East Dulwich (Mobile) Forum

Southwark Plans for Camberwell Old & New Cemeteries.

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Previous threads seem to have generated more heat than light, including personal accusations and counter accusations, so in an attempt to bring discussion back to the detail of the Councils’ proposals and implementation:-

The story so far:

Southwark Council, who manages these two municipal cemeteries, created in the latter half of the 19th century from pastoral (meadow) lands bought from farmers, plans to extend their use for burials by starting to bury in areas not previously used and (eventually) re-using grave space, as allowed by law. Their proposals cover only those areas which form designated parts of the two cemeteries, although bits of these have not been used previously for burial.

Their initial focus is on areas which have been allowed to run wild (following a period when the council abrogated its responsibilities to look after the cemeteries properly) or which have been taken out of use (concreting). This work initially involves clearing scrub growth (and some older, intentionally planted trees) and areas of contamination following fly-tipping. Some of this work takes place over 19th century graves, both private and ‘public’ (formally known as paupers graves).

For private graves (the majority of recent burials) the law requires that no grave be disturbed (other than for new family burials) for re-use in less than 75 years after the last burial. Where private graves are re-used the normal rules are for ‘lift and deepen’ where the original occupants are buried lower down (but in the same spot), with new occupants buried above. In other London cemeteries it is common to ‘turn’ the grave marker so that the original inscriptions now are on the back of the gravestone.

Some of the land is ‘consecrated’ (particularly public grave areas) – the Diocese of Southwark must give a ‘Faculty’ for consecrated areas to allow what is described as ‘substantial alterations’ – which includes the removal of any remains for re-interment in consecrated ground (which is their current policy regarding public graves), the disturbance of grave furniture and the creation of new paths or roadways. Some actions (in practical terms ‘gardening’ and tree management) do not require such a Faculty, nor would clearance of contamination and fly-tipping residue where this did not disturb graves or grave markers.

The council’s plans include plans for replanting trees (though these will tend to be saplings rather than mature trees). Over time they suggest any net tree loss will be minimal, though this probably ignores removal of current spindly sapling growth. It is inevitable that some wild habitats will be removed or substantially altered, although it should be noted that different habitats will consequently arrive. Last year, for instance, in the existing managed areas of Camberwell Old Cemetery a substantial portion was allowed to grow into mature hay meadow during the summer. The existing areas which have been let run wild in the cemeteries are limited (i.e. most of the cemeteries are already fully managed).

Camberwell Old Cemetery is 11.62 hectares, Camberwell New, 12.2 or 58.86 acres together. The council’s current plans for removal of trees and scrub growth etc. cover 3.12 acres in the Old Cemetery (not all of which is tree covered) and 0.54 acres in the New Cemetery. Combined that is 6% of the total area of both cemeteries.

There will, of course, over time, be substantial re-use of burial space within the existing properly managed cemetery areas, this being achieved by a combination of re-interment for public burials and what is called ‘mounding’ (raising the soil levels to allow new burial) as well as lift and deepen for private graves. This work (in existing managed areas) will not, over time, have significant effect on changing habitat.

A pressure group (calling itself ‘Save Southwark Woods’ – although there has never been an entity or area actually called ‘Southwark Woods’) is committed to attempt (a) to stop council works in reclaiming areas of the cemetery not properly maintained (b) to stop all future burials in Southwark and (c) to allow the whole cemetery areas (Old and New Cemetery) to become wilded and overgrown. They claim this will create a ‘nature reserve’ – although who will run it and how it would be funded has never been made clear. There is already a Nature Reserve in part of One Tree Hill (which is adjacent to the New Cemetery); Nunhead cemetery, now ‘closed’ for burials, is treated as a Nature Reserve – so we already have two of these locally; and there are many other local areas of woodland and park. Both Old and New cemeteries are already classified (in their entirety, being mainly managed areas) by the Council as Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs). The Council claims (and it is in their gift) that SINC status would be maintained following the proposed developments.

