Save Southwark Woods

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The Church can save Southwark Woods. SSW calls for urgent action from the Diocese of Southwark

14 December 2015

Today, Save Southwark Woods has appealed again to the Diocese of Southwark’s Chancellor of the Consistory Court Philip Petchey to reject Southwark Council’s proposals to fell fell woods on historic One Tree Hill at Camberwell New Cemetery for less than nine months of burial space.

On October 6th against an astounding 650 objections, the Council gave itself planning permission to fell as many trees as they liked on the Cemetery’s steep slope on One Tree Hill for a development that would destroy the historic hillside’s beauty and create a scar on the landscape forever.

Southwark Council requires permission (called a faculty) from the Diocese for any works on this consecrated ground. Yet Council workers have already been instructed to mark trees with blue paint for felling – before even applying to the Church.

Now only the Church stands between the trees and Southwark’s chainsaws. More than 400 residents objected to the Diocese of Southwark in November against Southwark’s plans.

Yesterday, Save Southwark Woods campaigners and residents held a lantern vigil on One Tree Hill. Over 50 residents climbed One Tree Hill in the Cemetery with lanterns to sing to the song thrushes, owls, wrens, robins and firecrests for the trees that give life to London.

Last weekend’s Festival of Light at the beautiful woods of historic One Tree Hill in Camberwell New Cemetery – with the best view of London according to Sir John Betjeman.

“We are begging the Church to step in and stop these unfair, destructive and undemocratic plans,” said Save Southwark Woods campaign spokeperson Blanche Cameron.

“Over 3,500 Southwark residents have signed a 10,000 strong petition for the Cemeteries to be protected and declared Nature Reserves. We have asked the Diocese of Southwark again to meet with us – we hope they will agree to listen to our concerns about Southwark’s Council’s plans for Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries, where 12 acres of woods are to be felled and tens of thousands of graves desecrated or mounded over.”

Are Southwark Council really prepared to sacrifice wild woods for burial space? The need to act on climate change and to support nature is more urgent than ever. London is a polluted city prone to flooding and overheating and needs all the trees it can get.

Now only the Church can step in to save the woods and the wildlife they support.

Save Southwark Woods’ letter to the Diocese of Southwark is below:

Dear Chancellor Philip Petchey,

Re: Urgent request to meet with the Diocese of Southwark

We are extremely concerned to hear that Southwark Council are imminently to start felling woods at Camberwell New Cemetery on One Tree Hill.

We are writing urgently to request a meeting with you or with Diocesan Registrar Paul Morris, to discuss the issues at stake.

We have been informed that the Diocese has not yet received any application for faculty from Southwark Council, yet trees have been marked for felling on Historic One Tree Hill – for less than nine months of burial space.

The beauty of these woods and their view which Sir Betjeman described as the best in London will be scarred forever and its rare wildness, peace and contemplative character lost forever.

Woods are vital to the living but are also spiritual places. These woods are an ideal environment for contemplation and mourning, marking the passing of the seasons and the annual rebirth with the reassuring message that life goes.

Please meet with us or suggest another representative of the Diocese who can meet and let us have a positive discussion about the feelings of residents and the future of these beautiful woods and Cemeteries.


Blanche Cameron

for Save Southwark Woods