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Video: Evening Standard, 10 April 2016
Skull: Camberwell Old Cemetery graves already dug up by Southwark Council in 2008 - skull and bones left exposed by the side of a grave.
Southwark Council's final horrific goal - passed by Cabinet in 2012 - is to dig up the thousands of people's remains buried across Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries, to resell their burial plots.
Families have not been consulted.
Graves will be on a short lease, in a one-in-one-out permanent exhumation and resale.
No more RIP in Southwark.
Photo: South London Press May 2008.
Southwark Council has denied to the Evening Standard it is committed to the mass exhumation of the remains of thousands of dead buried in the Camberwell Cemeteries, to sell off their graves as ‘new’ burial plots for profit.
For a video about Southwark Council’s Cemetery Reuse Strategy, a Southwark Council spokesperson told the Evening Standard “we are not committed to reuse”.
But the truth in fact is that in 2012, Southwark Council Cabinet legally agreed and adopted a Grave Reuse and Reclamation Burial Strategy based on the 'reuse' of all possible graves - the largest grave 'reuse' project in UK history.
Southwark Council’s own website states:
“The council’s cemetery strategy prioritises the re-use and reclamation of public and private graves (the law states that graves older than 75 years could be re-used for burial).”
Southwark's project is already well under way.
Over a million pounds has already been spent planning and implementing the first stages of Southwark’s Cemetery Reuse Strategy.
Already in Underhill Road Wood, Camberwell Old Cemetery, acres of hawthorn hedgerow and meadows have been ripped out and hundreds of trees felled to mound over tens of thousands of public graves for ‘new’ private graves.
This is to be followed by the exhumation of thousands of private graves over 75 years old in both cemeteries.
The Council has also stated they are already in negotiations with Whitehall for more powers to dig up the dead in the Camberwell Cemeteries. The law would also apply to Nunhead Cemetery too.
So Southwark Council certainly IS committed to the ‘reuse’ of graves.
So why would they lie to the press ?
Southwark’s Cemetery Reuse Project is so horrific, they haven't even consulted the families and friends of those buried - as they are supposed to do - because they know how appalling and unpopular their plans are.
Southwark Council does not allow any opposition to its plans.
Southwark stated to the Evening Standard: "We will only proceed with reuse after consultation and legal guidance."
Yet they are already proceeding - and not only have they not consulted with families and residents but they also haven’t told them the truth
“Southwark’s whole project is horrific,” said John Repsch. “I wouldn't have found out about it if it hadn’t been for the Save Southwark Woods campaign. My grandmother is buried in a common grave in Camberwell New Cemetery. Southwark Councillors are acting like grave robbers. This is theft - of my grandmother’s grave, of our family history, of the respect and dignity I want my grandmother to have in death.”
This industrial scale 'reuse' of graves has never beent tried before. The law requires councils to consult the wishes of families and residents as to whether they agree, before mounding over or excavating graves for 'reuse',
An extraordinary 1,600 objections to Southwark’s planning comittee were received from families and residents. More than 11,000 people have signed the petition calling for Southwark to stop the destruction and make the Camberwell Cemeteries Nature Reserves like Nunhead Cemetery.
But Southwark Council's Leader Peter John ploughs on, in direct opposition to thousands of residents' wishes, while the Council denies it is reusing graves at all.
"Why is Southwark denying they are already in the middle of a major reuse of graves programme?” Asked Blanche Cameron spokesperson for Save Southwark Woods.
“Why don’t they just come clean and admit they want to dig up the dead for profit? They must stop this project immediately and preserve the woods and graves for nature, history, people and the future.”
This is a test case for all UK cemeteries.
Councils across the country will be watching to see if Southwark succeeds in bulldozing its way over thousands of residents’ objections, to carry out mass exhumation - 'reuse' of graves.
If so, all UK cemeteries may be at risk.
Below: Flooded 'new' graves over the dead in Camberwell Old Cemetery:
In 2013, Southwark ripped out acres of hedgerow, trees and meadows to mound over thousands of graves, sold off as 800 'new' burial plots - without telling purchasers the new plots were over the dead