Read the transcript of the meeting

Wednesday 25th March, 160 Tooley Street SE1
LB Southwark:
PJ: Southwark Council Leader Peter John
DM: Councillor Darren Merrill, Cabinet Member for the Environment & Recycling
DW: Des Waters, Head of Public Realm
RT: Rebecca Towers, Parks and Open Spaces Manager
Save Southwark Woods campaign:
LS: Lewis Schaffer
AS: Anne Stanesby (also Cemeteries Friends group)
HB: Henry Blamey
BC: Blanche Cameron
BC: Anyone else that we’re waiting for?
PJ: No this is it. I have to go at 4.30pm, my apologies but Darren will still be here and Des and
Rebecca, so…
DM: Yes, I thought I’d just start the meeting. First of all, introductions, does everyone know each
LS: Maybe we should just introduce ourselves?
HB: I’m Henry Blamey, I’m a local resident live near the cemetery, concerned about these plans.
LS: I’m Lewis Schaffer, I’m from Nunhead
BC: I’m Blanche Cameron, I’m from the area, just outside
DW: Where do you live Blanche?
BC: Lewisham
AS: I’m Anne Stanesby I live right next to the Camberwell Old Cemetery in Underhill Road
DM: Well everyone seems to know me but I’m Darren, I’m the Cabinet Member that’s overseeing
what’s going on
PJ: I’m the leader of the council
RT: Rebecca Towers, Parks and open spaces manager
DW: Des Waters Head of Public Realm and director of (unintelligible)
DM: How I thought we should do this meeting in a sense is we’re opening up to you first, give you 15
20 minutes or so to you to present what you feel should happen, what’s wrong etc etc on the
proposals, and then we’re move the meeting on from there and take it from that point there, so
basically over to you to present your arguments
LS: I’m gonna go first. We got a chance of doing something great which is making south London as
beautiful as parts of north London. There’s 100 acres combined of Nunhead Cemetery, Camberwell
Old Cemetery, Camberwell new cemetery and One Tree Hill, and combined, if we let them go wild, if
we don’t do any damage to them, it can be as beautiful as anything in London. I’m not from London,
I’m from New York OK? There aren’t these places in New York, actually there kind of are, alright, in
Brooklyn and in Queens, alright? And I moved here 15 years ago, I wasn’t expecting to care, but like
all foreigners, sometimes I care more than some local residents care, and er cemeteries are
beautiful, they can get more beautiful, and that’s what I think we’re asking you to do we’re asking
you to stop your plans, cutting down the trees, and think of something bigger, the bigger picture,
which is letting them go wild. Nunhead cemetery is one of the most beautiful places in all of London,
people come from all over Britain to go to Nunhead cemetery because it’s beautiful and Southwark
has a hand in that, had a hand in that. And I want Southwark to do the same for those other
cemeteries, OK? Now if we let them grow wild, one more minute, if we let them grow wild, OK, and
we put connectivity through the reservoirs from Brenchley Gardens, to Nunhead cemetery, it could
be a place of extraordinary public use, that would be worth far more than it would be selling them
off one grave at a time. And that’s what we’re asking you to do, to be champions of this, and that’s
a legacy that I think you’d be proud to have.
BC: That’s it. Now we can start talking. But you know, we just thought that would be a good start to
the conversation, to have your response to that.
DM: So in response then, what would you say we should do for the residents in this borough that
want burial spaces?
BC: Well before we go there, I think what Lewis said is the value of a 100 Acre Wood, as you know
the iTree survey is taking place at the moment, coming out of the London office but it is also
something that’s happening through European directive on ecosystem Services and Biodiversity,
looking at cities, climate change adaptation and so on, valuing what woodland – wild woodland, not
necessarily managed lawned landscapes contribute economically as well as socially and
environmentally to a city.
Now, I haven’t seen anywhere in your documents where you value the existing contribution of the
woodlands as they are to London, to Southwark, to citizens in a very poor and polluted borough. So
along with the legacy that is being offered here, with the vision, the creative vision, that this would
take, you have an option to create economic benefit, health benefit, and resilience benefit in terms
of climate change adaptation, to the borough, to the citizens of Southwark and also to south
London. So that’s an aspect of that legacy is the access to nature, the mental health the and physical
health benefits of that, as opposed to you know what is the common good, what is the greater good
of the opportunity of these spaces, what is the greater good? Why are so many people supporting
our campaign? Why do we have 4,000 online signatures, 800 signatures on a by hand petition, why
are people so supportive of the vision of a 100 Acre Wood? It is because they can see the lasting
benefit of the legacy that that will create.
