Save Southwark Woods

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Call for Public Inquiry into Southwark’s Cemeteries Development

03 September 2015

Save Southwark Woods has today written to ask Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to call in Southwark’s plans for the Camberwell Cemeteries for Public Inquiry.

Labour-controlled Southwark council wants to destroy acres of high quality woodland and excavate many hundreds of old graves at Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries, for inner city burial plots.

But a petition signed by over 9,000 people, including over 3,500 Southwark residents, is calling for the cemeteries to be declared nature reserves. Burial provision is already available in cemeteries nearby.

Southwark council has repeatedly refused to explore alternative options, despite not having any detailed financial cost benefit analysis. They have also consistently withheld crucial information on their proposals from the public and even the Diocese of Southwark, such as forgetting to mention the Grade 1 SINC woodland status of the Old Cemetery.

And at a sham council ‘debate’ on 8th July, Labour councillors omitted to mention that their planning application had already been lodged with the Diocese, revealing their utter contempt for the democratic process.

Southwark has refused to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment of their proposals, which include turning part of the Grade 1 SINC woodland at Camberwell Old Cemetery into a waste reprocessing site. This would have enormous negative impacts not just for woodland destruction, but also air pollution from processing machinery and air and noise pollution from months of truck journeys on local roads.

But this is not all. Other vital information is also missing from their planning applications:

  • Lack of Public Consultation – consultation with a few hundred people four years about different plans on a different site is not a pubic mandate
  • No Environmental Impact Assessments – on sites of Grade 1 SINC status and virgin woodland
  • No work with the Environment Agency regarding the contamination of ground water from new burials – the cemeteries are within local water catchment areas.
  • Many trees missing from plans – presumably to hide the true number to be felled
  • No comparison with fairer, healthier and better-value alternative proposals put forward by the community
  • No financial detail or Cost Benefit Analysis with alternatives proposed by the community
  • No CAVAT or i-Tree Assessment to show the existing social, ecological, environmental and financial value of the woodland

“We have tried for many months to work constructively with Southwark council on their proposals,” said Blanche Cameron, from the Save Southwark Woods campaign.

“In return they called us liars. We have developed alternative environmental and burial strategies that could reap huge rewards both for the council and for Southwark communities, on every level. The council has refused to listen either to us or other community stakeholders such as the Friends Groups, instead ploughing on with their destructive, undemocratic and unfair proposals.”

Southwark has now applied to itself for planning permission, and the public consultation period is now open – although they are unable to say for how long.

“We have immense public support to declare these cemeteries nature reserves, including from 10 of the London Mayoral hopefuls – the call for a Public Inquiry is now the next logical step.”

Sign the Public Inquiry petition here: