Save Southwark Woods

Archived Articles

Southwark to go ahead illegally – Church demands legal basis

28 January 2016

Southwark Council starts work WITHOUT CHURCH PERMISSION in MAD DASH to fell woods before nesting season.

Need Church of England consent to fell trees, build roads and excavate burial sites – let alone disrespect or mound over bodies – it’s CONSECRATED GROUND.

Diocese of Southwark Court left in dark – HAS TO BEG for information. Southwark has no respect for Church of England, for English Law, or for the Dead.

Southwark claims it has go-ahead from Church – Diocese of Southwark demands “LEGAL JUSTIFICATION”.

Southwark’s plans delayed by UNPRECEDENTED PUBLIC OUTCRY to the Church – over 800 individual objections received, forcing Consistory Court hearing in late Spring 2016.

Largest grave excavation and mounding program in British history will cause devastation. CHILD’S GRAVE ALREADY DESECRATED by works vehicles.

Save Southwark Woods community campaign refuses to be cowed, APPLIES FOR INJUNCTION to stop Council’s illegal works.


This week, Southwark Council started work without Church of England permission to fell trees, build roads and excavate or mound over burial sites on consecrated ground in Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries

This is in a mad dash to fell woods before the official bird nesting season. This year has been the warmest year on record – and many birds have started nesting already.

CONFIRMED: SOUTHWARK’S NOTICE – NO CHURCH CONSENT FOR MAJOR WORKS: Below: Area Z woods, trees and graves at Camberwell Old Cemetery

But when SSW met with the Diocese of Southwark’s Chancellor, Registrar and Clerk yesterday and discovered Southwark have no such permission.

The Diocese of Southwark’s Consistory Court is responsible for permission called Faculty for work on consecrated ground. But they have been left in the dark by Southwark, despite communication from the Church less than two weeks ago. Communications to which Southwark failed to respond.

It was down to Save Southwark Woods campaigners to inform them of Southwark’s public notice to fell hundreds of trees – including what even the Council consider “significant” trees – and transform existing woodland paths into roads.

Southwark has been claiming to the public it had the go-ahead from the Church. But in the meeting with Chancellor Philip Petchey, Judge of the Consistory Court of Southwark Diocese, SSW learned that the council has no legal consent for any major works. At the moment, the Council can only treat for Japanese Knotweed, remove trees under 75mm diameter and put up fencing.

As a result of their meeting today with SSW and neutral observer Daniel Raven-Ellison of London National Park City campaign, the Church has written to Southwark Council’s Rebecca Towers in charge of the works to ask what works they actual intend to do and what “legal justification” they have for their actions?

These works by Southwark are just the start of the largest grave excavation and mounding program ever seen in Britain. It will cause devastation to families and history and huge environmental damage. The grave of a child, Madeleine Carlisle buried in 1986, has already been vandalised by Southwark Council’s works vehicles, driven over and desecrated, and Southwark Council has even removed her headstone. Does the family know?

Yet Southwark seems prepared to take desperate action even if it means acting outside Church law.

Their plans include clearing two acres of Grade 1 nature conservation (SINC) woodland and mounding over 48,000 graves, including war graves. The Council has mapped out 700 new private burial plots.

Leader Peter John and Southwark Council did not anticipate the huge public outcry to the Church over their plans. The Church told SSW they have received an unprecedented 800 individual objections, forcing the Consistory Court to hold a full court hearing into Southwark’s proposals in late Spring 2016.

It became clear yesterday that the Church knew little of Southwark’s actual intentions and no such permissions had been given. To save the hundreds of trees at imminent risk, Save Southwark Woods applied there and then to the Church for an injunction to stop Southwark Council’s illegal works.

The Church is now demanding information from Southwark Council, although it has since decided not to grant an injunction. SSW was advised to go to the High Court for an injunction and we will be exploring this possibility urgently.

“Mr. Petchey, Mr Morris and Mr Hastings were very cordial to us and we are grateful for their time. We also appreciated Daniel Raven-Ellison for coming as a neutral observer. SSW completely supports his campaign to make London the world’s first National Park City.” said Blanche Cameron, Save Southwark Woods spokesperson.

“But you could see the Diocese didn’t have the information they should have had. They realised the Council was going ahead without legal permission. Southwark Council has no respect for the Church of England, for English Church Law, the people of Southwark, nature – or even the dead. We aren’t going to stop until the woods and graves have been protected and saved, with respect for the dead and woods for the living.”

“We are demanding that Southwark Council down tools immediately.”

The Save Southwark Woods Campaign was founded in 2015 to stop Southwark Council’s destructive, wasteful and unjust burial programme, protect the graves and woods of Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries and to make them the first deliberately rewilded cemeteries in Britain, if not the world.