PJ: But it kind of doesn’t answer the question, you’re just saying there should be no burials, that’s
that’s, that’s the kind of, the omitted answer
BC: Well what we’ve stated is that we’re not anti-burial as a group, this is beyond our scope, what
we state is that many boroughs have agreed and seek alternative provision in existing cemeteries on
the edge of London, as the Victorians did, as other boroughs are doing, as you agreed to look at in
your Cabinet decision of June 2012 and to explore other options because of the benefit, the greater
benefit, that the legacy that we’re proposing offers. And in ‘99…
DW: Take land to bury it, but just don’t do it in Southwark.
BC: It’s been made already, that provision is already there, as you know, existing private cemeteries,
existing burial options for people. For 200 odd families a year OK, which I think we’ve already asked
for your profile, how many people are buried each year and how many come from within Southwark
and how many are out of borough and so on, which we look forward to receiving. But the question
for a council is always, what is the greater good?
DW: Sure. Have you seen our Parks and Open Spaces Strategy?
BC: Yes
DW: Which has been subject to major consultation over recent years and at least twice over the last
ten years, do you think as a borough we are failing in relation to parks and open spaces generally?
BC: Generally? Do you mean in terms of…
DW: As a borough
BC: As a borough? We’re focussed on, we’re focussed specifically on these woods
DW: But you seem to be implying that Southwark is lacking a perspective, on the value it places on
parks and open spaces
BC: I think our point on the development that is being proposed lacks creative vision for these
spaces, yes, it certainly does given what the potential is, not just the existing…
DW: As a borough, as a borough overall, you’re saying that we as a borough are not making proper
provision for our parks and green spaces?
BC: That’s for you to decide, but I don’t think that’s…
LS: No she’s not saying that at all, we’re not saying that, we’re just focussing on this, we don’t know
what you’re doing at the other places we’re just saying DW: But surely if your proposal, that has to be set in the context of what is going on within the
whole borough and the whole provision that the borough is making for parks and open spaces
[repeating this a lot]
LS: No, it’s nothing to do with that, it has to do with…
DW: But isn’t the legitimate conclusion, extension of what you’re saying is that every time another
piece of woodland becomes an issue, we should not do anything to it, just add it to the wood
BC: That’s up to you to decide
DW: That’s the logical extension of what you’re saying
BC: That is certainly up to you to decide, on a case by case basis. We’re looking at this case. So you
know, also you will have to make the ultimate decision, all we can do is present what people want.
DM: So as you say, as you’re saying, we’re looking at this case, and you mentioned One Tree Hill,
Sydenham Hill, Nunhead Cemetery, although which, yes, they are very beautiful woods and
everything along there, don’t you think that with Nunhead, we’re doing a very good job in keeping
those going, and this is a space within a working cemetery that is contaminated etc, and we’ve heard
all the arguments from our side, the point of this meeting is to actually, we’ve heard your argument
here, but as a council…we would like to provide burial space for our residents…
BC: Well, we can talk about the consultation then in that case, because is that your choice as a
council, ‘we would like to provide’?
LS: Is it your personal choice?
BC: Is it your personal choice because you want to be a nice council…
RT: We think we’ve got an obligation…
BC: Or have you been driven by the consultation?
RT: We have an obligation to, to create burial space for residents, and this is based on you know
also, what’s written in the London Plan about providing burial space for local people
AS: Can I just stop you there, I’d really like to know what paragraph of the London Plan?
RT: It’s 7.23 is the policy, Darren might have a copy of it on him because he keeps it close to him at
all times
DM: I found it
AS: Thank you
RT: So, we believe this is an equalities issue as much as anything else
LS: Do you have an obligation to put burial in Southwark?
RT: We, under law we do not have to create burial, but we believe…
LS: OK so you don’t have to create burial. You do not have an obligation to put burial in Southwark.
Under law
BC: So what’s driving it?
DW: We have a legal requirement to make proper provision for the remains of the dead.
LS: But not in Southwark. Does it say they have to be buried in Southwark?
BC: The existing remains or…?
DW: There are many things that this authority, people want like...
PJ: We have an obligation to, well do we have any library? One library could be sufficient for
Southwark – do you think one library is sufficient for Southwark? So it is about choices, absolutely
it’s about choices, and what we do but come on, I’ve written to you and I’ve said we had a
consultation in 2011, I haven’t had an answer Blanche, where were you? Where were you talking in
LS: I was talking…
PJ: Because we can’t just run a consultation because you tell me, run a consultation because you
weren’t around four years ago, why weren’t you part of the consultation?
BC: No we’re not saying it from ourselves, sure, this is why we went out to people – as I said, you
know we talked about this before
PJ: You said we were selling off our cemeteries, so you deliberately misrepresented what we were
BC: No that’s not misrepresenting you
LS: So really, are you calling her a liar? You’re not calling her a liar are you? Are you calling her a liar?
