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Finally – Southwark agrees to value the natural assets of the Camberwell Cemeteries

29 November 2016

Southwark Council has finally agreed to value the natural assets of the Camberwell Cemeteries – including hundreds of inner city trees being cut down for burial plots.

At this month’s Southwark Cemetery Stakeholder meeting, Chair Cllr Ian Wingfield agreed for the first time that Southwark would provide technical support to value the natural assets of the Camberwell Cemeteries.

The Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries (FOCC) has been asking Southwark for actual costs of their burial projects – including the environmental, social and financial costs – for over 18 months.

Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries in Dulwich and Honor Oak Park are Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation. They include many acres of woods, allotments, playing fields, meadows – across 100 acres of inner city Metropolitan Open Land.

Agreeing to value the benefits the cemeteries provide is a first for Southwark. The council has always maintained that it only values assets being sold off to developers. But here Southwark is the developer.

How can the true cost of a development be known if the impact on its value and services delivered has not been included, especially if they are from woods that are supposed to be replanted at some later date?

In July last year, SSW/FOCC counted over 300 trees that were more than 75mm diameter at 1.5m off the ground (the British Standard BS5837).

The site is now all but cleared and Southwark claims it has only felled 11 trees.

But Tree Office Gary Meadowcroft told Southwark’s Scrutiny and Overview Committee in September 2015 that only trees over 150mm diameter had been marked on plans, as there were “too many to count”.

These trees may have been worth in excess of £2M to Southwark in asset value alone, plus the value of annual services like flood prevention and providing clean air. Including this loss would raise the cost per grave far in excess of what the council will recoup in the sale of 700 burial plots. FOCC believes that the council subsidy could be in excess of £2,500 per burial plot.

Assessing the natural services and benefits of the Camberwell Cemeteries will help everyone understand their true asset value.

Nature is immensely valuable to London. Last year, the Mayor’s office valued London’s Urban Forest – including the woods and trees of the Camberwell Cemeteries – at £6.1Bn. The capital’s trees remove one fifth of London’s air pollution, reduce flooding and provide many other free benefits which are hard to replace.

“These are wonderful woods and green spaces, including allotments and pitches. They are on the Green Chain Walk and most people use these cemeteries for contact with nature, exercise and relaxation,” says Blanche Cameron, Chair of the Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries, the Save Southwark Woods campaign.

“You can’t reduce the value of a beautiful tree or nature-rich wood to money. But councils need to value their natural assets to properly understand the full impact of a development. Across the UK from London to Sheffield to Newcastle and beyond, communities are fighting to save woods, trees and nature from developers, including their own councils.

For more information contact:

Blanche Cameron

Chair, Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries

The Save Southwark Woods Campaign

07731 304 966

Grade 1 SINC woods after
Grade 1 SINC woods cut down and chipped

Above: Two acres, hundreds of trees, of Grade 1 SINC woods cut down and chipped in February for ‘new’ burial plots. Over 48,000 people are already buried in this area of Camberwell Old Cemetery. 700 ‘new’ burial plots to be sold over our dead. The value of the trees lost is to be calculated now.

Below: The Glade on One Tree Hill, soon to be chainsawed for less than nine months’ worth of burial plots

Southwark Cemetery Stakeholder Group