A thousand truckloads of contaminated waste will be treated and then shipped out of a cemetery woodland, according to a campaign group.
Save Southwark Woods protestors have been at loggerheads with the council since plans were revealed to clear areas of woodland across the borough’s cemeteries to create new burial spaces.
A new battleground grew out of a meeting between campaigners and the council last week, where a commitment to clear thousands of tonnes of illegally-dumped construction waste from Camberwell Old Cemetery were detailed.
Blanche Cameron of Save Southwark Woods condemned the plans as “appalling”, saying the group estimated a thousand truck loads of waste would need to pass through Honor Oak to complete the work.
“Why is the council even considering this appalling approach?” she said. “Fifteen years of woodlands have grown up since the illegal dumping. Imagine the impact and the pollution it’s going to have.”
Save Southwark Woods has proposed instead that the council cover over the contaminated material and plant more woodland on top.
A council spokesperson said it had always remained committed to clearing the waste from the site because it exceeded contamination levels considered safe for public access.
Councillor Darren Merrill, Southwark’s cabinet member for environment, said: “We are still in discussion with the stakeholder group on the actual design for the cemeteries, we’re yet to receive planning permission or appoint a contractor.
“We have to deal with the contamination on the site but we’re committed to carrying out all works as smoothly and as quickly as possible with as little disruption to local residents, much like the works carried out in the cemeteries last year which received no complaints.”
In a special feature in the News last month, Cllr Merrill said the council would press on with plans to create new burial spaces in the borough for those who wanted them.
He said: “It’s just common decency. If someone’s last wish was to be buried we want to provide that.”