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Save Southwark Woods campaigners have written individually to every Southwark councillor to ask: "what did you know, and when did you know it?"
On 8th July, Southwark council ‘heard’ a public petition to stop plans to develop the woodlands at Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries and declare the cemeteries nature reserves.
The council also ‘debated’ a Liberal Democrat motion calling for a full public consultation and for the council’s proposals to be sent to the Scrutiny Committee.
But last week, a Southwark employee revealed to the Southwark Burial Strategy Stakeholder Group that the council had in fact already applied weeks before to the church for planning permission, for the first phase of their wholescale development of the cemeteries. She apologised for having ‘forgotten’ to mention it before.
Petitioning a council is a democratic right. A petition large enough should at least have the potential to change a council’s mind. SSW won the right to petition the council, with over 8,500 signatories, including 3,500 from Southwark itself.
At least one councillor in that chamber knew a planning application had been submitted, yet failed to mention this vital information to the assembly.
"They knew it was a sham and didn't tell the council meeting. They are making a mockery of democratic processes and totally disrespecting the people of Southwark,” said Lewis Schaffer, the comedian and Save Southwark Woods supporter. “To pretend they were listening to the people and the petition, to other elected councillors, when they had already applied for planning, is that even legal?"
How are elected representatives held to account? Who watches the watchmen?
SSW has asked councillors: who knew an application had already been made to the church, when the council held its sham debate?
Were you aware at the Southwark Council meeting of July 8th, 2015 that the Council had already applied for faculty/planning permission to the Diocese of Southwark for Council proposals at Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries?
And if you were not aware, when did you become aware?
If you were aware, why didn't you tell the full council and the petitioners that an application had been made, as this information was relevant?
Did you know that it is the constitutional right of the citizens of a borough to petition their council?
Is it morally or legally acceptable for the council not to wait to hear a petition before it acts? (Two questions).
Is it morally or legally acceptable to waste its citizens time and effort by not telling these citizens that their petition is irrelevant? (Two questions).
And would you please tell us who is responsible for instructing the landscape architect Paul Harrison to make the faculty/planning application in question to the Diocese of Southwark?
"What did you know, when did you know it?"
20th July 2015
One of the great Southwark Woods oaks at so-called 'Area Z' - Grade 1 SINC woodland at Camberwell Old Cemetery. The photo shows evidence that at least two large branches have recently been cut, on the left. This is being referred to the Woodland Trust and authorities.
Ken Scarlett, arboriculturalist and Director of Adverdant, measuring trees at the cemeteries for their age and status as part of investigations into whether these are Ancient Woodlands, or even remnants of the Great North Wood
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