Last night, just as expected, Southwark Councillors voted to dig up three acres of Metropolitan Open Land for burial against hundreds of residents’ objections.
Southwark planning committee ignored its own 2016 consultation and almost 500 written objections in statutory public planning consultation, and agreed to dig up this Site of Importance for Nature Conservation in the Honor Oak Nature Corridor for 1,000 sterile burial plots.
This is just the latest development implementing Southwark's 2012 burial strategy, based on digging up graves for resale - which Southwark has never consulted of families or residents on.
The Camberwell Cemeteries Working Group and Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries presented reasons for rejection including:
• Inappropriate development on Metropolitan Open Land – tonnes of concrete for headstone foundations
• Ignores 2016 consultation - 86% of respondents said: ‘no burial on this site’
• Almost 500 written objections in statutory planning consultation
• Loss of public open space, loss of community benefit and social amenity, never used for burial, now unusable for anything else
• Ignores ecologist recommendation of meadow burial for biodiversity - loss of SINC habitat for mostly sterile mown lawn
We made the additional points:
• No financial transparency, no value-for-money comparisons with alternatives
• Extends religious discrimination of burial service – excludes almost half residents who seek burial by faith
• Ignores 2012 Cabinet commitment to explore out-of-borough burial
• Implements 2012 ‘re-use of graves’ burial strategy by the back door without consultation
To Southwark's 2016 consultation, 86% of respondents said ‘no burial on this site’, calling for a nature reserve or other community use. Most of the rest selected woodland or meadow burial.
Southwark's own ecologist report recommended meadow burial for biodiversity reasons.
But Councillors agreed plans for conventional, sterile lawn burial plots with headstones on concrete bases, citing funeral directors’ demands.
Last night, Planning Chair Nick Dolezal contemptuously mocked residents for accusing the committee of ignoring democratic process in this way.
Councillors are elected to represent residents, but Southwark Councillors don’t even pretend to be democratic any more. Only two, Adele Morris and Samantha Jury-Dada, even asked any questions.
“This is why people hate politicians so much – they are undemocratic and unaccountable,” said Save Southwark Woods campaigner and local resident Lewis Schaffer.
“Southwark has said they want to start cutting down the rest of the woods in Camberwell Old Cemetery next. They admit this is to buy time until they start digging up thousands of graves for resale which they agreed in 2012 but have never consulted families or residents about. Any consultation now will be a farce.”
For years, Southwark has used ‘running out of burial space’ to dig up nature areas for burial plots. Most inner London boroughs provide burial outside their borough. Inner city burial means a terrible loss of valuable, healthy public open green space for nature and people.
FOCC SSW will continue to show how Southwark Council is undemocratic and unaccountable, and campaign to protect the cemeteries as nature reserves.
www.SaveSouthwarkWoods.org.uk | firstname.lastname@example.org | @southwarkwoods | Facebook Page Save Southwark Woods
Southwark Councillors agree to dig up three acres of Metropolitan Open Land on the Green Chain for burial plots - against almost 500 written objections from residents, for 1,000 sterile lawn burial plots like the 2011 burial area next door.
Glynis Williams of the Working Group speaking out for the Camberwell Cemeteries at Southwark Council's planning committee last night