Green London Assembly Member Jenny Jones and members of Southwark Green Party were active in the 2013 campaign to recognise the value of Camberwell Orchard. Below is a press release issued by the group.
Southwark Council plans to destroy a small but productive community orchard in Camberwell. Local residents are asking the council to show how it plans to compensate for the loss of biodiversity and food growing opportunities in an area severely deprived of open space.
Camberwell Orchard – between Camberwell Green and the Magistrates Court – was created in 1995 by local residents and children, with the support of Southwark Council. It contains two fine silver maples, along with 28 mature fruit trees – fig, cherry, pear and plum trees – as well as blackcurrant and redcurrant bushes. An assessment of the value of the trees which are to be felled gives the orchard a financial value in the region of £608,000.
The council has neglected it for the last few years, keeping the gate padlocked so that local people can neither pick fruit nor look after the trees. Now planning permission has been given to flatten the orchard to build a new library.
The decision to build on this site was taken in 2011 but the Council failed to make the decision public. Not only did the Council fail to tell residents, or consult on the decision, but it also repeatedly denied having made the decision in both late 2011 and then again in 2012.
Jenny Jones, London Assembly Member, says:
‘Why is Southwark Council pitching one good thing – a library – against another good thing – green space? Especially in an area of Southwark that is particularly deprived of green space. The people of Camberwell want, and deserve, both.’
Southwark Council’s own Open Spaces Strategy (2013) identifies the area surrounding Camberwell Green as deprived of open space. The area is below borough standards for both parks and natural green space, with just 0.47 hectares of open green space per 1,000 people compared to a standard of 1.5 hectares per 1,000 people. The immediate area is dominated by council blocks with little or no space for recreation or food growing.
Andre Bohn of the University of Brighton and Bohn &Viljoen Architects says:
‘The destruction of the Camberwell Orchard would be a step backward for Southwark, just when the rest of the world is recognizing the multiple values of spaces like this in ever densifying cities.’
A growing body of research shows that allotments, orchards and community-based food growing all help to improve public health and well-being and community cohesion.
The planning application for the library includes just six new trees as part of the landscaping. These six ornamental trees (Pin Oak and Sweet Gum) in no way replace the 28 fruiting trees in the orchard.
We call on the council to show residents exactly how it plans to compensate for the loss of biodiversity and food growing opportunities around Camberwell Green.
We’re still asking for an answer in November 2015…