Arguments the protesters have used (over and above the ‘loss of habitat’ – which is accurate but perhaps has been disproportionate – as only 6% of the land is involved with that) include biological contamination from burials and flooding – as well as ‘disrespect’ towards the existing dead. Their main belief appears to be that if their views prevail the areas will become new parkland for them to enjoy (although the area is already well provided for green spaces of different types). How this parkland would be managed, by whom and at whose cost has not been discussed by them, nor are any proposals made for this.

The Council’s responses to the protest so far can be seen here:-
[www.southwark.gov.uk]

The 2013 Guidance on reuse of cemeteries in London (a .pdf) can be downloaded from here:-
[www.google.co.uk]

(NB – Summary written by someone who, living very close to one of the cemeteries, broadly supports the Council’s policy, on the assumption that it is carried through as promised and sensitively).



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit was 2016:02:15:15:51:24 by Penguin68.

Thank you for that summary, Penguin68, that is really useful.
Posting this on behalf of Blanche who hasn't been able to log in today.



Summary from the Save Southwark Woods campaign:

Southwark Council has started the largest ever UK project to excavate all private graves over 75 years old and mound over all public graves at Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries, a total of 98 acres.

These cemeteries are nearly full. In June 2012, Southwark decided to mound over and excavate all public and private graves and remove all the old headstones and memorials for ‘new’ burial plots.

In 2013, the Council cut down a beautiful ancient hawthorn hedgerow and mounded over public graves for rows of new graves along the Woodvale boundary of Camberwell Old Cemetery (Forest Hill Road, East Dulwich). Every new grave there is over the public graves of local people.

Now, in February 2016, the Council has just cleared 2.5 acres of Grade 1 SINC woodland in the corner of the Old Cemetery on Underhill and Ryedale Roads. Next, illegally dumped building rubble is to be excavated, crushed and used to mound over the public graves of 48,000 Londoners and six areas of Commonwealth War Graves, and 740 private burial plots sold over the top of them.

About 12 acres (now 9.5 acres) of Grade 1 SINC woods are to be cut down in the Old Cemetery. The woods have grown over and around the public and private graves.

The next area the Council has given itself permission to clear is on the steep slope of One Tree Hill in Camberwell New Cemetery (Brenchley Gardens) next to the Nature Reserve boundary. Dozens of native broadleaf woodland trees including oaks and wildlife-supporting scrub are to be destroyed for 140 private graves, less than 8 months’ burial.

In 2022, after all public grave areas have been mounded over, the Council plans to excavate and rebury all private graves over 75 years old, removing headstones and other memorials.

Save Southwark Woods is campaigning for the woods, graves and headstones to be preserved and protected for the benefit they bring to current and future generations.

Blanche Cameron
Save Southwark Woods
savesouthwarkwoods@gmail.com

Go to our website for more information:
[www.savesouthwarkwoods.org.uk]

To read Southwarks Burial Strategy
: [www.southwark.gov.uk]
Once again the campaign is using the misleading phrase "Grade 1 SINC woods". The entire site is a "Site of Borough Importance for Nature Conservation (Grade I)" and according to the council is a SINC because its importance comes mostly from its location and extent as an area of semi natural open space within an otherwise built up residential area. There is nothing specific about the “woods” in any of this.
Who is Blanche Cameron?
I googled her.

[youtu.be]


Admin, I'm assuming as this is in the public domain with the two names on it that it is OK to post here, but if not appropriate please remove it.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit was 2016:02:17:22:15:03 by Sue.

at Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries, a total of 98 acres

Actually the two cemeteries together are 23.72 hectares or 58.85 acres - this is an overstatement of 40 acres - close to doubling the actual size.

About 12 acres (now 9.5 acres) of Grade 1 SINC woods are to be cut down in the Old Cemetery The council state that the area to be cleared, not all of which has trees on it, in the Old Cemetery is 3.12 acres - a third of the claim here. There is no such thing as a Grade 1 SINC wood - the whole cemetery (including the fully managed area), is classed by the Council as Grade 1 SINC.

The cemeteries are to be used as cemeteries - including legal re-use.

Save Southwark Woods is campaigning for the woods, graves and headstones to be preserved and protected for the benefit they bring to current and future generations.

