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Yesterday, Southwark revealed that it has spent four years and perhaps hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money on a plan that may not even receive the necessary permission.
This shocking admission was made by Darren Merrill, Councillor for Environment, and Parks and Gardens officer Rebecca Towers in a meeting at Camberwell Old Cemetery with representatives of the Save Southwark Woods campaign.
They told SSW that permission for digging up graves is still to be received from the Church of England who control certain consecrated areas of the cemetery.
The council want to cut down a Grade 1 woodland in Camberwell Old Cemetery in order to dig up the graves of hundreds if not thousands of Southwark’s buried, to create new burial plots.
The council requires permission from the Church of England for it to mess with consecrated land. Blanche Cameron, SSW spokesperson, said:
"The council has been planning this environmental and social destruction since at least 2011 and now they tell us they don't even have permission? If true, this is surely an outrageous state of affairs.
“We can’t imagine how the council has been allowed to pursue these plans for so long, against the wishes of thousands of Southwark residents and at such a cost to Southwark tax payers, when it appears they may not even be granted the permission to carry them out."
“The Save Southwark Woods campaign is entirely against the principle of so-called “reuse” of graves, as it destroys not only the natural environment but also the heritage of the graves and their memorials. What would Highgate Cemetery be like now if Camden council had been allowed to dig up the graves? Karl Marx would have been turning in his – if he had still had one.”
The Church of England recently came out strongly as a champion of nature and action on climate change.
Save Southwark Woods campaigners will be sending a letter to Council Leader Peter John asking him if the Council has asked the Church of England for permission to dig up Southwark Woods’ graves.
They will send another letter to the Church of England to ask if the council has, in fact, asked for permission and if so, to request that it not be granted.
There are other burial options available in London. Tower Hamlets recently bought a 125 year lease of 6.2 acres of land at Kemnal Park cemetery.
Blanche Cameron said: “London cemeteries are essential for restorative purposes, for the social history of the area and for contact with wilder nature. To many, the woods are as sacred as the headstones.”
Southwark Woods and their environmental and social heritage must be respected, and saved for today, and for tomorrow.
Southwark council may not receive necessary Church permission for grave plan
2nd April 2015