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Southwark Council misleading public over Church permission

30th January 2016

The Diocese of Southwark have the power to stop Southwark Council’s plans to  raze 2.5 acres of woodland at a Grade 1 Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, extinguish dozens of private graves, mound over 48,000 public graves and six areas of Commonwealth War Graves at Camberwell Old Cemetery to the ground.

 

The site is a mixture of consecrated and unconsecrated ground so Southwark Council have to petition the Church for permission called Faculty for their destructive, wasteful and unfair plans. Their application is awaiting a Church Consistory Court hearing in late Spring, triggered by over 800 public objections.

 

Parks Officer Rebecca Towers, in charge of the project with Cllr Darren Merrill, wrote to the Church on 22nd December requesting early consent to fell trees and lay roads over private graves which have yet to have their burial rights extinguished.

 

The Diocesan Chancellor, judge for their Petition, requested more information.

 

Towers failed to reply.

 

The Council, hell bent on razing the woods before the official nesting season on 1st March, is now claiming the Church has given their early go ahead to fell trees and build roads over private graves.

 

The Church has done no such thing.

 

Today, Save Southwark Woods sent the Diocesan Chancellor Philip Petchey, Registrar Paul Morris and Clerk Richard Hastings an email of 17th January from Cllr Darren Merrill leading the project.

 

Merrill's email highlights Southwark’s deliberate attempt to mislead the public and plough on without the Church's necessary legal permission.

 

Today's email from Save Southwark Woods copied to Council Leader Peter John, officer Rebecca Towers, Cllr Darren Merrill and others is below:

 

 

By email, 30th January 2016

 

Dear Chancellor Petchey, Paul Morris, Richard Hastings,

 

For your immediate attention and action:

 

I attach an email from Cllr Darren Merrill, leading the burial programme with officer Rebecca Towers, from an exchange with local residents dated 17th January.

 

This was sent six days after yours to Rebecca Towers of 11th January, in which you suggested:

 

•  only trees up to 75mm girth might conceivably proceed without Faculty permission and only if not in a conservation area. [These woods are a Grade 1 SINC Nature Conservation area].

 

•  that more information would be required to consent to “opening up all existing paths”

 

As I say, no reply from Rebecca Towers.

 

Instead, in his email of 17th January to Tom Snow, Cllr Merrill in charge of the burial project and working closely with officer Rebecca Towers on it, says they have written to the Diocese:

 

'to find out what preparatory works that we have specified DO NOT require a faculty' (his emphasis).

 

Merrill goes on (bold is my emphasis):

 

"We have now had a reply from the chancellor of Southwark office. This has stated that we are able to start some elements of the preparatory works which include:

 

1.    Replacing an existing Heras fence with hoarding around the site at Camberwell Old Cemetery

 

2.    Remove to ground level scrub and small trees (less than 150mm in girth and 1.5m in height)

 

3.    Treat for Japanese Knotweed

 

4.    Open up all existing paths

 

5.    Carry out soil sampling work from the deposited waste material to ascertain its make-up and depth. Such work would not involve going below the existing ground level."

 

This is not at all what you stated in your letter of 11th January. The Councillor shows blatant contempt for your response to their request for areas which might in certain areas proceed without Faculty permission and contempt for the independent legal role of the Church. This is lying to the public about what works the Chancellor stated could in his opinion proceed without Faculty permission.

 

The Council's Public Notice on the gates of the cemetery which we showed you on Wednesday and attach again goes further, claiming the Council has the right to cut down ten (10) significant trees without Faculty permission.

 

PLEASE TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION

 

Chancellor,

 

The Council does not have Faculty permission to fell any trees or woods, or mound over, desecrate or damage in any way the 30 private graves, the Commonwealth War Graves nor the 48,000 public graves at Area Z.

 

If you do not intervene to stop the works now, pending due legal process and hearing of the Council's Petition for Faculty, the Diocese of Southwark will effectively be:

 

- determining Southwark Council’s Petition for Faculty without following due legal process

 

- denying 800 objectors their right to a free, fair and independent hearing into Southwark's proposals and Petition for Faculty, including denying the possibility it might be rejected. The 800 objections relate to the very woods and graves the Council are hell bent on unlawfully destroying before 1st March.

 

- making a mockery of Church Law as the Petition hearing in late spring could demand the Council reinstate the Grade 1 Nature Conservation woods that YOU KNOW NOW are at risk of being felled unlawfully.

 

- allowing the Council’s vandalism and desecration of graves that we showed you on Wednesday to continue. Not only sixteen month old Madeleine Carlisle's interred in 1986 which has already been driven over repeatedly, the headstone removed and all trace of her grave gone, utterly desecrated. But also the thirty private graves whose burial rights are yet to be extinguished and whose rights may never be extinguished, if families object according to their right.