The 'woods' account for approximately 6% of the cemetery land. The memorials of recently deceased (up to 75 years) will be preserved (for now) - so current generations can mourn. The re-use will also allow future generations to use the cemeteries for what they were intended - burying loved-ones - not as park-land. The main 'benefit' gained by future generations from burial memorials is the information they contain, this must be preserved under law. The actual memorials (the oldest ones) are often broken (particularly in the wild area, where they are also unstable and dangerous), many have little or no aesthetic value and are increasingly becoming unreadable.

As I have said elsewhere, the most likely result of the objectors achieving their aim is that the areas will be sealed and unvisitable for health and safety reasons (not body-fluid contamination but headstones falling on you, or you falling into graves opened by tree-roots).
Save Southwark Woods have posted this on their website.

It reprints Southwark Council's answers to FAQs and adds SSWs answers.

[savesouthwarkwoods.moonfruit.com]
> Save Southwark Woods have posted this on their website.

Southwark Woods can't operate a keyboard.

Who is the responsible person?
edhistory Wrote:

-------------------------------------------------------
> > Save Southwark Woods have posted this on their
> website.
>
> Southwark Woods can't operate a keyboard.
>
> Who is the responsible person?


And does he or she actually exist? Or is s/he a figment of somebody's imagination, a bit like Southwark Woods?

[www.eastdulwichforum.co.uk]
Can I suggest that those people who oppose the council's plans for the cemeteries, in putting forward counter arguments, do their own research. It appears clear that some at least of the information presented in the ant-campaign is tainted by excess and dissimulation for comic effect by a comedian who is using a character (either 'Brian' or 'Lewis') as part of his comedy act. What 'Lewis' says or writes I'm afraid cannot be trusted. There are good arguments to place against the council's plans, of course (I don't necessarily agree with them) - but facts, figures and assertions of truth hitherto made cannot be trusted (e.g the actual areas involved). The ssw response to the council's FAQs - for instance - again make the claim that the church has not given permission for trees to be cut; neither, for that matter have Presidents Putin and Obama - none, in fact, have any authority in this area (the Church would have, in Church lands, which a municipal cemetery isn't). The church could object to tree work which impacted grave furniture in consecrated areas in the cemeteries without a Faculty - although I suspect the Church would welcome the removal of trees growing through graves and monuments.

The bottom line is that what is being promulgated by the campaign cannot be trusted - there (surely must) be some truth in parts of it, but without forensic analysis it is difficult to discern exactly where. It is clear that one at least of the prime movers is claiming a false identity and has shown, on a number of provable occasions, to have lied, ostensibly for comic effect, but how much else is untrue remains a question.

There is a good history of comedians and comic writers inventing to create material (look up J Rochester Sneath & Henry Root - other comic alter egos - and rather funnier IMHO) - it is clear that we are (possibly) in the middle of another such comic creative episode. The problem is, we cannot tell.

Edited to acknowledge that it is unclear whether 'Lewis' or 'Brian' is the invented character.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit was 2016:02:18:11:48:40 by Penguin68.

Penguin68,
I thought the point of this new thread was to discuss the issues and leave the CSI into Lewis Schaffer on the previous thread?
Can we please try and stick to the point?

> The bottom line is that what is being promulgated by the campaign cannot be trusted
I take issue with this.
This is absurd and untrue.
Your post appears to try and polarise the two sides involved in this, those for and those against the plans, which on face value is fair enough. By arbitrarily declaring one sides views as invalid due to the behaviour of one person is creating a false dichotomy, is disingenuous and I see it as an attempt to discredit the views of many due to the actions of one. Why do this?

> Can I suggest that those people who oppose the council's plans for the cemeteries, in putting forward counter arguments, do their own research.
I have, and continue to do so. Please try to appreciate how difficult, and at times soul destroying it is for an individual to try and communicate with a variety of council officials, to repeatedly request public information that should be available, to be ignored, lied to and generally given the run around for over 2 years.

