In an era of post-truth politics, has Southwark Councillor Ian Wingfield just lied to Friends of the Earth about Southwark's burial project on One Tree Hill and in Underhill Road Wood?
Last week, Friends of the Earth Southwark wrote to Southwark Council asking them to stop the devastation of nature in the Camberwell Cemeteries.
Councillor Wingfield, Cabinet Member for Environment & Public Realm, replied downplaying the level of devastation planned.
First, Cllr Wingfield claimed that no part of Camberwell New Cemetery is on One Tree Hill, saying: “One Tree Hill is a nature reserve...no trees will be removed from the reserve...all works are to take place within the cemetery boundary.”
Yet The Glade is clearly on One Tree Hill, native broadleaf woods just over the fence from One Tree Hill Nature Reserve. You can see all the way to the City from here. It is a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, part of the Honor Oak Nature Corridor.
Second, Wingfield claimed only 45 trees are to be cut down, 26 on One Tree Hill in The Glade, and 19 in Underhill Road Wood, Camberwell Old Cemetery, also a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation.
Yet aerial images show hundreds of trees have already been cut down in Underhill Road Wood. And planning permission for The Glade on One Tree Hill allows up to 60 trees to be cut down.
Third, Wingfield states that more trees will be planted than cut down. But only 75 are to be planted - saplings and young trees - to replace towering oaks. How can these replace the hundreds felled?
Finally, Cllr Wingfield claimed Southwark is ‘improving historical amenity’. However, Southwark has just announced it intends to remove 170 gravestones and memorials in the Area Z part of Underhill Road Wood alone.
Wingfield’s statements and claims appear to misrepresent Southwark’s current project. But the council’s final, horrific goal is much worse: digging up the remains of the dead from thousands of graves, to sell them off as new burial plots.
“Why doesn’t Ian Wingfield come clean about Southwark’s burial project? It’s too horrific to misrepresent to the public like this,” says Blanche Cameron, Chair of the Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries.
“Southwark needs to be honest with residents and organisations like Friends of the Earth about what they are actually doing.”
The Friends Group’s letter to Cllr Wingfield is below
The Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries are fighting to preserve the natural beauty and heritage of the cemeteries and to have them declared Memorial Park Nature Reserves like Highgate and Tower Hamlet’s Cemeteries.
Letter from the Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries to Cllr Ian Wingfield, 14th December 2016
Dear Cllr Wingfield,
We are very disappointed by your letter to Friends of The Earth Southwark which they have passed to us.
When you took over from Darren Merrill, you promised honest and transparent communication. But your reply to FOE to us really misrepresents Southwark’s plans.
You told FOE that The Glade is not on One Tree Hill. But it clearly is, you can see all the way to the City from here. These are the only native broadleaf woods in the cemetery, a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, in the cemetery just over the fence from One Tree Hill Nature Reserve. Why don’t you want to say where they are?
You also claimed only 45 trees are to be cut down - 26 in Area D1, and 19 in Area Z. But Southwark’s own planning permission for Area D1 allows for up to 60 trees to be cut down. And aerial images show hundreds of trees have been cut down in Area Z.
Then you claim more trees will be planted than cut down, to replace them. But only 75 trees are to be planted - saplings and young trees. These cannot possibly replace the hundreds of trees felled.
Finally, you say Southwark is ‘improving historical amenity’. However, you have just sent out notice to remove 170 gravestones and memorials in Underhill Road Wood.
How is this protecting historical amenity, let alone improving it?
Kindly please explain your statements to FOE copied in and to us, and the reason you made them.
Chair, Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries
www.SaveSouthwarkWoods.org.uk | email@example.com | @southwarkwoods | Facebook Page Save Southwark Woods
Letter from Cllr Ian Wingfield to Friends of the Earth Southwark, 9th December 2016
Dear Stephanie and Jim,
Thank you for your email regarding One Tree Hill and the article in the South London Post on the 15 November 2016.
Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you. As Cllr Merrill notes, I took on the portfolio of Cabinet Member for Environment & the Public Realm in May this year.
I am concerned that you may have been misinformed about the Southwark Council's plans for our cemeteries. In 2012, the council adopted it’s Cemetery Strategy which identified that burial space would run out if no action was taken. When preparing the strategy, we undertook public consultation which showed local people wanted burial to continue within the borough.
We acknowledge that delivery of our burial projects will result in the removal of some trees but each of the schemes will result in the re-planting of more trees. In terms of Areas D1 (Camberwell New Cemetery) and Z (Camberwell Old Cemetery) we have planning permission to remove 45 trees, however we will plant at least 75 in replacement.
It is also important to note that two of the projects (Area Z and Area B) will result in areas being opened to the public, areas that are currently out-of-bounds and contaminated land.
Most importantly, One Tree Hill is a nature reserve and I’d like to make clear that no trees will be removed from the reserve. And to clarify all the work that is planned is due to take place within the existing cemetery boundary.
Our plans have been drawn up in conjunction with London Wildlife Trust and the Friends of One Tree Hill and all projects aim to improve the ecology and historical amenity of our cemeteries, as well as providing burial space that is so important to local families.
If you would like further information on the future of Southwark’s cemeteries please visit the Council's website where all relevant material is sited.
I hope this gives you assurance. If you have any other questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact me. I hope you are both well and please keep up your keen interest in our local environment as it is very appreciated.
Cllr Ian Wingfield
Cabinet Member for Environment & the Public Realm
Top: The Glade, Area D1 in Camberwell New Cemetery on One Tree Hill, where up to 60 trees are about to be felled by Southwark Council.
Below: Area Z - 2 acres of Grade 1 SINC woods in Underhill Road Wood in Camberwell Old Cemetery where hundreds of trees were felled in February.