Southwark is destroying acres of nature and heritage supposedly to provide burial for local people – but which can be bought by anyone.
Southwark is cutting down trees on One Tree Hill, in the Underhill Road Wood and on the Old Nursery Site in the Honor Oak Nature Corridor and mounding over thousands of graves – for burial plots.
Southwark Council claims it is ‘running out’ of burial space and the tree felling is to provide ‘local burial for local people’ according to Cllr Ian Wingfield, Southwark Council’s cabinet member for the environment and public realm.
“Local people will now continue to have the choice to be buried locally, rather than being forced to pay higher costs for burials outside of the borough.” (South London Press, 1 March 2017)
Cllr Wingfield said the council stood by its 2012 consultations which he said showed “the public wanted the continued provision of burial space for local people”. (Southwark News, 9 March 2017).
Yet if Southwark is so desperate for ‘local burial for local people’ why are they selling them to non-borough residents? Let alone cutting down up to 60 trees on One Tree Hill and clearing two acres of Underhill Road Wood to do so?
Around one in ten plots are sold out-of-borough every year. Southwark residents pay £1,400 for a 25-year lease or £2,100 for 50 years. But Southwark makes three times as much by selling plots to people from other boroughs.
In 2012 Southwark identified London’s burial scarcity as an opportunity in its Cemetery Strategy:
“viii. risks that burial rates (currently at 210 per annum) will increase more rapidly than assumed on account of differences in modelling and or demographic trends and/or increased demand from areas outside Southwark as burial supply in other London Boroughs becomes critical or exhausted.” (page 69)
Dozens of trees are being felled in Camberwell New Cemetery on One Tree Hill including mature forty-year-old mature English Oaks for 122 new burial plots.
Is inner city burial really worth this level of environmental destruction? Surely Southwark must stop selling burial plots out of borough while it rethinks its whole horrific strategy?
This is just another reason why Southwark’s burial service is not fit for purpose.
Today the Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries, the Save Southwark Woods campaign, have written to Council Leader Peter John and Cllr Ian Wingfield to stop the destruction and carry out a full burial needs review and make the Camberwell Cemeteries nature reserves like Highgate and Nunhead Cemeteries.
Their letter is below.
17th March 2017
Dear Mr. John,
We call on Southwark Council to stop its horrific, destructive and discriminatory multi-million-pound burial service developments – based on the claim of providing ‘local burial for local people’ – and carry out a full burial needs review:
Hundreds of trees across two acres have been cut down
Ten more acres of woods in a Grade 1 SINC are at risk
Precious woodland wildlife habitat is being lost for mown cemetery lawns
Burial plots are being sold to non-residents
No provision for a third of residents who seek burial because they are Muslim
The graves of the poor are being mounded over for resale
Forty-eight WW1 Soldiers’ graves are being developed over
All private graves are to be dug up and resold
No consultation of families over digging up and reselling relatives’ graves
Millions of pounds are being wasted
No Burial Needs Assessment
No feasibility study
Please confirm you will now:
Suspend all sales of burial plots to out-of-borough purchasers
Call a halt to all new burial developments in the Honor Oak Nature Corridor including Area D1 and Area B
Review Southwark’s out of date and discriminatory burial strategy these developments are based on, with full public consultation
Carry out a Burial Needs Assessment as recommended by Harriet Harman MP in 2007
Assess alternative options for future burial as committed to in 2012 but without action
Carry out proper consultation with borough faith groups and families
And for the third time, we request an immediate site inspection of all burial development areas.
Please acknowledge receipt of this letter and provide your response.
Chair, Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries
Save Southwark Woods Campaign