> for instance - again make the claim that the church has not given permission for trees to be cut
Are you talking about the preparatory work during which trees have been cut down, or the second phase, where more trees will be cut down? Southwark claim they don't need permission for their preparatory work. While this surprises me I have no reason to doubt this. I have been asking for more details on which of these 10 trees were the ones identified to be removed, but they were unable to provide this information in time. I suppose now I can have a look and count the stumps, but that doesn't help in ensuring that Southwark are acting correctly according to their own proposals. Southwark do however need, and are still waiting for church permission for the second phase of more tree felling. This is a fact. The hearing is in May.

I have now received some more information from the council. It contains many links, documents and studies which I need to read through and study before posting any findings on here.
As a point of note, my question to them about updated costs from the estimates presented in 2012;

"There cost remains the same as it was in 2012. This can be found in the Cemetery strategy. If you would like a full breakdown of costs or require any other data then please raise an FOI with the information Governance Team at accessinfo@southwark.gov.uk"

I personally find it odd that I can be presented with a dearth of other information, yet to find out costs I would need to raise a FOI request. I also find it odd that estimates form 4 years ago can be described as up to date costings, when the plans have changed over that time. Is it me being unreasonable to expect slightly better and more transparent accounting from a public office spending public money?

In relation to how much these new plots will cost;
"With regards to the cost of burial plots for residents, that will depend on the time for example a plot for 50 years will cost somewhere between £1,000 -£1,500"

At least they are being consistent in producing some of the most expensive burial plots in London.
Hooray.
panda boy - my point was simply that some people were taking propaganda at face value - it is clear that you haven't been, and are clearly rowing your own boat on this.

I am not surprised that getting cost detail is difficult - most institutions protect financial details as much as possible, and in many cases planned and actual costs (particularly for major capital works) tend to drift. It is often better to estimate and only change that estimate when works actually need to be put out to tender. If a budget is then fixed, less work may be tendered for, if flexible then a new cost estimate may then emerge. But a tendering process is itself costly, and should only be undertaken when actually needed. I don't know what the planning inflation rate is on these types of works, but general inflation hasn't been particularly high in this period. It wouldn't surprise me that detailed costing work has not been re-done since the initial plans were formulated.

That's not to say that challenging on cost isn't a reasonable thing to do, just that it may be evidence neither of duplicity or stupidity that up-to-date costs aren't readily available.
Hi Penguin
> - my point was simply that some people were taking propaganda at face value -
I agree entirely, which is why I am taking Southwark to task on this. We may be on different sides of the same coin, but we appear to share a common attitude.

I don't think it's correct to dismiss SSW in it's entirety. I know you and others have taken issue with some of the language and opinions from them. I'm no fan of over-emotive language either, from any side, but as far as i'm aware they do have a valid support base that extends much further than one person.
SSW are also recognised as being part of a 'stakeholder group' by Southwark in this issue, so they, as a group should be afforded some legitimacy at least should they not?
I really don't mean to prolong this aspect of the debate at all, just trying to respond to the points you have raised. I would much prefer to focus on the plans and southwark have conducted themselves, and how they implement them.

Regarding costs, a FOI request has been raised and information has been received, so I will be going through this as well as the other information.

> It wouldn't surprise me that detailed costing work has not been re-done since the initial plans were formulated.
If this is common practice then indeed. I am surprised that public funds can be dealt with with such a lack of accurate accountability, but if that's how things work then so be it. It's barking in my view, but I will hopefully learn more when I get a chance to go through the mountain of new information I have finally received.


> just that it may be evidence neither of duplicity or stupidity that up-to-date costs aren't readily available.
Indeed, I always try and keep an open mind. Why is it though, that a FOI request has to be raised to discover more detailed costing information on this project? Regardless of the fact the costs are still not updated, why couldn't they have just included this with the metric ton (see disclaimer) of info (some of which is outdated) they sent? I'm not trying to find issues, just identify any that may be existing.

(Disclaimer - I don't mean to be emotive in my use of the word 'mountain' or 'metric ton'. Obviously the information is neither an actual mountain or weigh a metric ton, it just feels like that right now.)
Completely concur with panda boy on this.

Re costings, I find it particularly striking that these have not changed yet the council have introduced a new revenue stream, i.e. sale of burial plots to non-locals, to this within the same time frame. Either this is regarded as insignificant, in which case one wonders why do it, or the accounting must have changed in a significant way beyond any expected detail costing work. One other possibility is that this was actually the plan all along. In all instances, some openness would be helpful.

Panda boy, am particularly interested to know, as I think you said that you attended a meeting about this, what was the advice given by LWT to Southwark Council re their plans?
Hi HopeOne,

I have my own thoughts and views about the councils true motivation behind these plans and how they are implementing them, revenue being the main one.

> am particularly interested to know, as I think you said that you attended a meeting about this, what was the advice given by LWT to Southwark Council re their plans?

This is the response I received when I asked the same question;
"London Wildlife Trust is charity dedicated solely to protecting the capital’s wildlife and wild spaces. The Trust is one of our stakeholder groups who we have worked together with and have taken on board their recommendations. More information and public reports can be found can be found"

Link - [www.southwark.gov.uk]

As you will see the link contains a great deal of information, some of which I already have, some of which is new to me. I need to take some time to pore through it all, but so far I am not convinced that saying the plans "have been designed in conjunction with the LWT" to be wholly accurate. I know the LWT have been involved in performing studies in the cemeteries for the council. I think the LWT would had to have had a more significant involvement for Southwarks statement to be correct though.

I plan to ask LWT if they believe this statement to be accurate.

As I said, I am holding judgement right now until I have had a chance to digest the information.
Fantastic video showing COC before the tree felling in Area Z (the left side looking to the North).

[youtu.be]
Why do you think this is fantastic?
What is puzzling is the idea that this natural and wild space. it isn't and hasn't been for hundreds of years.

It is man-made space subject to human intervention over many years. Overgrown, human planted trees and shrubs are not natural. The are at best, feral.

A hawthorn hedge is not a natural construct. Its a hedge, planted and managed by humans for their needs and wants.

That wildlife has inhabited this space and made it their own is the cyclical way of things.

This already man-made space will simply change and be re-inhabited by existing and/or new wildlife, whilst allowing more burials in the urban environment.

--------------------
Radiant Bhuna of the Diamond Naga (1st class)
Curry Club. First-ish Thursday of every month. Find us in The Lounge.
Ok... to the extent that nearly every part of the British Isles is managed to some degree this is true. But this is a blunt instrument if you are talking about habitat conservation. The type of habitat is important and, in these isles, native woodland/scrub supports the most diverse range of species of all land types. So not a safe assumption to say that "space will simply change and be re-inhabited by existing and/or new wildlife".
LauraW Wrote:

-------------------------------------------------------
> Fantastic video showing COC before the tree
> felling in Area Z (the left side looking to the
> North).
>
> [youtu.be]

Actually, is it not an old video that was done last summer that has been rehashed and reposted?
There is a limited amount of space.

In this area, some of that space is required for further burials.

If it was the case that the East Dulwich and Nunhead areas were grim built up inner city locations with no other green spaces, then the argument for retaining neglected and overgrown areas within existing cemetries might be stronger (although as Penguin68 has pointed out, if it continues as such it is likely to end up being fenced off and the public excluded, since no plans have been put forward for the expense of maintaining it in a safe condition, removing tipped material, etc).

However, one of the beauties of our local area is precisely the woods, parks and other green areas we already have, including Sydenham Hill Wood, Dulwich Wood, nature reserves and various wildlife gardens, which provide a habitat for a diverse range of wildlife including stag beetles, an endangered species.

More green areas are of course always nice, but not without considering all the other issues surrounding keeping a neglected area as it is or changing it to fulfil another function necessary to the community.

I am a lover of trees and the woods and parks were one of the main reasons, in fact probably the main reason, I moved to this area in 1991. I walk in them frequently.

However I do not think that given the above circumstances, this particular aspect of SSW's argument in favour of retaining the trees and graves in their present condition is a strong one.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit was 2016:02:19:11:16:49 by Sue.

Sue, this is the nub of the issue isn't it? I do not regard a seemingly systemic need to allocate yet more burial space to be sufficient justification for removal of species rich habitat in an urban environment, especially given that there are other options. This is regardless of other local green space, as it is exactly the sum total of these green corridors that creates the valuable habitats in the first place. The London Plan is on message with this as, seemingly, are the majority of other councils.