 

The notification period does not end until 15th March. These private graves lie under the paths on consecrated ground that Rebecca Towers wants to transform into a road, euphemistically terming this "opening up all existing paths".

 

- appearing to be conceding under duress from the Council to give them Faculty by another name for works which in fact form the major part of their Petition and appear to be unlawful without Faculty, without notification of families, without a hearing of the objections of an unprecedented public outcry – and impossible without the illegal desecration of private and public graves.

 

Tomorrow at midday we will be holding a peaceful Candlemas vigil for the woods and the dead of the Camberwell Cemeteries. We will be praying to you, the Diocese, the Bishops and the Archbishops, to take immediate action and intervene to protect and preserve them in perpetuity. We hope and trust our prayers will be answered.

 

Sincerely,

 

Blanche Cameron

for Save Southwark Woods

 

CC: The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Bishops of Southwark, Woolwich, Croydon, Kingston and London

 

The Woodland Trust, Caring for God's Acre, Bianca Jagger, Tony Juniper,  Zac Goldsmith MP, Natalie Bennett, Craig Bennett CEO Friends of the Earth, Cllr Sian Berry, Caroline Pidgeon AM, Murad Qureshi AM, Sadiq Khan MP

 

Southwark Council Leader Peter John, CEO Eleanor Kelly, Parks Officer Rebecca Towers, Cllr Darren Merrill Environment and Public Realm, leading the burial project

2016_01_25 NOTICE OF STARTING WORK AREA Z

NOTICE - NO CHURCH PERMISSION FOR ANY WORKS:

Below: Woods and graves at Area Z Camberwell Old Cemetery

AREA Z WOODS OAK SSL24445 SSL24477 2016_01_05 DISRESPECTED CHILD GRAVE 3 2016_01_25 MADELEINE CARLISLE'S HEADSTONE REMOVED 2016_23_05 CHILD GRAVE MADELEINE CARLISLE ATTEMPT TO SOAK UP WATERLOGGING

VANDALISED BY SOUTHWARK COUNCIL:

The grave of 16 month old Madeleine Carlisle, buried in 1986: waterlogged, driven over by works lorries and then the headstone removed - as though she never existed.

Darren Merrill's email to local resident Tom Snow

 

On 17 Jan 2016, at 17:46, Merrill, Darren <Darren.Merrill@southwark.gov.uk> wrote:

 

 

Tom

 

I think I need to be clear from the start area Z and D1 are still happening subject to faculty consent. We have written to the faculty to find out what  preparatory works that we have specified DO NOT require a faculty. This is what has caused the delay and the hold up to the start date. We have now had a reply from the chancellor of Southwark office. This has stated that we are able to start some elements of the preparatory works which include:.

 

1.    Replacing an existing Heras fence with hoarding around the site at Camberwell Old Cemetery

2.    Remove to ground level scrub and small trees (less than 150mm in girth and 1.5m in height)

3.    Treat for Japanese Knotweed

4.    Open up all existing paths

5.    Carry out soil sampling work from the deposited waste material to ascertain its make-up and depth. Such work would not involve going below the existing ground level.

 

As you have stated in your email there is a lot of surface water and waterlogged ground already in this area. We are working on a drainage plan for the Cemetery which area Z will be part of. For us to be able to do the investigation works in area Z to ascertain the final design of the drainage in this area so that we can give the homes on Ryedale the protection which at present they do not have. I have Ok'd the start of the works in this area which includes putting up Hoarding .

 

I am surprised that you feel that the council do not take the importance of the trees here for landscape, ecology and public enjoyment seriously. We have adjusted the plan over the past year so that we are protecting ecology, reducing the area for burial space from 1000 to 750 in area Z and reduced the amount in D1. We have to strike a balance between the importance of the ecology of the area ( which all reports I have seen say will be improved by these plans) and the need to respect those residents that wish to be buried and their families.

 

I have asked Gary and Rebecca to arrange a meeting with yourself to go through the trees that will be felled in area D1.  They will be in contact with you in due course.

 

Darren Merrill

2015_12_22 REBECCA TOWERS TO DIOCESAN CHANCELLOR_P 2015_12_22 REBECCA TOWERS TO DIOCESAN CHANCELLOR_P 2016_01_11 DIOCESAN CHANCELLOR TO REBECCA TOWERS_P

22nd December 2015: Rebeccaa Towers requests consent from Diocese to go-ahead with tree felling and road building before hearing - no mention of ten significant trees to go

11th Jan:Diocese Cancellor's response: NO trees over 75mm to be felled and more information on the works please

2016_01_11 DIOCESAN CHANCELLOR TO REBECCA TOWERS_P