Southwark Council is to meet with tree experts and cemetery friends Tuesday to begin an ecosystems services assessment of the Camberwell Cemeteries in East Dulwich and Honor Oak.
Southwark agreed to this major step at a cemetery stakeholders’ meeting in October.
This is revolutionary for the Council – the first step in understanding the full value of the woods and wild places of our inner London borough’s cemeteries.
Save Southwark Woods campaigners, the Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries, are meeting with the Council to agree the methodology for the assessment.
We are honoured that Kenton Rogers and Treeconomics are involved. They carried out the comprehensive Mayor’s London iTree assessment in 2015 valuing London’s Urban Forest as an asset worth £6.1Bn, providing tens of millions of pounds worth of essential services to London every year.
The full value of nature of course cannot be reduced to money. But valuing the benefits we get from nature – known as ecosystem services – means these natural assets can be valued and protected in council projects and plans.
Nature’s benefits include better air quality and reduced stress, obesity, and other conditions, in turn reducing mental and physical health care costs. Contact with nature improves children’s emotional and educational development. Woods, trees and other green infrastructure also reduce flooding and increase property values. People live better with nature – and that is valuable.
The southern part of Southwark has been called the Hampstead Heath of South London because of its considerable natural assets. Yet Southwark has never valued its amazing nature in monetary terms. Councils often value cemeteries at just £1 – as the Thatcher government did in the eighties.
Yet for the sake of burial in inner London, Southwark has already cleared two acres, hundreds of trees, for burial plots in Camberwell Old Cemetery a Grade 1 SINC. Next the Council intends to cut down more than 20 trees including 10 English Oaks on One Tree Hill in Camberwell New Cemetery for just 145 burial plots.
With this ecosystem services assessment, we will come closer to learning the true cost of keeping burial in inner city Southwark.
The Save Southwark woods campaign by the Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries is fighting to preserve the Camberwell Cemeteries as nature reserves, with respect for the dead and nature for the living.