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Southwark is cutting down trees and disturbing graves without permission from the Church, says Diocese of Southwark.


Southwark Council applied for permission to scrape clean acres in Camberwell Old Cemetery for new burial plots - but started before they got it.


Felling trees and disturbing graves on consecrated ground requires Church of England permission - called “faculty”.


Church Court will decide to give permission or not - but much of ‘controversial’ felling has already been done.


Diocese warns Southwark in strong letter Council proceeds “at their own risk”. Could be asked to restore.


Still works have not ceased - Council acting with typical defiance.


Largest grave mounding and excavation project in UK history for all of London races ahead to create Super Cemeteries.


The Diocese of Southwark has warned Southwark Council that the local authority did not have permission to cut down trees and disturb graves at Camberwell Old Cemetery.



Southwark Council applied for Church permission to scrape clean 2.5 acres of woods, thickets and meadows at so-called Area Z for new burial plots in December 2015. But they couldn’t wait for permission - called “faculty” in the Church - to start.


Felling trees and disturbing graves on consecrated ground requires Church of England permission. A Church Court hearing is to be held in late spring because of the ‘controversial’ nature of Southwark’s project, according to the Church.


In a meeting with Save Southwark Woods on 27th January, the Diocese said it had been overwhelmed with more than 800 objections to Southwark plans to cut down acres of woods and mound over tens of thousands of public (so-called pauper’s) graves in the Southwark Council owned and operated cemetery.


Save Southwark Woods was copied to the Church’s letter sent to Parks and Open Spaces Manager Rebecca Towers. Paul Morris Diocesan Registrar warned Ms.Towers:


“If Southwark Council does go ahead with works in Camberwell Old Cemetery in advance of a Faculty it must be ‘at their own risk’.”  

Still works have not ceased - Southwark Council appears to be acting with typical defiance. Barrier fencing has been installed to prevent public scrutiny and independent observers have been denied access.


No wonder the Council is marching ahead. The official nesting season starts on 1st March. The next stage is to excavate 12,000 tonnes of soil and rubble, impossible without first clearing the woods.


These cemetery development works are part of the largest grave mounding and excavation project in UK history. The goal is to create ‘Super Cemeteries’ for London over the bodies of Southwark’s dead.


Council Leader Peter John has said that as burial space in London is at a premium, new burial space could be created by mounding over and digging up graves in Camberwell Old Cemetery in Honor Oak and Camberwell New Cemetery in East Dulwich.


"If we start reusing grave space as other cemeteries are doing, this is potentially a long-term answer to the problem of London running out of grave space." (24th February 2015, BBC London Radio)


Save Southwark Woods campaigners are fighting to stop the Super Cemeteries, fighting to save over 12 acres of woods that have grown over public and private graves, and preserve the heritage and history for generations to come. More than 10,000 have signed their petition, over 3,500 of whom are from Southwark.


“Southwark Council needs to stop right now.” said Save Southwark Woods spokesperson Blanche Cameron. “They have been told they don’t have permission for what they are doing. If they don’t stop, Rebecca Towers, Peter John and Darren Merrill, Councillor leading the cemeteries project, will be responsible.


Save Southwark Woods will be asking the Church for records of all communications with Southwark Council regarding the Camberwell Cemeteries.


The letter from the Diocese is published here for download.

Southwark working ‘without permission’ says Church of England

23rd February 2016    |    [email protected]    |    @southwarkwoods    |    Facebook Page Save Southwark Woods


Watch the video of the latest destruction of woods at Area Z Camberwell Old Cemetery

by Southwark Council


Click to download the letter from the Diocese