A grass-roots campaign group is considering taking legal action against Southwark Council over its plans to fell trees to make way for thousands of new burial spaces.
Since residents living near Camberwell Old Cemetery discovered Southwark Council wants to create 4,856 new burial spaces, a growing number of campaigners under the banner Save Southwark Woods (SSW) have been fighting to block the plans, which they say will destroy naturally occurring woodlands in the borough’s cemeteries.
After a heated council meeting last week in which Southwark Council voted down a Lib Dem motion to start another public consultation on the proposals, SSW confirmed they would be taking legal advice on challenging the validity of the council’s 2011 consultation.
“The council has no public mandate,” said Blanche Cameron of SSW, who helped give a deputation to the council assembly on Wednesday night and delivered their 8,500-strong petition.
Blanche says the “so-called” consultation focused on the use of Honor Oak recreation ground, only mentioned trees once and was only responded to by 330 Southwark residents, the rest were from Lewisham.
“It’s not for the council or me to decide,” said Blanche. “Public consultation exists for a reason – for big projects like this which will affect lots of people.”
Cllr Darren Merrill, Southwark’s cabinet member for environment and public realm is resolved that continuing to provide burial space within the borough, which is due to run out by 2017, is a matter of “common decency”.
Councillor Lorraine Lauder accused the campaigners of having “something against working class families wanting to be buried in the borough” at the lively meeting last week because of the cost to mourners to travel outside of the borough.
“What has been lost in the ongoing discussion about Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries, is that their reason for being there is to bury the deceased,” said Cllr Merrill. “The 2011 consultation on burial rightly focused on this pressing issue in the borough,” added Cllr Merrill who says he has taken residents’ opinions into account in a revised version of the proposals which include more green spaces.