A report received by Southwark Council raises damning questions about its plans to cut down up to sixty trees in The Glade on One Tree Hill for fewer than nine months of burial plots.
Southwark has said it intends to start the felling again as soon as they get permission from the Church of England. The Diocese of Southwark has still to make its decision.
In October, Southwark hired barrister Katherine Olley from Landmark Chambers to record stakeholders’ views on the proposal, as well as her own.
She has just produced a report which appears to slam Southwark’s plans.
Issues were raised at the site visit to the The Glade and in meetings about the severe steepness of the site (a hazardous 1-in-5), the loss of so many trees, including eight English Oaks, the destruction of nature and habitat next to One Tree Hill Nature Reserve, and driving an accessway over poor people’s graves to the new plots.
Ms Olley states:
“In my view the relatively small number of burial plots to be provided by the scheme and the general sense of ‘mere stop gap’ provided by the scheme, could potentially raise issues of proportionality and overall reasonableness.”
Southwark gave themselves planning permission in October 2015, against huge community opposition and a petition signed by over 12,000 people. Demonstrations on One Tree Hill and media attention followed.
Community groups voted unanimously at November’s Southwark Cemetery Stakeholder meeting to reject Southwark’s proposal.
Ms Olley lists her own concerns:
It would appear that “the scheme will cause a radical change in the character of the site and in particular will...cause a significant change in the character of the glade, possibly resulting in the glade not having the character of a glade anymore.”
“The necessary widening of the glade area in order to deliver the scheme will arguably wholly alter the character and feel of this area of the cemetery.”
She adds, “the stakeholders were united in their wholesale rejection of the scheme.”
“The only point Ms Olley could find to possibly support Southwark's proposal was that it was a stop gap,” says Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries Chair Blanche Cameron.
“Otherwise Southwark might ‘run out’ of burial plots inside the Borough. The Council hasn’t planned ahead. The desecration of this hillside for only 145 plots in a borough of 300,000 residents is indeed totally disproportionate and unreasonable. We have asked Southwark to stop now.”
Residents are concerned the trees may be felled any day now for this destructive and short-term stop gap project.
The woods are a haven of habitats for nature, with bat and hedgehog colonies, owls and many other species, with a rare tranquillity. It is a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, Metropolitan Open land on the Green Chain Walk. Sir John Betjeman described the view as the best in London.
Cemetery stakeholders are responding to Ms Olley’s report now, with the Council expected to reply by 8th December and a meeting on 15th to determine the result.
FOCC/SSW calls on Southwark Council to stop the destruction of the Camberwell Cemeteries and make them 100 acres of valuable inner city Memorial Park Nature Reserves.
www.SaveSouthwarkWoods.org.uk | firstname.lastname@example.org | @southwarkwoods | Facebook Page Save Southwark Woods
Above: The Glade on One Tree Hill, soon to be chainsawed for less than nine months' worth of burial plots
Below: Cemetery Stakeholder site visit to The Glade and the view to the city, one of the best in London.