Save Southwark Woods

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Cemeteries group makes plea to Labour Leader: stop the sell-off of Britain’s cemeteries – woods, graves, history and nature

30 September 2016

Today, the Save Southwark Woods Campaign of the Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries wrote to Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn urging him to help us stop the sell-off of our cemetery assets.

We urged Mr Corbyn, who has spoken out against transfer of community wealth to private hands, to speak out against cemetery owners selling off the plots to private interests, destroying nature and heritage.

Southwark Council is a test case for what is euphemistically called “grave re-use” – where in perpetuity burial is erased, nature obliterated and new bodies placed on top of the bones of Britain’s dead.

The results are communities losing acres of woods, as well as the monuments to their dead.

The Save Southwark Woods Campaign is calling for our inner city cemeteries to me made into Memorial Park Nature Reserves, as a vital part of London National Park City.

The campaign has cross-party support in Southwark from the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, The Conservatives, UKIP and TUSC, among others, and has many secret Labour supporters.

“We are asking Mr. Corbyn’s help to stop the sell-off or our old cemetery.” said Blanche Cameron, Chair of Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries.

“We are desperate to to put an end to the horrific plans to destroy hundreds of acres of wild nature and heritage in Britain.”

Open letter to Jeremy Corbyn from the Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries:

Dear Jeremy Corbyn,

Would you help us?

Southwark Council is selling off the graves of our ancestors and destroying wild places for private gain.

Southwark are treating graves like they are treating council flats – taking community assets and selling them for profit. The council has begun cutting down acres of inner city woods at the Camberwell cemeteries to mound over the public graves of London’s poor to sell as ‘new’ private inner city burial plots.

Southwark have already felled two acres of woods and plan to fell ten more acres, including dozens of trees on historic One Tree Hill.

This is a national issue. Southwark cemeteries is just a test case. Dozens of public cemeteries in London are under threat and hundreds across Britain, under new laws which have ended ‘in perpetuity’ burials.

These are the graves of poor hardworking British people. They are on Metropolitan Open Land where the wild nature has been allowed to grow, cleaning the air, preventing flooding and keeping the city cool. They are now beautiful natural places where our children play. They are part of our common land.

Please stand against this destruction of our public assets – the graves, woods, history and nature of our public cemeteries – just as you stand against the loss of council flats and NHS services.


Blanche Cameron

Chair, Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries

The Save Southwark Woods Campaign

Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries

Above: Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries demonstrating outside Southwark Cathedral before the Consistory Court directions hearing 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

Grade 1 SINC woods after
Camberwell Old Cemetery

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; Burial over the dead not an option for many – discriminates against many residents’ burial needs, plot buyers not being told; history and heritage of those buried and their families must be respected and preserved; fair burial provision is already available at a fraction of the environmental, financial and social cost.