Southwark Council has begun it most abhorrent action – cutting down trees on One Tree Hill in Honor Oak for burial plots.
On Friday, the Council began felling up to 60 trees in The Glade in Camberwell New Cemetery on Friday, mutilating one of the last wooded hillsides in London.
Why? For inner-city burial plots.
When Southwark’s chainsaws have finished felling there will be no woodland glade left.
Late last week Southwark’s chainsaws also returned to Victorian Camberwell Old Cemetery in East Dulwich, stripping every tree and bit of nature from two acres of the Grade 1 SINC.
The Council cut down 20 new trees on consecrated land – all of 75mm diameter or more. These are trees the Church of England must give permission to cut down but have not been told about.
In their applications to the Church for permission, Southwark did not include all the hundreds of trees of 75mm or more to be cut down in the Camberwell Cemetreies, only those over 150mm diameter.
Southwark has never told residents or the Church the full number. Tree Officer Gary Meadowcroft admitted to Southwark’s Scrutiny & Overview Committee in 2015 there were too many trees to count.
Today, Monday 13 March, hoardings will be erected to hide Southwark’s shame on One Tree Hill. But the 60-foot Poplar – just one of the very tall trees to be cut down – will be hard to hide.
Should Councils support cutting down trees for burial plots anywhere – let alone hundreds in inner London?
Southwark Council Leader Peter John does as do Councillor Ian Wingfield (Public Realm and the Environment), the cemeteries’ three Ward Councillors Victoria Mills, Gavin Edwards and Renata Hamvas and Southwark’s three Labour MPs Harriet Harman, Helen Hayes and Neil Coyle all do too.
And so does Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the Church of England. As indeed does the lucrative cemetery industry.
Are there so many vested interests in inner city burial that woods, nature and people’s health can just be put at risk?
London’s trees absorb a fifth of the deadly air pollution that kills 10,000 Londoners a year. Around one in four people choose to be buried. But cities need their woods and nature for health.
On Saturday, local people came out to say they don’t want trees cut down for burial plots.
The Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries, Camberwell Cemeteries Working Group, Friends of Honor Oak and Save Southwark Woods campaigners demonstrated on One Tree Hill against the felling.
This is a test case for London and all of Britain. If trees on One Tree Hill can be chainsawed for the flimsiest of excuses then no tree is safe, in London or elsewhere.
Today, Save Southwark Wood is calling for help to stop the scandal in Southwark’s Cemeteries.
The Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries, the Save Southwark Woods campaign, are fighting to protect the woods and graves of the Camberwell Cemeteries and preserve them as Nature Reserves, like Highgate and Nunhead Cemeteries.