Greenwich Peninsula willows
The willows are a much-loved local landmark in Greenwich Credit: The Greenwich Wire

Much-loved willow trees on the Greenwich Peninsula could be felled as part of plans to improve flood defences and widen the Thames Path.

The 11 willow trees, which sit by a small sandy beach on the river, have formed a local landmark for years. But proposals submitted to Greenwich Council propose felling the willows and replacing them with six new trees.

The plans are submitted by the holding company behind the Morden Wharf development, which was recently put on the market by its new owner, Landsec.

Separate proposals were due to be heard earlier this year for conveyor belts to be installed close to the site, as part of plans to bring an adjacent jetty into industrial use by the Sivyer aggregates company.

These plans also included the trees being felled. Greenwich planning officers said that the trees were “not of a high quality” and raised no objection when the plans were originally due to be heard in July. These latest proposals are aimed at supporting the Sivyer scheme.

The retaining wall is “degraded and a failing flood defence”, while it is being damaged by trees that will be dead in ten years, Landsec’s application says.

Thames Path at Morden Wharf
Landsec says it wants to widen the narrow path and repair the river wall

“There are 11 willow trees growing in the revetment, which have been storm damaged and are currently contributing to escalated degradation of the flood defence,” it adds.

“At this point the Thames Path is narrow and curved, such that there is a pinch point, where it is difficult for pedestrians/cyclists to pass.”

The path would be raised and widened to up to 4.4 metres, with the existing pinch point extended from 1.5m to 2.34m.

Landsec says the new trees will be “regularly submerged under water [so] they will quickly become covered in moss, which will have a greening effect”.

Greenwich’s cabinet members were given a presentation in August and had asked for willow trees as well as for the works to be carried out in winter to minimise disruption to the Thames Path.

The developer said the request for a winter closure had been “noted”. Earlier this year a separate set of works to flood defences near the Cutty Sark was carried out in summer to allow mortar and concrete to set before the tide came in.

The Environment Agency said it would not recommend planting weeping willows, which are currently on the site, instead suggesting white willow, osier or grey willow.

More details can be found in the planning statement or on the Greenwich Council planning website.

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