Southwark Council plans to create nearly 5,000 new burial spaces in naturally occurring cemetery woodlands are going to be put under the microscope next month.
At a heated council meeting last month the Labour-run council voted down a Liberal Democrat motion to start another public consultation on the proposals, after the Save Southwark Woods campaign group presented a petition of over 8,500 signatures opposing the borough’s new burial strategy.
As a “last-ditch attempt” to put the brakes on the council’s proposals, the leader of the Southwark Liberal Democrats, Anood Al-Samerai, wrote to the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee to request the matter be reviewed at their next meeting in September, which was agreed by the Chair, Labour councillor, Gavin Edwards.
“I am glad that the Council has agreed finally to look at the plans for Southwark Woods in more detail at its main scrutiny committee next month,” said Cllr Al-Samerai.
“With over 8,000 signatures opposing the Council’s plans for the trees, woodland and graves at Southwark Woods it is clear that this is a huge issue for our borough to get right.”
Cllr Darren Merrill, Southwark’s cabinet member for Environment and Public Realm, has led on the development of the burial strategy and told the News although he would attend and provide information to the meeting, the cemetery plans were not on hold.
“Council Assembly agreed last month to proceed with the council’s burial strategy…..We have been clear that this strategy needs be taken forward to prevent burial space in Southwark running out completely by 2017,” said Cllr Merrill.
Nunhead-based American comedian Lewis Schaffer, who has been heavily involved in the Save Southwark Woods Campaign, said though he was pleased the strategy would be scrutinised, he no longer had any faith in the council’s due process.
Speaking to the News from the Edinburgh festival where he is currently starring in a play, as well as his own stand up show, Lewis said: “Southwark Labour could tell me the sun was shining and I’d have to look out the window and then get independent verification.”