Mayor Sadiq Khan has finally issued an opinion on Southwark Council's grave destruction – cutting acres of woods to dig up and sell off thousands of graves in inner London.
He’s all for it.
The man who promised to plant two million trees for air pollution and nature now supports cutting down thousands of inner London trees and digging up old graves for re-sale, preventing cemeteries from becoming nature reserves.
Southwark Council is in the midst of the largest graves ‘re-use’ program in British history, to dig up and sell off public graves as ‘new’ private burial plots.
Southwark started the mass felling in February – two acres of woods in Underhill Road Wood in Camberwell Old Cemetery. Next are up to sixty trees on historic One Tree Hill in Camberwell New Cemetery, including at least eight oaks. Ten more acres of Grade 1 SINC woods are also to be cleared.
Southwark is subsidising private inner city burial by destroying public woods and graves.
But this is not just a Southwark issue. All London cemeteries are to be dug up – hundreds of acres of old graves, woods and trees – to sell inner city private burial plots. And Sadiq Khan supports it.
The Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries who run the Save Southwark Woods campaign beseeched the Mayor to live up to his environmental promises and stand up to Southwark Council.
But Khan incredibly has told the Friends and other concerned residents he supports tree felling and digging up graves for private inner city burial plots.
Even though burial space is available right now on the edge of the city.
Why is Khan supporting this destruction of London’s environment and history? A short-term money-making scheme? Another public sell-off? Votes from the minority who want to be buried?
“Inner London burial is an out-dated idea.” Says Blanche Cameron of the Save Southwark Woods campaign.
“Woods are the lungs of London. We can’t afford to destroy the nature and history of our amazing World City for private burial plots. When the cemeteries were first built, they were in villages outside the city. Now they’re surrounded by London. There is plenty of burial space on the outskirts. It’s time to protect these invaluable places of nature, tranquillity and social history in the middle of London.”
The Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries are appealing to Mayor Khan to reconsider his support for these horrific plans and create a lasting legacy: protect the hundreds of acres of London cemeteries’ woods and graves as Memorial Park Nature Reserves for all.
Mayor Khan’s rebuff to FOCC and everyone fighting to defend London’s cemeteries from destruction is below:
www.SaveSouthwarkWoods.org.uk | firstname.lastname@example.org | @southwarkwoods | Facebook Page Save Southwark Woods
In a nutshell:
Trees, woods and green spaces too valuable to be used for burial plots - we need more not less, for health and well-being and climate change adaptation
History and heritage are vital to our understanding of ourselves
Burial over the dead is not an option for many - and discriminates against many residents' burial needs. Plot buyers are not being told
The history and heritage of those buried and their families must be respected and preserved
Fair burial provision is available elsewhere at a fraction of the environmental, financial and social cost
Save our woods and graves and make them Memorial Park Nature Reserves, with respect for the dead and history, woods and trees for the living.
Above: Mayor Sadiq Khan celebrating London's trees at City Hall with the Tree Charter as part of London Tree Week in May
Below: The vandalism for private burial plots begins. Two acres of Grade 1 SINC woods felled in February at Camberwell Old Cemetery, and some of the beautiful ten acres of woods, graves and memorials still under threat from Southwark's chainsaws and diggers
The response from Mayor Sadiq Khan's office:
Dear Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries,
Thank you for your correspondence to the Mayor.
There is a London-wide shortage of burial sites. All London Boroughs have been developing cemetery strategies to ensure that there is sufficient supply of burial spaces based on the principle of proximity to local communities and the different requirements for types of provision. This is consistent with London Plan policy (Policy 7.3 Burial Spaces). Section 74 of the London Local Authorities Act (2007) allows the re-use of graves in certain circumstances; London Plan policy encourages boroughs to actively examine the potential for re-use to help address the acute shortage of supply in London.
Southwark Council's cemetery strategy was subject to public consultation. The Mayor does not have any formal powers to intervene to prevent the council implementing their plans for these sites. Although the plans for the cemeteries will result in the removal of a significant number of mature trees, the council has committed to managing both sites in a way which is consistent with their designation as Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation.
The Mayor is committed to strengthening the protection for London's green spaces and plans to improve London Plan policy in the forthcoming review of the plan. The Mayor will be working with the boroughs to ensure that where there are competing uses for existing green space (as in the case at the Camberwell cemeteries) matters relating to public access and ecology are part of a fully integrated approach to the design and management of these spaces.
The Mayor has recently announced a range of measures to tackle London's acute air pollution resulting from emissions from diesel vehicles and other sources of particulates. He also recognises the important role that trees and vegetation have in cleaning London's air, and he aims to increase the amount of tree cover in London over time to help deal with chronic air quality problems that that are common to all large urban areas. Due to London's complex land-use needs this does not mean that all existing trees can be protected. However, the Mayor aims to increase protection, and accelerate new planting, through improved London Plan policy and projects he will initiate during his Mayoral term.
Public Liaison Officer
Greater London Authority