 9.49pm
Well we certainly don't want it ending up like the sterile Spa Park!!
Wednesday 19 February 2020 9.59am
That sounds like the same tactic the council uses for 'affordable' housing - it always seems to be built 'elsewhere in the borough'. Trouble is no one ever seems to be able identify where that elsewhere is! Will it be the same with the trees I wonder?
Wednesday 19 February 2020 6.18pm
boroughbloke wrote:
I sympathise with what you say, but it's hardly as if the area around this park is short of trees. There are are stands of truly magnificent, mature trees across the road in Newington Gardens. I would argue that it is missing green 'spaces'. Tree canopies are very lovely, but when this is what amounts to an urban woodland, which is in perpetual gloom in summer and knee deep in leaves in autumn this does not really brighten people's lives or give them as simple a thing as somewhere nice to sit or play with the kids and enjoy the sunshine. In some repects it is just plain hostile and intimidating.

You're right to mention the plane trees in Gaol Park (Newington Gdns.), they are lovely and aged between 80-120 years old. However, several of them have Massaria which, while not an immediate threat, does mean they could be felled if they were deemed to be a hazard. This would leave the immediate area with little canopy cover and while green space is vital in urban areas, the importance of canopy cover cannot be overstated. In fact, Southwark Council is supposed to be taking steps to increase the cover in the north of the borough(which is desperately low), which makes this decision all the more baffling. SE1 is one of the most polluted boroughs in London and canopy cover is more effective against pollution than grassed areas.
Dickens Square certainly could do with some work and much of the plan looks good. However, it does look be following the 'formula for nice parks with Green Flags' with its plastic picnic benches and outdoor gym equipment. All of this can be found in nearby Tabard Gdns.
This space has inadvertently been left to become, as you rightly said, an urban woodland area and there aren't enough of them. In fact, it may be unique in SE1.
As for being hostile and intimidating, that is a policing issue. Back in the Seventies, New York's Central Park was a virtual no-go area but they didn't turn it into a football field, they changed their policing policy.
Wednesday 4 March 2020 7.48am
The promise to put 78 trees elsewhere in the borough sounds easy but they are already committed to putting 1,200 trees"elsewhere" from the Elephant Park development. See https://www.elephantandcastle.org.uk/the-benefits/. That is already a reduction on the 10,000 promised earlier in the regeneration saga.

Might be an interesting investigative piece in there!

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