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Is the Diocese of Southwark aware that Southwark Council plans to start felling trees next week?

09 December 2015

Today, Save Southwark Woods has alerted the Diocese of Southwark to Southwark Council’s plans to start felling trees on One Tree Hill in Camberwell New Cemetery next week.

SSW has asked the Church whether they have given Southwark Council permission to do so, and whether the Diocese has seen any evidence that Southwark Council has fulfilled its obligation to protect the visual amenity of the hillside.

According to Diocesan law, the Diocese of Southwark has to give planning approval – called ‘faculty’ – for any development on consecrated ground. Public consultation on the Council’s proposals produced over 400 objections from local residents to the Diocese.

In addition, the Council’s Planning Committee gave consent on October 6th to plans to fell trees for less than nine months of burials. But Councillors also set a planning condition that the visual amenity of the wooded glade should not be affected. This would only be possible by retaining the vast majority of trees to be felled.

Historic One Tree Hill is one of the few wooded hillsides left in London. Queen Elizabeth I picnicked here and Sir John Betjeman described the view as “better than that from Parliament Hill”.

According to Diocesan law, the Diocese of Southwark has to give planning approval – called ‘faculty’ – for any development on consecrated ground

“The council won’t tell us anything and they haven’t informed the Cemetery Friends’ group or the Burial Stakeholder Group either. Someone from the friends’ group only found out about it by chance, chatting to a cemetery worker.” said Blanche Cameron, spokesperson for Save Southwark Woods.

“Does the Council really intend to start work without the Church’s permission? Is the Council going to ignore the Planning Committee’s condition? This is one of the most beautiful places in London – to be destroyed for 140 grave plots, in the face of huge opposition. We have asked the Diocese to meet with us and discuss the situation.”

SSW’s letter to the Diocesan Chancellor Philip Petchey is below.

Dear Chancellor to the Consistory Court Philip Petchey,

Re: Southwark Council’s plans to fell trees at ‘Area D1’ on historic and beautiful One Tree Hill at Camberwell New Cemetery

We have been told this week by a Council arborist that he and his workmates are to start felling trees in Camberwell New Cemetery’s ‘Area D1’, consecrated ground.

Would you please tell us if Southwark Council has applied for faculty? Could you also give us some idea of how long it might take the Court to determine a faculty, once an application has been made?

Second, would you please also tell us if the council has informed you of the planning condition imposed by Councillors at the planning committee of 6th October?

The Councillors granted planning permission but added a condition that the visual amenity of the glade should be protected. We have not seen evidence of the council working to meet this condition.

Third, have you been given a copy of the revised AMS requested by the planning consent? Could we see a copy of it?

Finally, we would be very grateful for the opportunity to meet with you to discuss the situation. Please let us know if this would be possible.

Thank you for your help in this matter. We are extremely concerned as the Council’s plans would only provide for less than a year of burial provision but would scar this historic and beautiful place for generations.


Blanche Cameron

On behalf of Save Southwark Woods