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Save Southwark Woods campaigners have today written to Southwark council leader Peter John to ask how the council has arrived at its estimated costs of £5.2M for its burial development scheme at Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries.


Save Southwark Woods estimate that to get all the permissions and changes of law and to physically execute the plan could potentially cost as much as £15 million pounds or more. The cost of profiling and getting permission for the exhumation of an estimated 2,000 graves could cost as much as £6M alone.


And the £15M estimated figures don't include the loss of economic value of the acres of precious woodland. They don’t include lost opportunities for social and environmental benefits from a 100 acre nature reserve. And the £15M doesn’t include the loss of historic monuments and social heritage, not to mention the horror of digging up or covering over the graves of over 300,000 of London's poor by a Labour-controlled council.


“We are concerned that the council’s £5.2M figure does not take into account all costs and the final budget could be a lot more. We have had to estimate costs as we do not have the council’s figures. But we fear the proposals could cost the borough as much as £15M, possibly more, while destroying over 10 acres of wild woods and hundreds of old graves," said SSW campaigner Blanche Cameron.


If actual costs are anywhere near the £15M figure feared, this could mean each of the 4,800 burial plots created could cost the council over £3,000 each – more than Southwark’s own sale price.


If this is the case, SSW believes it would be hard to call the council’s proposals good value for tax payers’ money.


Save Southwark Woods campaigners will be presenting a public petition from over 7,500 people to the full council assembly on July 8th to declare Southwark Woods nature reserves.


Surely, if only for financial reasons, this project should not go ahead.



Dear Peter John,


SSW are concerned that the full costs of the development proposed at Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries might be considerably higher than the £5.2M stated by the council, potentially as much as £15M or more.


We believe the public and elected representatives have a right to know what the full costs to the tax payer are likely to be, before agreeing to this proposal.


Would you therefore please provide us with the following information (SSW figures are only estimates, as we do not have access to Southwark’s budget, cost benefit analysis or business plan for the development).


1. Cost of changing the law to be allowed to exhume hundreds, perhaps thousands of old graves and remove their memorials, including the costs of finding existing family members and seeking their permission.

SSW Estimated cost: £250,000


2. Cost of profiling all existing graves in Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries categorising their age and ownership status to assess their potential for exhumation.

SSW Estimated Cost: £250,000


3. Cost of exhumation of many hundreds, if not thousands, of graves.

SSW Estimated Cost: 2,000 graves, £5.8M*


4. Cost of discussions with and applying to the Church of England via the Diocese of Southwark and local church representatives for permission to develop cemeteries under their jurisdiction.

SSW Estimated Cost: £50,000


5. Costs of the Public Consultation in 2011-2012, which you say is the basis of this burial strategy.

SSW Estimated Cost: £1.2M


6. Costs of the current public engagement process including stakeholder group meetings

SSW Estimated Cost: £200,000


7. Cost of applying for planning permission to Southwark’s department of planning

SSW Estimated Cost: £50,000


8. Costs of Biodiversity, Habitat, Tree and other surveys by ecology consultants, London Wildlife Trust, etc.

SSW Estimated Cost: £150,000


9. Costs of Landscape Design consultants’ fees

SSW Estimated Cost: £260,000**


10. Cost of making roads outside the two cemeteries accessible to lorries and excavators for the works

SSW Estimated Cost: £750,000


11. Cost of repairing damage to those roads from access by lorries and excavators after the works

SSW Estimated Cost: £750,000


12. Cost of upgrading access roads within the cemeteries to receive the increase in vehicle access

SSW Estimated Cost: £500,000


13. Cost of works to the Old Nursery site in Camberwell New Cemetery

SSW Estimated Cost: £1M


14. Cost of excavating and “cleaning” on site approx. 8,000 tonnes of illegally dumped rubble in ‘Area Z’ woodlands

SSW Estimated Cost: £1M


15. Cost of disposal of a further 4,000 tonnes of illegally dumped rubble via hundreds of truckloads from so-called ‘Area Z’ woodlands

SSW Estimated Cost: £1.5M


16. Costs associated with the potential removal of WW2 explosives on site

SSW Estimated Cost: £500,000***


17. Cost of expenses defending legal challenges by Southwark residents

SSW Estimated Cost: £1M


18. Cost to Southwark Council's reputation for the expensive destruction of beautiful woods and monuments

SSW Estimated Cost: Priceless


Over 7,500 citizens are calling via public petition for the cemeteries and woodland to be protected and declared nature reserves.


Tower Hamlets council recently bought a long lease for land at Kemnal Park cemetery for multi-faith burial provision.


Southwark has the opportunity to offer the same nearby burial provision for all citizens seeking it for a fraction of what are feared to be the full costs of this scheme, and at the same time create a fantastic 100 acre nature reserve here at Southwark Woods with benefit for generations to come.


We look forward to your response.




The Save Southwark Woods campaign team


* Based on a recent case (refused permission) that estimated the cost of the exhumation of 1,200 graves at around £3.5M (approx. £2,900 each)

** 5% of current total budget sum of £5.2M

*** A WW2 explosive was recently uncovered at Camberwell Old Cemetery, and there may be more. Costs estimated by SSW are to have the required bomb disposal expert on site over the months of work proposed at ‘Area Z’ and elsewhere.

Camberwell Old Cemetery woods Grade 1 SINC


Southwark Council burial plans could cost three times as much as the £5.2M quoted – and possibly more

4th June 2015

Cemetree Day