Bear in mind the other benefits that accrue from this - flood protection, air quality, climate change mitigation, amenity value. These are all important issues that should be considered adequately and I am yet to be convinced that this has been done.
HopOne Wrote:

-------------------------------------------------------
> Sue, this is the nub of the issue isn't it? I do
> not regard a seemingly systemic need to allocate
> yet more burial space to be sufficient
> justification for removal of species rich habitat
> in an urban environment, especially given that
> there are other options. This is regardless of
> other local green space, as it is exactly the sum
> total of these green corridors that creates the
> valuable habitats in the first place. The London
> Plan is on message with this as, seemingly, are
> the majority of other councils.
>
> Bear in mind the other benefits that accrue from
> this - flood protection, air quality, climate
> change mitigation, amenity value. These are all
> important issues that should be considered
> adequately and I am yet to be convinced that this
> has been done.


How would you respond to Penguin68's point regarding how these areas would be maintained safely in the future should they be left as they are?
Climate change? Although 'every little helps', I doubt 100 or so trees will make a difference in the grand scheme of things. Though even this would be offset anyway if more were planted (as is promised), as growing trees take up more CO2 than mature ones.
"How would you respond to Penguin68's point regarding how these areas would be maintained safely in the future should they be left as they are?"

The areas that are wooded do not need much maintenance in my view. The areas that are currently in use as cemetery could continue that way as far as I am concerned. That these may be better left to nature, I would not dispute, but I agree that in order to do so then there would need to be a management plan for this if only to safeguard against development. Separate issue really - the first priority is to get the council to do some proper due diligence.

"Climate change? Although 'every little helps', I doubt 100 or so trees will make a difference in the grand scheme of things. Though even this would be offset anyway if more were planted (as is promised), as growing trees take up more CO2 than mature ones."

100 trees today, another 100 tomorrow. Where does one stop? It is the unsustainable nature of this that I find maddening.
Can I point out (again) that the 'wooded' areas being addressed by Southwark Council at the moment account for 6% of the cemeteries' area. The vast majority of the area is already managed graveyard - including, as I have said, hay meadow in the summer - which is a varied and interesting habitat already. HopOne has said The areas that are currently in use as cemetery could continue that way as far as I am concerned. - this is not the position of the ssw pressure group - which wants the whole area of both cemeteries wilded. I think such a minimalist approach would have got far more traction. There are issues of tumbling monuments and gaping graves which need addressing in this area (otherwise it will be even more unsafe than it is) and the land contamination, but a better and more supportable case could have been made if the demands had been as modest as this.
Loz Wrote:

-------------------------------------------------------
> Climate change? Although 'every little helps', I
> doubt 100 or so trees will make a difference in
> the grand scheme of things. Though even this
> would be offset anyway if more were planted (as is
> promised), as growing trees take up more CO2 than
> mature ones.

The offsetting issue is actually the key point. Attitudes such as "I doubt 100 or so trees will make a difference in the grand scheme of things" have allowed for piecemeal deterioration of our urban and rural environment in all sorts of ways. Small changes in each of our lives can mean big changes for everyone's lives – for good or ill.
BrandNewGuy Wrote:

-------------------------------------------------------
> Loz Wrote:

> --------------------------------------------------
> > Climate change? Although 'every little helps',
> > I doubt 100 or so trees will make a difference in
> > the grand scheme of things. Though even this
> > would be offset anyway if more were planted (as is
> > promised), as growing trees take up more CO2 than
> > mature ones.
>
> The offsetting issue is actually the key point.
> Attitudes such as "I doubt 100 or so trees will
> make a difference in the grand scheme of things"
> have allowed for piecemeal deterioration of our
> urban and rural environment in all sorts of ways.
> Small changes in each of our lives can mean big
> changes for everyone's lives – for good or ill.

But, as I said, surely the planting of new tree will offset (perhaps more than offset) the ones lost?
Agreed. I was just pointing out that everyone's 100 or so trees in the end do matter.

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