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Letters of the week (29/10/15)

“Digging up old graves not an option”

Your letter “We need more graves one way or the other”, from funeral director Michael Thorpe, Vice–Chairman of the London Association of Funeral Directors, and Sidcup Manager of funeral directors F. A. Albin & Sons, who recommended reuse where “that grave has not been used for over 75 years.

Well, that grave has been used for 75 years – by the body of a person and by the family who loved that person.

Old graves are important to families and society. Digging up the dead and dumping their bones in a collective pit is incredibly unpopular – probably why Southwark has tried to keep their plans so quiet.

Mr Thorpe knows full well there is a cheaper, fairer and greener option. Kemnal Park Cemetery – which Mr Thorpe’s own company helped to set up – has over 40 acres available for burial right now, enough for more than 64,000 people.

Dig up the dead and cut down woods to bury people? Southwark residents are saying “over our dead bodies”.

Blanche Cameron for Save Southwark Woods

“Application will sully the church’s name”

The application by Southwark Council to the Diocese of Southwark for permission to clear over 2.5 acres of SINC (Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation) woods at Camberwell Old and New cemeteries is a proxy application – the local authority applying to the Church of England (CofE) to clear land on the church’s behalf (Controversial woodland cemetery plans voted through, 8 October).

London is culturally more mixed than at the time the cemeteries were opened, and it must be asked whether the loss of woodland for less than four years of additional CoE-only burial space can be justified.

A multi-faith burial area which doesn’t destroy acres of biodiverse woodland is surely what the council – and the church – should be seeking?

It seems that the specified Area Z meets the Forestry Commission definition of a woodland, and that it contains bat roosts.

Bats, the second-largest order of mammals, are protected in law. The church may not like them – ‘bats in the belfry’ – but destroying their roosts cannot be part of the CoE’s remit.

A non-local resident, my interest in the future of Southwark Woods is prompted by my participation in a 17-mile stretch of the south London Green Chain Walk – of which the woods are a part – little over a week ago (a wonderful event, and highly recommended). It is for this reason that a proposal to fell acres of woodland for a short-term limited gain seems like sacrilege to this resident of the north London borough of Islington which has the least green space per head of population in the capital outside the City.

It’s to be hoped that Southwark Diocese will object to the shoddy application made on its behalf. Failure to do so can only sully the church’s name.

Meg Howarth, Islington

“Making sure local people have a voice”

Thanks to all the residents who attended the Bermondsey and Rotherhithe Community Council meeting at the Silverlock Hall last Saturday.

An unintended theme grew during the meeting – allowing residents more of a say in council decision-making.

Sadly, these events increasingly involve residents being talked at about what the Council will do rather than genuinely involving residents and basing decisions on their views.

One of the opposition (Liberal Democrat) councillors attempted to make this point at the start of the meeting and the negative reaction from the Chair was unfortunate. The audience’s response showed that they agreed strongly with the point she made..

Credit where it is due, however, and by the end it was agreed that the meeting would submit a written question to the Leader of the Council asking for greater local involvement.

Residents should, for example, be allowed a say in prioritising projects which have been accepted on the Community Infrastructure Project List.

At the moment anybody can ask for a project to be placed on the list, but which projects get delivered is at the sole discretion of council officers.

Officer advice will always be important, as it is with applications to the borough’s ‘Cleaner, Greener, Safer’ fund, but residents should also be part of the process. With the scale of development in Southwark, there is much at stake.

I really hope that the Leader will take note of what came out of Saturday’s meeting and allows residents a proper say in how their neighbourhood looks.

Cllr Damian O’Brien, Grange ward, Southwark Liberal Democrats


“Golden opportunity for council housing”

Government has announced that business rates collected by a council will stay with that council.

This is great news for Southwark Council as it will be millions better off.

Let us all hope that this money is not wasted on such ridiculous things like more Director of Modernise  (‘Counmcil mocked for £100k Director of Modernise job’, Southwark News October 12, 2015)?and will be used to benefit the people of the borough.

Four thousand worthless homes were named in the Savill’s housing report, so use this extra money to upgrade these homes or if that is not financially viable build council housing on that land. This is a golden opportunity for council leader Cllr. Peter John and his Tooley Street clique to show us that they really do believe in council housing.

Richard Rees, Walworth

God Save the Queen!

In these very uncertain and precarious times when our actual identity is becoming so diluted by the changes we have seen in recent years we more than ever needa general acknowledgement of the value of our real Head of State.

I don’t mean politicians and the like who, only really represent our different political parties, but the great lady who has given her whole life to our service and to really represent our country and is known in the whole world as The Queen.

I’m now a doddery old man and perhaps nearer the finishing post than I think, but I feel the only true emblem of our country is Her Majesty.

Her whole life has been spent in endless service and we should rejoice in her accomplishment.

Brian Court-Mappin, Borough


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