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This week, London Assembly Member Jenny Jones, Baroness Moulsecoomb, met with Save Southwark Woods representatives at City Hall to share information about the campaign.
Many inner London cemeteries are now protected as nature reserves for their valuable social, environmental and economic benefits.
But at Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries, Labour-led Southwark council plan to clear ten acres of Grade 1 woodland, chainsaw hundreds of trees (dressed up as ‘coppicing’), dig up or cover over hundreds of private graves and hundreds of thousands of paupers, to plant 4,800 sterile new burial plots.
Rising costs mean each plot would be subsidised by at least £1,100 (some by over £1,700), none are for green burial and none will be accessible to anyone of orthodox Muslim or Jewish faiths, who traditionally require burial.
“My support for Save Southwark Woods is a given,” said Jenny, who has championed the campaign from the start, as has local East Dulwich Liberal Democrat Councillor James Barber, and Assembly Chair of Environment and London Green Group Leader AM Darren Johnson.
Jenny is especially concerned about an apparent disregard for London Plan and Vision 2020 tree strategies. For air pollution and climate change adaptation, the GLA has set a target to increase London’s tree cover by 5% by 2025, 10% by 2050. That means finding tens of thousands, perhaps millions, of square metres of additional tree cover in Southwark, not felling 10 acres of existing and important Grade 1 woodlands that have taken 50 years to reach their current state.
The London iTree survey from the Mayor’s Office is also due to publish soon, assessing the environmental, social and economic benefits that London’s woods and trees provide for free to the capital each year – likely to be in the billions.
"Don’t bother valuing the ten acres of trees at Southwark Woods,” says SSW campaigner Blanche Cameron. “Southwark haven’t, and if they get their way they won’t be here long anyway!”
Requests for detailed financial or design information have often received responses that it is ‘not available’, ‘on its way’, ‘that’s something we need to do more work on’, or ‘we don’t have detailed costings for that’.
This apparent lack of detailed financial analysis, the potential waste of public money and the lack of any public mandate are also of concern. Jenny has written to London Mayor Boris Johnson and others, to highlight the issues.
For a fraction of the cost Southwark could invest, as Tower Hamlets has done, in burial provision at Kemnal Park cemetery, purpose-built to help manage London’s burial crisis. And they could preserve these essential inner city woodlands, meadows and trees to benefit generations to come.
On July 8th, campaigners will present the petition from over 8,000 people to the Southwark council assembly to save Southwark Woods, declare the cemeteries a 100 acre nature reserve and provide burial for all who seek it nearby at a fraction of the cost.
Henry Blamey of SSW and the Friends of Camberwell New Cemetery, Jenny Jones and Blanche Cameron of SSW, taken by SSW representative Lewis Schaffer
Jenny Jones meets to discuss action with Save Southwark Woods
24th June 2015
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by John Edwards @aerialuas
Support the call to Save Southwark Woods and sign the petition here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-southwark-woods
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