Yesterday, Save Southwark Woods held a funeral for the first trees felled. It was a moving occasion, with the trunk of one of the felled trees carried by pall bearers in place of a coffin.
On Monday, Southwark Council began felling trees and clearing undergrowth at Area Z Camberwell Old Cemetery. This rarest of urban landscapes, two acres of natural Grade 1 SINC woodland, is vital for local flooding defence, good air quality, wild nature and a myriad of other services vital to people’s health, well-being and security.
As much of the land is consecrated, a hearing by the Diocese of Southwark’s Consistory Court into the Council’s plans is set for late spring, due to receiving over 800 objections to the plans.
But the Council has started felling without Church permission, saying it is only felling mature trees and clearing SINC woodland on unconsecrated ground.
Residents came to mourn the loss of nature and also the graves soon to be swallowed up and forgotten by this destructive development.
Musicians played a slow dirge as residents led by the Grim Reaper carried the felled tree to the area where the destruction is taking place.
Harriet Harman MP QC has written to Southwark Council strongly advising them to stop work until an independent drainage engineer’s report into their plans.
Zac Goldsmith MP is also asking Mayor Boris Johnson to intervene.
This week protesters blocked chippers and lorries entering the site for a while but could not hold back the Council’s machinery.
Southwark Council wants to create 700 burial plots over the graves of 48,000 of London’s poor and Commonwealth War Graves. They want to drive a road over private graves yet to have their burial rights extinguished.
Residents on Ryedale Road below the woods have been flooded by the waterlogged Camberwell Old Cemetery before as its sloping woodland sits on a thick layer of clay. Campaigners and residents are very concerned that the removal of hundreds of trees and undergrowth currently absorbing thousands of gallons of rainwater will increase flooding to their homes.
But Southwark Council appears to be ploughing on regardless of thousands of residents’ very real fears.
Burial is available in cemeteries nearby such as Kemnal Park – where many Southwark residents already have to go as burial is not provided for them within the borough, contrary to the Council’s claims.
In an era where governments around the world are calling for the protection of natural habitat because of the vital free services it provides, Southwark Council and its Leader Peter John appear to be rowing backwards against the tide, determinedly ignoring the advice of scientists, politicians, campaigners, and thousands of local residents.
Please write to Harriet Harman, Zac Goldsmith, Mayor Boris Johnson, mayoral hopeful Sadiq Khan and his environment advisor Murad Qureshi to intervene and call for this misguided, outdated, wasteful and destructive project to stop:
Please also contact the Diocese of Southwark requesting that they urgently intervene to request Southwark Council to stop work until the hearing into their plans this Spring.
Diocesan Chancellor Philip Petchey
And sign the petition to save the graves and woods of the Camberwell Cemeteries
www.SaveSouthwarkWoods.org.uk | [email protected] | @southwarkwoods | Facebook Page Save Southwark Woods