Just five months into the job, ‘eco’ Mayor Sadiq Khan has given the green light to cut down woods and trees across all of London's cemeteries, for 'new’ burial plots.
London boroughs claim they need space to bury the dead in the inner city. To get it the nature that has grown up above the old graves must be cleared.
Khan made protecting and expanding London’s trees and green spaces central to his election campaign.
Khan also supported the London National Park City project which includes protecting and expanding London’s urban forest.
“I am passionate about the amazing green spaces and views,” Khan’s manifesto stated. “It is on these green spaces that our city’s biodiversity and wildlife is most concentrated, our children play and learn about nature, and where we Londoners go to relax. With huge pressures on land for housing and other uses, it is essential that we maintain these spaces, and even expand upon them.”
But now it seems Khan's election promises aren’t worth the recycled paper they were written on. Especially with money to be made.
Khan now claims he cannot “intervene to prevent the council implementing their plans for these sites” – to cut down London’s woods to sell inner city burial plots.
Almost 10,000 people die early each year because of London’s appalling air pollution.
The London Plan supports protecting London’s vital trees and woods, for air pollution, nature, climate change, and Londoners’ health and wellbeing.
The cancellation of burial in perpetuity in 2007 paved the way for councils to dig up all old graves and sell them as ‘new’ burial plots. But councils are supposed to ask communities and families what they want. Thousands of Southwark residents and relatives are dead against the plans.
In February, against huge public opposition, Southwark Council cleared two acres of inner city woods – hundreds of trees – at Camberwell Old Cemetery. More than ten acres of SINC woods, a haven for bats, owls and people, are still for the chop at Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries.
All to sell ‘new’ inner city burial plots.
And Khan agrees to the destruction.
The letter from Khan’s PR department to the Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries admitted:
“Although plans for the cemeteries will result in the removal of a significant number of mature trees, the council has committed to managing both sites in a way which is consistent with their designation as Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation.”
But all woods and trees help clean London’s filthy air, not just mature trees. And hundreds of acres are at risk as London's cemeteries are some of the most biodiverse places in the capital.
Khan ran on a ‘green’ ticket, to protect London’s woods, trees and green spaces and clean up London's poisonous air. Now he's showing his true Blue Labour colours.
We implore Khan to keep his election promise and save our inner city cemetery woods and make them nature reserves.
“People voted for Khan believing he would protect London’s trees.” Says Friends of Camberwell Cemetery Save Southwark Woods spokesperson Blanche Cameron.
“Now he’s selling out. Will Sadiq keep his election promise and stop the destruction of hundreds of acres of trees and nature across London's cemeteries? Or will he prove to be just another cynical politician?”
The Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries are fighting to save the woods and graves of all London's cemeteries and make them nature reserves for people, nature and for London’s future.
www.SaveSouthwarkWoods.org.uk | firstname.lastname@example.org | @southwarkwoods | Facebook Page Save Southwark Woods
In a nutshell:
Trees, woods and green spaces too valuable to be used for burial plots - we need more not less, for health and well-being and climate change adaptation
History and heritage are vital to our understanding of ourselves
Burial over the dead is not an option for many - and discriminates against many residents' burial needs. Plot buyers are not being told
The history and heritage of those buried and their families must be respected and preserved
Fair burial provision is available on the edge of the city at a fraction of the environmental, financial and social cost
Save our woods and graves and make them Memorial Park Nature Reserves, with respect for the dead and history, woods and trees for the living.
Above: Mayor Sadiq Khan celebrating London's trees at City Hall with the Tree Charter as part of London Tree Week in May
Below: The vandalism for private burial plots begins. Two acres of Grade 1 SINC woods felled in February at Camberwell Old Cemetery, and some of the beautiful ten acres of woods, graves and memorials still under threat from Southwark's chainsaws and diggers
The response from Mayor Sadiq Khan's office:
Dear Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries,
Thank you for your correspondence to the Mayor.
There is a London-wide shortage of burial sites. All London Boroughs have been developing cemetery strategies to ensure that there is sufficient supply of burial spaces based on the principle of proximity to local communities and the different requirements for types of provision. This is consistent with London Plan policy (Policy 7.3 Burial Spaces). Section 74 of the London Local Authorities Act (2007) allows the re-use of graves in certain circumstances; London Plan policy encourages boroughs to actively examine the potential for re-use to help address the acute shortage of supply in London.
Southwark Council's cemetery strategy was subject to public consultation. The Mayor does not have any formal powers to intervene to prevent the council implementing their plans for these sites. Although the plans for the cemeteries will result in the removal of a significant number of mature trees, the council has committed to managing both sites in a way which is consistent with their designation as Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation.
The Mayor is committed to strengthening the protection for London's green spaces and plans to improve London Plan policy in the forthcoming review of the plan. The Mayor will be working with the boroughs to ensure that where there are competing uses for existing green space (as in the case at the Camberwell cemeteries) matters relating to public access and ecology are part of a fully integrated approach to the design and management of these spaces.
The Mayor has recently announced a range of measures to tackle London's acute air pollution resulting from emissions from diesel vehicles and other sources of particulates. He also recognises the important role that trees and vegetation have in cleaning London's air, and he aims to increase the amount of tree cover in London over time to help deal with chronic air quality problems that that are common to all large urban areas. Due to London's complex land-use needs this does not mean that all existing trees can be protected. However, the Mayor aims to increase protection, and accelerate new planting, through improved London Plan policy and projects he will initiate during his Mayoral term.
Public Liaison Officer
Greater London Authority