Southwark Council: Destroying nature, digging up

and mounding over thousands of graves

in Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries

Southwark has run out of burial space.

Other London boroughs are buying burial land outside the city.

Southwark’s solution is to bury over graves and soon to bury in people’s graves.

To do this they have to cut down 12 acres of woods and scrape away memorials and headstones, and dig up the dead.

They call this ‘reclamation’ and ‘reuse’.

But, in fact, it is desecration of graves and nature.

We want Southwark to buy burial land suitable for all and protect our valuable, beautiful inner-city woods and heritage.

Southwark’s ‘Cemeteries’ Strategy is in fact a Grave Reuse and Reclamation Burial Strategy.

But Southwark can’t call it a Burial Strategy as they have not done the required Borough Burial Needs Assessment.

This would show that the Strategy and also Southwark’s current Burial Service exclude thousands of residents for whom burial is the only option but who cannot be buried over the dead.

Read Southwark Council Cemeteries Strategy

What is happening


Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries are full.

Southwark’s cemeteries cost money to maintan – about £1M a year.

In 2012, Southwark Council passed a plan to clear acres of inner city woods to mound over or dig up tens of thousands of graves in the Camberwell Cemeteries to sell ‘new’ burial plots over the dead.

There are over 300 CWGC WW1 and WW2 war graves in Camberwell Old Cemetery alone. Southwark must have know this but they did not consult the Commonwealth War Graves Commission until late in 2016. This was a year after giving themselves planning permission for Area Z and D1, three years after developing Area F/F1 for ‘new’ burial plots over tens of thousands of graves and years into mounding over graves for resale.

This Council is spending at least £5.2M destroying acres of beautiful woods and thousands of old graves for burial provision that embeds religious discrimination and exclusion of many residents by faith.

Community groups have proposed healthier, cheaper, fairer solutions – such as buying clean burial land outside the inner city.

Southwark Council’s Grave Reuse and Reclamation Strategy and developments affect most areas of both cemeteries:

1st July 2018

What is happening at Camberwell Old Cemetery Wood?

We don’t know. We haven’t been told.

In March, 2016, Southwark cleared almost two acres of woods in Area Z along Underhill Road. Since then, nothing. We are waiting for the other shoes to drop. And they will drop.

Cabinet Member for Environment, Transport Management and Air Quality Richard Livingstone, whom we have been told is now in charge of the cemetery projects, has has told us this in person.

That they don’t have the burial layouts for Area Z, Underhill Road, Old Cemetery Wood and they will be going into the area to remove the building waste. And that they have no plans for the other 10 acres of woods.

Camberwell Old Cemetery

Immediately at risk:

Areas J, K and L – approximately six acres of woodland glades, with tens of thousands of graves, including CWGC war graves. Southwark announced they would be felling in the autumn 2017.

2011: Woodland burial area – no planning application for burial over thousands of public graves and CWGC graves. Purchasers not told burial plots are over thousands of people’s graves.

2011: Area E – next to Forest Hill Road entrance gates

2012 – 2013: Area F/F1 – Trees cleared and tens of thousands of graves mounded over for 800 burial plots along Woodvale, the southern boundary and new access over graves from pedestrian entrance. Planning permission given before Southwark’s Reclamation and Reuse Burial consultation was over let alone adopted as its burial strategy.

2015: Area Z – Two acres of Grade 1 SINC woods cut down for 700 burial plots over 48,000 graves, including 48 WW1 and WW2 CWGC war graves. The site of years of construction waste tipping which is now being used to level out the ground for burial plots in this north west corner of the cemetery with a vew of St Paul;s Cathedral – prestige burial plots for sale to anyone who can pay.

Area H1 – Large meadow with tens of thousands of public graves already mounded over by Southwark Council:

North side of the cemetery facing directly into houses on Ryedale Road. Believed to be the final resting place of thousands of headstones illegally removed from graves.

Areas H2 + H3 – east end of the woods, over thousands of graves

Area R – one of the central areas, over thousands of graves

Area T – next to Area F/F1 Woodvale, over thousands of graves

Camberwell New Cemetery

Immediately at risk:

Area B – 3 acres of Honor Oak Nature Corridor

Promised for community use, now under application for 1,022 private burial plots – never used for burial, after this unusable for anything else.

2015: Area D1 – virgin woodland glade on One Tree Hill

On an impossibly steep one-in-five slope, road to be driven over public graves for 145 new private burial plots with one of the best views in London

Area D2 – thousands of public graves to be dug up for resale, included the graves of those who died in The Blitz.


No planning application, burial over thousands of public graves, no consultation of CWGC, no information to purchasers that burial plots are over the dead, ground mounded over or burial directly over graves?


No planning application, no consultation of CWGC, burial over virgin ground or graves


Southwark applied for and received planning permission for this development in 2012 before the 2011-2012 burial consultation had even reported its findings, even though it was an area being consulted on.

Southwark removed a hedgerow, trees and meadow and mounded over thousands of public graves, to sell 800 burial plots over their remains.

These minimum-standard plots are crammed in cheek by jowl and become waterlogged in heavy rainfall. No visual protection from the road or houses overlooking, or space between graves for mourners to grieve in privacy.

Purchasers not told graves are over the dead – even though this can contravene many people’s faith or personal wishes. Local Authorities are exempt from the Trades Descriptions Act.


In September 2015 Southwark removed the Woodland Level Tree Preservsation Order on Camberwell Old Cemetery without consultatin with the community, in the midst of controversy over their proposals.

In October 2015, Southwark gave itself planning permission for the next two areas of its Reuse and Reclamation Burial Strategy, Areas Z and D1.

In February 2016, before Church permission, Southwark Council clear felled 2 acres of woods, hundreds of trees, destroying nature, beauty and habitats, and reducing flood protection and capture of air pollution.

This is to level 30,000 tonnes of construction waste to build 700 ‘new’ burial plots, roads, concrete embankments and terraces, drainage tanks and other structures over 48,000 public graves, including 48 WW1 and WW2 Commonwealth War Graves.

Southwark planned burial plots and roads over CWGC WW1 war graves and intends NOT to mark 23 of the 48 with CWGC headstones.

Southwark Council’s estimated cost of over £1.2M is an unrevised 2011 estimate – a subsidy of at least £1,600 per plot.

The excavation of thousands of tonnes of soil and rubble planned by Southwark Council requires up to 50 lorry journeys per day.


2015: Southwark Council gave itself permission to fell up to 60 native broadleaf woodland trees across half an acre of virgin woodland on historic One Tree Hill.

This is a steeply sloping 1:5 clay hillside which the Council accepts discriminates against the elderly and infirm. So they are building a road up the historic landmark hillside to get to it – for less than 9 months of burial plots


As much of the land is consecrated, Southwark Council was supposed to ask the Church of England for permission to cut down hundreds of trees and mound over graves.

The Diocese of Southwark received over 800 objections to the Council’s plans so are holding a hearing into their applications some time in mid 2016.

So Southwark Council just went ahead anyway and in February 2016 clear felled two acres of woodland in a Grade 1 Site of Impostance for Nature Conservation without Church permission and against huge public opposition.

Acres of beautiful and historic cemetery woods
Above: What Save Southwark Wood is fighting for – Acres of beautiful and historic cemetery woods.
Acres of beautiful and historic cemetery woods