Many residents will have noticed that the huge Zelkova tree on the north-western side of the junction of College Road and Dulwich Common (South Circular) has been pollarded. The work was carried out by Transport for London (TfL) tree surgeons on Saturday 21st August.

The Zelkova, which dates from around 1780, had been a cause for concern for some years because of the way its enormous branch canopy leant over College Road unbalancing the tree. Over the last year two independent expert reports have confirmed that the tree was starting to lean more and more and that there was a growing risk that it would present a serious threat to the safety of both pedestrians and traffic – several hundred boys from Dulwich College walk past it every day in term time.

After considerable discussion over many months between all the interested parties, TfL, Southwark Council, the Dulwich Estate and the Dulwich Society, it was finally confirmed, at a meeting on 14th August, that the tree should be taken down.

Over the next few days both John Welton of the Dulwich Society Trees Group and Oliver Stutter, Southwark Council’s Tree Officer, continued to argue that the tree should be pollarded, rather than removed entirely. After further last minute negotiations, the Dulwich Estate, the actual owner of the tree, agreed subject to TfL giving an assurance that, with the removal of the heavy overhanging branches alone, the tree would be left in a safe condition, which they did.
The tree is a sad sight at the moment but expert advice is that it will start to grow back in the spring. However, it will need active management by the Dulwich Estate over the next few years to make sure that any branches do not grow over the road again.