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Bridges, subways and walls

Cox’s Walk footbridge

Cox’s Walk footbridge was built around 1865 for pedestrians to cross over the railway line. The bridge was fully restored to its original design, using teak and iron, in 1906. The railway line was closed in 1954, and the bridge fell into disrepair.

Cox’s Walk footpath and the bridge form part of the Green Chain Walk and is an adopted highway. Consequently, we have a legal duty to keep the footbridge open and safe for public use (Section 41 Highways Act 1980).

In 2019, we planted 15 replacement oak trees, in mitigation and preparation for the original refurbishment works, which proposed the full replacement of the supporting walls on either side of the bridge. Unfortunately, this required the removal of the two oak trees on the west side of the bridge to provide safe working conditions.

However, the works were delayed because of significant public interest concerning the loss of the oak trees, which included a petition with more than 2,000 signatures. Therefore, Southwark Council decided to put the planned works on hold and see if there was any way we could preserve the two oak trees.

Progress with the bridge works

Following the last round of consultation in 2020, the public asked us to retain the two oak trees that are located adjacent to the bridge. To meet this request we carried out further feasibility studies. This allowed our designer to come up with multiple designs that focused on saving the oak trees. Five designs were proposed, all of which were reviewed by us and our independent Consultants, with the below design meeting the aspirations of the public. However, this design is significantly more expensive than the original, proposed solution.  

Our designers carried out the following ecology and arboricultural surveys to help with the detailed design of the scheme:

  • Geotechnical surveys – 12 May 2022 to 7 September 2022
  • Arboricultural Impact Assessment – 25 April 20/22 to 17 June 2022
  • Environmental Constraints Study – 25 April 2022 to 15 July 2022

We carried out a comprehensive assessment of how we could complete the works with minimal damage to the surrounding vegetation and would enable future maintenance to be carried out. The proposal was to install a temporary access ramp to enable the works to be completed which will be subject to landscaping and replanting after the works are completed but will also allow some minor mechanical access for future maintenance and inspection requirements. The ramp will drop down the bank and run along the valley until it meets the footbridge. Planning consent was received on 1 February 2023 and work for the access ramp has commenced.

Due to a potential conflict with the bird nesting season, it's unlikely that works can be completed before the end of March. This means that we will be returning to site in September/October to complete the works and will then be able to reopen the footbridge to public use.

Design for bridge refurbishment works

View a sketch of the bridge refurbishment works (PDF, 151kb)


The new proposal takes into account the public’s requests to save the oak trees. The new proposal has increased the costs significantly. The revised cost is now at £900,000 and the ramp cost is at £107,000.  We will seek additional funding for the increased cost of the works.

What are the timescales?    

Coxs Walk March 2023 1
The completed temporary access ramp

The focus now moves to the refurbishment works of the existing bridge. The footbridge itself has remained closed to the public whilst work is done to consider various options and determine a solution. This solution will also address the essential repair works to the footbridge.

  • detailed design to the main footbridge – 25 October 2022 to 31 March 2023

Live site works to the bridge will proceed once detailed design and all approvals are in place. It is now anticipated that that will be achieved in May 2023, taking into account the additional work on the designs to the new foundations for the support framework and the parapets to the bridge.  The solution provides the following:

Coxs Walk March 2023 temporary access ramp
View of the temporary access ramp and footbridge
  • full refurbishment of the footbridge with additional steel portal frames located in front of the existing abutments and wing-wall construction to the side of the bridge. The visual context of the upper wooden frame of the bridge remains un-altered and intact
  • the frames will be supported on screw pile foundations to mitigate impact to the root network of the two mature oaks
  • replacement of the severely deteriorated parapets with steel frames wrapped in ‘FRP’, for greater protection.
  • this proposal retains the two oak trees adjacent to the bridge in line with the decision made in 2021
  • the provision of a concealed maintenance ramp for the bridge for these works. This will support all future maintenance of the structure in the years ahead, to ensure no further impact on the mature oaks, the bridge structure and the woodland bed once these works are completed and further planting is completed
Coxs Walk March 2023 3
The completed temporary access ramp

June 2024 update

The refurbishment works of the Cox’s Walk footbridge have continued onsite. The progress of the works has experienced further delays with the following:

  • weather issues in May and early June 2024
  • extensive works in the reconstruction of the bridge abutments. The requirement to install new foundations and access has slowed down the progress.
  • additional works to beams supporting the bridge deck, due to an increase in the deterioration of the beams.

The overall delay has set back the completion of the works until October 2024.  

As the project is seeking to reach completion, there will be extensive movement of plants and material along the footpath from Dulwich Common to the footbridge. There have been recorded incidents of ‘trespassing’ on the construction site. In terms of health and safety, it is important that pedestrians, walking in Sydenham Woods, follow the signposts of the diversion route away from the construction site.

The temporary closure of this footpath will remain in place until the completion and demobilisation of the site in October 2024.

Page last updated: 08 July 2024


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