Southwark scorns campaign group’s efforts
Last week, Southwark used its website to issue a scornful statement about the residents’ campaign – belittling claims by ‘so-called Southwark Woods’ campaigners that local ‘woodland’ was being unduly cleared . If they are not woodland – minimum 15% canopy cover – why does Southwark have Woodland Management Plans for them?
Save Southwark Woods feels this attempt to belittle and undermine a democratic right to protest council plans is disgraceful. Further, Southwark attempted to misrepresent the campaign, saying that it was only concerned with the contaminated Area Z. This is clearly untrue, as shown by all communications from the group on their website, online petition, Facebook Page and twitter account, as well as in emails with the council.
The proposals affect all the woodland in both cemeteries and the name Save Southwark Woods was chosen specifically to cover all and any woodlands in Southwark under threat, with the current focus on Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries. Southwark are clearly rattled.
The Public Meeting
The Public Meeting this Wednesday 7.00pm – 8.30pm 11th February at Honor Oak Baptist Church (info below), has been called in response to local anger at the lack of a formal consultation. It will give residents the first opportunity to discuss Southwark council’s proposals, and clearly state what they want.
In a ten minute presentation, SSW will be demanding:
•A full and formally constituted public consultation of Southwark residents on the council’s plans to develop the woods
•That these woods be recognised as the Local Nature Reserves that they, and as so many London cemeteries have now been declared
•That no new burials take place and that they be managed for nature and public amenity
•That Southwark pursue alternative burial provision outside the borough or in conjunction with other boroughs, as many boroughs already do.
However, according to the council, this Public Meeting is still only considered public engagement and not a consultation . Residents are sure that Southwark would like this whole issue dead and buried. But SSW will continue fighting to save this woodland for the living, until it is safe.
After all, once it’s gone, it’s gone.
WEDNESDAY 11TH FEBRUARY
7.00pm – 8.30pm
HONOR OAK BAPTIST CHURCH 108 FOREST HILL ROAD LONDON SE22 0SG
With council proposals available to view and comment on from 2.00pm
PLEASE COME TO THE PUBLIC MEETING AND PROTEST THESE PROPOSALS
www.SaveSouthwarkWoods.org.uk | [email protected] | @southwarkwoods | Facebook Page Save Southwark Woods
Something is happening in the woods of Southwark, and it’s not good news for nature or people, say residents from the campaign Save Southwark Woods.
Woodlands in the south of the borough at Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries are under threat. Southwark council is planning to fell dozens of mature trees and cram in thousands of new graves cheek by jowl – starting with a first phase of 2,200 burial plots later this year, and 6,000 planned in total.
No public mandate
But local residents are up in arms, and say LB Southwark has no mandate from their electorate to destroy these woods. A public consultation in 2011 canvassed residents near the Lewisham border, where plans to take back Honor Oak Recreation Ground, and/or develop on Camberwell New Cemetery nursery gardens provoked local outrage.
Respondents – 63% from Lewisham, 35% from Southwark – rejected the proposal to lose the Rec, and residents fought the council hard – and won . So Southwark turned its head towards the woodlands at Camberwell Old and New.
The first most residents around Camberwell Old Cemetery knew of the council’s intentions was waking up last summer to diggers clearing woodland in an area backing onto gardens on Ryedale Road. Shocked, they started trying to get information from the council about their plans, which proved surprisingly difficult. The council attempted to carry out a brief public information exercise over Christmas, which shared little new data. In frustration, residents formed Save Southwark Woods – to oppose Southwark’s brutal development proposals and to demand a valid public consultation process.
Woodlands are the lungs of London, and these in Southwark provide valuable habitat to soprano and pipistrelle bats, hedgehogs, stag beetles and other protected species. Camberwell Old Cemetery is a Grade 1 Site of Importance for Nature Conservation and both cemeteries are links in the South London Green Chain. The woods also store storm water, filter air pollution and help keep the city cool in hot summers, in a capital that now regularly experiences early deaths from heat stress and respiratory disease .
One part of the woodland slated for development at Camberwell Old Cemetery (Area Z) is still contaminated from illegal fly tipping under the council’s watch, from approximately 1996-2003. This cost Southwark (tax payers) £3.5M for a court case at the time and more in land remediation costs since. Area Z is fenced off, although large gaps in the fence to this day provide easy access for children, dogs and anyone else wishing to enter from the rest of the woodlands, which might be concerning for those worried about the asbestos.
What is driving this development of the woods?
Is there really this much demand from Southwark residents for 6,000 new burial plots in woodlands and on green space? No-one knows – 63% of respondents to Southwark’s consultation were from Lewisham, and even that consultation showed 77% of respondents would prefer to be cremated. Southwark has no legal obligation to provide burial space and many boroughs make provision either with other boroughs or outside the city, retaining greenspace for other, more valuable and longer-term benefits. In 2012, Southwark stated they would explore out-of-borough solutions but have been strangely silent on this ever since . So why the urge to increase the number of burial plots so extensively, without pausing to consult their own electorate?
The cost of dying
Save Southwark Woods are sure this has nothing to do with the financial value of a burial plot. The cost of a standard burial plot and twenty five year lease starts at around £2,000 for an adult Southwark resident, £6,500 non-Southwark resident, excluding coffin, service, headstone or other fees . The value to local funeral directors, a strong local business lobby, is not known but the average total cost of a funeral in the UK in 2014 was £7,600.
Multiply these figures by 6,000 and it starts to look like a sizeable business. But the value lost to Southwark and London residents in terms of air pollution filtration, storm water storage, mental and physical health and educational value, let alone access to nature and valuable habitat, has not been calculated.
These proposals also contradict Southwark’s own New Southwark Plan, currently going through consultation, which highlights the value of Green Infrastructure, natural areas and trees in climate change adaptation, storm water storage, air pollution and improvement of neighbourhood areas.
Residents feel strongly about these woods and local opposition is now fierce against the development. In two weeks, Save Southwark Woods has gathered over 2,300 signatures online and around 400 signatures so far on paper.
“We support the residents who protected Honor Oak Rec for the future,” says Anne Stanesby from SSW.
“We will fight just as hard – if not more so – to protect the woodlands at Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries.”
Camberwell Old Cemetery woods by Save Southwark Woods
Southwark can't see the woods for the trees
Press Release 2
10th February 2015