Despite more than 1,800 individual planning objections and opposition from almost 10,000 petitioners and Southwark Liberal Democrat Councillors, Southwark Council just passed the most discriminatory, wasteful and environmentally damaging burial plans ever seen in Southwark.
Councillors voted to cut down over two acres of woods and excavate and truck out 12,000 tonnes of soil and rubble to provide burial in a waterlogged cemetery and on an impossibly steep wooded hillside, for less than four years of burials.
Last night campaigners presented their objections to the Planning Committee, including the lack of any Environmental or Transport Impact Assessments, insufficient information on flood risk and waterlogging, hundreds of trees missing from plans, misrepresentation of the scale and impact of proposals on the SINC woods, and insufficient engagement with residents of faiths who require burial such as Orthodox Muslim and Jewish residents.
There were no supporters for the proposals present. The Planning Committee called on Peckham Rye Ward Councillor Vikki Mills to speak.
Cllr Mills ignored the opposition of more than 1,500 residents in her Ward to back these destructive plans, questioning only the design of a fence, the width of a pathway and whether new gravestones would be flat or vertical.
Community campaigners believe thousands of residents will be badly affected by these plans:
• People who visit and live around the cemeteries will lose two beautiful wild places
• The disabled and the elderly will not be able to access the New Cemetery site on foot due to the impossibly steep gradient, which officers admitted
• Southwark residents not consulted will have to foot the multi-million pound bill
• Families with loved ones buried in waterlogged graves
• The pets and children who come into contact with the ‘gruesome juice’ flowing from those graves in heavy rains
• Orthodox Muslim and Jewish residents are expected to help subsidise these burial plots by around £6,000 per plot without any burial provision for their own faiths
• The list goes on and on
Why are Southwark Labour doing this? Who benefits?
Comedian, radio host and woods campaigner, US born Nunhead resident Lewis Schaffer said:
“We are devastated Southwark Council has approved these horrible plans. Thousands of Southwark residents including politicians, doctors, writers and parents have signed our petition. An incredible 600 individual objections were received by the planning department. Hundreds of people joined us on protest marches hoping to reverse the council’s proposals.
“I have walked in these woods with my children since they were very young and I hoped they could be preserved for future generations. We want the cemeteries to become part of a new 100 acre wood, an open space in the heart of South London which would help the health and wellbeing of Londoners.
“It is tragic that Southwark councillors have chosen to sweep away these beautiful wild spaces and replace them with a bleak, desolate cemetery on such an unrealistic scale.”
Save Southwark Woods is the local campaign group fighting to make the two cemeteries nature reserves, like the beloved Nunhead and Highgate Cemeteries. SSW has been working alongside the Friends of Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries to stop the plans.
“We expected this,” said Blanche Cameron of SSW. “With the friends’ group we have prevented the Council from destroying these beautiful woods for almost a year and will fight on. We will try to delay them further until either Southwark councillors come to their senses or there is a change of government in the spring elections. We have a number of options we are discussing. Judicial Review is one of them.”