Camberwell cemeteries and the Save Southwark Woods campaign

The Save Southwark Woods campaign is protesting the clearance of trees from sections of two active cemeteries in south London, to provide additional burial space. In 2015, London Wildlife Trust provided independent ecological surveys and mitigation advice for two small sections of the cemeteries, on behalf of Southwark Council.

The Save Southwark Woods campaign has targeted Southwark Council and London Wildlife Trust. Accurate information relating to work at these cemeteries is available on Southwark Council’s website. London Wildlife Trust’s position is stated below.

The Trust works hard to protect wildlife and wild spaces in London, caring for more than 35 nature reserves across the capital. Our work necessarily includes working with local councils and developers to ensure that biodiversity, and people’s access to nature, increases and is sustained in the long-term across the capital.

Sometimes, short-term losses do occur; London is a fast growing city, but if well designed and managed such losses can be minimised and can also lead to significant gains for nature. 

Camberwell Old Cemetery

Southwark Council commissioned London Wildlife Trust to undertake an ecological survey of a small section of Camberwell Old Cemetery, in the north-west corner for the cemetery, in 2015.

This section, known as Area Z, measures 1.25 hectares (3.12 acres) and was subject to illegal soil disposal in the early 2000s. Self-seeded vegetation had since developed on the area, which was not open to public access. The council is in the process of clearing this area, as it is obliged to do, and to provide  additional burial space in the cemetery.

The Trust provided independent ecological surveys and advice on how to ensure long-term gains in biodiversity relating to Area Z, despite short-term impacts, which included the loss of 19 semi-mature trees. The Council intends to plant 60 new trees in this area, following redevelopment. London Wildlife Trust has not undertaken any other work in relation to Camberwell Old Cemetery.

The Trust has not ‘approved’ any work undertaken in the cemetery, we have provided advice on how best to minimise any adverse impacts and manage the biodiversity interest in the long-term, in this operational Inner London cemetery.

The Trust is fully aware of the cemetery’s status as a Site of Borough Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC). This has informed the council’s plans, but this status does not – and is not intended to – prevent its on-going primary function as a cemetery. However, if there had been any risk to protected species or the viability of the SINC status in the long-term, without effective mitigation, the Trust would have objected.

For detailed information on Camberwell Old Cemetery, including the Trust’s surveys and reports, see http://www.southwark.gov.uk/births-deaths-marriage-and-citizenship/deaths-funerals-and-cremations/cemeteries/the-future-of-our-cemeteries  

Camberwell New Cemetery

London Wildlife Trust undertook a bat survey in Camberwell New Cemetery in 2015, on behalf of Southwark Council, in a small area known as Area D1 (0.22 hectares, 0.54 acres). The survey found that the trees scheduled for clearance had low or negligible value as roost sites, and further showed that the works within the cemetery should enhance the nature conservation value of the site in the long-term. Design adjustments reduced the number of trees originally scheduled for removal from 26 to 23. 

Area D1 of Camberwell New Cemetery is on the slopes adjacent to – but not in – the neighbouring One Tree Hill, which is a Local Nature Reserve. The Trust is unaware of any tree works on One Tree Hill that relate to the work in Camberwell New Cemetery.

As with Camberwell Old Cemetery, London Wildlife Trust has not ‘approved’ any work undertaken in Camberwell New Cemetery, we have provided advice on how best to minimise any adverse impacts and manage the biodiversity interest in the long-term, in an operational Inner London cemetery. If there had been any risk to protected species or the viability of the cemetery’s SINC status in the long-term, without effective mitigation, the Trust would have objected.

For detailed information on Camberwell New Cemetery, see http://www.southwark.gov.uk/births-deaths-marriage-and-citizenship/deaths-funerals-and-cremations/cemeteries/the-future-of-our-cemeteries