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Southwark council are proposing to develop woodland, wooded areas, green space and some virgin land at Southwark Woods at Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries.


Not for the 2,200 burial plots first indicated to residents by Southwark, but for 6,000.


They say this would involve the felling of dozens of mature trees and clearing woodland, leaving trees to edge a sanitised landscape with thousands of graves.


Concerned residents formed the campaign Save Southwark Woods a month ago to oppose the council's plans and defend the woods. In four weeks, they have gathered hundreds of signatures on paper and over 3,000 online, and more support is coming in each day from public figures, politicians of all persuasions and national organisations.


There is no doubt that this powerful resident-driven opposition comes as an unwelcome challenge to Southwark’s late-in-the-day public engagement exercise, but residents fear they are not being told the whole story...


Do Southwark residents really require 6,000 burial plots? The council has always claimed that the massive scale of this development was driven by public demand, from a consultation back in 2011/12.


But as one resident puts it, how can a 4 year old survey where 63% of respondents lived in Lewisham reflect what Southwark people want now?


Last night, in a live interview with Nunhead resident and comedian Lewis Schaffer on Nunhead American Radio ( Cllr Vicki Mills said that the old consultation was driving this development.


However, she then said that the revenue from these 6,000 new sites (at a minimum £2,000 revenue per plot, £6,000 for non-Southwark residents) was needed, to pay for the costs of maintaining Nunhead Cemetery Local Nature Reserve.


Everyone accepts we are in straightened times economically. But surely this is robbing Peter to pay Paul? Residents fought to protect nature at Nunhead Cemetery, but are now being told  woodlands that are registered as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) must be dug up to pay for it? It doesn't make sense...


Southwark also say that this development is driven by the need to remediate contaminated land. Thousands of tonnes of construction waste were illegally dumped over years under the council’s watch from the end of the 1990s to the early 2000s.


However, the contamination in one area, known as Area Z, is only about a third of the woodlands planned for development at Camberwell Old. All the woodland at Camberwell Old Cemetery as well as wooded areas and some virgin land at Camberwell New are set for development.


Again more confusion as Cllr Vicky Mills claimed that resident campaigners were misleading people, that there was no virgin land planned for development. However, at a meeting on site at Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries on 8th February, Southwark's Head of Public Realm Des Waters showed concerned residents areas including woodland, wooded areas - and a small parcel of virgin land next to One Tree Hill Nature Reserve – which the council also proposes to develop.


With acres of valuable, magical woodlands at stake, all this confusion does not restore faith in the council. Perhaps the officers involved need to explain in more depth to councillors - and the public - what exactly it is they are planning?


And perhaps the public should be consulted about whether this is what they actually want, before the council is allowed to apply to itself for planning permission. At the moment, it’s as clear as mud.

Camberwell Old Cemetery woods by Save Southwark Woods


Confusion reigns, as residents respond to Southwark’s plans to develop woodlands for 6,000 burial plots

17th February