DIGGERS are on standby to cut down 12 acres of conserved woodland in south London to make way for new burial plots, despite opposition from residents in the area.
Southwark Council is about to remove thousands of gravestones from the Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries, situated on One Tree Hill, a nature reserve in Honor Oak, to make way for a new road and 4800 burial plots. The first 740 were due to be excavated before the end of the year.
A spokesman for the diocese of Southwark said last month that it was aware of the “strength of feeling” from critics, but said that there was “no reason not to recommend” the scheme when plans were brought to the diocesan advisory committee in October.
“The matter is now in the hands of the Chancellor, who will take all comments, both for and against the scheme, into consideration before rendering any judgment,” he said. The council is required to ask the permission of the Chancellor of the diocese to cut down part of the woodland, as the hillside is consecrated ground.
The statement came after the Save Southwark Woods campaign (SSW) appealed to its members to write to the Church of England “to stop monstrous plans to scar the beautiful and historic” area.
A spokeswoman for SSW, Blanche Cameron, said that “rewilding” — restoring an area to its natural state — was the “rational” alternative. “It would create a new 100-acre wood in Southwark, making it one of the greenest boroughs in London,” she said.
Campaigners also fear that the cost of the project will rise “far in excess” of the £1.3 million estimated by the council in 2011.