PJ: I’m not calling anyone a liar
BC: You just did
LS: What does deliberate misrepresentation mean? What does that mean? That is an outrageous
thing to say as a politician, that’s the most unpolitical…
PJ: I withdraw that
BC: Unbelievable
LS: Don’t ever… Withdrawn it? We want an apology
DW: Technically…
PJ: I’m apologising to you
DW: I will be quite clear, some of the information that you have been putting over has been untrue
BC: Well show us, we’ve written to you asking for…
LS: Show us which ones
[talking over]
DW: I can give you one example…
DM: Des…
DW: One example only…
DM: Des, let’s try to keep it …
DW: The first paragraph in the presentation in the public meeting – I can’t remember who it was, it
may have been Anne – but whoever it was, stated that Southwark council lost the court case in
relation to the people dumping at the cemetery. Fact: (raising his voice) Not true! Not true!
BC: Right, do you know how hard it has been to try and get information…
DW: Not true! Not true!
BC: …out of the council,
DW: Not true!
BC: …and we have published it...
DW: It went to two appeals and three appeals
BC: Yes, you lost the first part of it, sure…
DW: That was not true! It was untrue!
LS: OK there’s going to be a lot of things said…when you say we are being deliberately misleading…
DW: …and it was the first thing you said [not true by the way] so you asked for an example of
when you have been deliberately misleading…
LS: What does that mean? You know what…
DW: …and it was the first thing you said at the public meeting and it was Not. True.
LS: OK so that’s not true…
DM: Let’s…
DW: Fine! So you do accept that you have been saying things that are not true?
LS: Yes! That’s the world works, but that doesn’t mean it was deliberately said to make you look bad
DW: No?
BC: Absolutely not
PJ: When it is said that the council is selling off cemeteries, that’s very different, I think, from what
we have said which is about using cemeteries as cemeteries. There is a legitimate argument
BC: Creating ownership over a leased period to the…
PJ: I don’t agree. There is an argument which is the alternative options, ie you do nothing, you don’t
use this as cemeteries, I accept that’s a valid argument.
BC: They’re full
LS: Yeah
PJ: Or you carry on using cemeteries as cemeteries. I don’t regard carrying on using cemeteries as
cemeteries as selling off cemeteries, and I think it does push the realms of I think fact to say that
that’s selling off, I really do you know. You might fundamentally disagree with me…
LS: Because the word is emotive, it’s emotive, but the point is…
PJ: It’s meant to be emotive
LS: It is…
PJ: Because it raises all the tones of Thatcher which I find really offensive
LS: Maybe you are being Thatcheristic…
BC: How ironic
PJ: What do you mean how ironic?
DW: (banging the table) It is false to say selling off cemeteries, it is not true!
BC: It’s ironic that you care more about that issue…
DW: Some people have to buy space in a cemetery but what about the people who, who whose
remains have to be dealt with who’ve fall on public funds OK? We cannot legally burn them, we do
have a legal right to have those buried. They do not pay, that comes out of there. What about the
people who die in hospital and, what about the people who die in a free mental hospital, on the
edge of the borough, all of whom are looking for burial. Now there are remains that come in from,
from miscarriages…
BC: This is amazing…
DW: These are the things that happen!
BC: Sure, but would you like to calm down a little bit Des? Just ever so slightly
LS: Let me ask you a question -
DW: Stop telling lies!
LS: let me ask you a question DW: You have to stop peddling untruths, I think you are, Peter may not say it but I think that you are,
the reason you have got so many people and so on, you’re lying to them!
LS: We’re lying to them?
BC: We link to your downloads, we show exactly what the plans are…
LS: Are you saying we’re lying?
DW: Yes! You’re lying to them
LS: So we’re liars! So we’re liars! When you come in and cut down the trees will that be a lie? Will a
tree be cut down?
DW: I haven’t said we’re not going to cut down DM: Can we just have one person speaking at a time?
LS: I would say this…
DM: …and you ask me and I will, because this is getting into an argument, not a discussion
LS: We should have a meeting without them here
BC: That’s right we asked to meet you as councillors, you’re representatives of the people
LS: I have a question and I would like Peter to respond to our first question of this meeting. We
would like to see Southwark champion the legacy of a 100 acre wood for the greater benefit of the
residents of Southwark and of south London as a whole. What is your response to our request for
you to champion that?
PJ: I think we can do exciting things with the cemeteries that we have. I think we can bury people
without making it look like a municipal car park, I absolutely accept that, I think some of the images
that have been shown don’t look very attractive and I accept your concern about that. But I do think
we have an obligation to try and manage our green spaces. I don’t think anybody, I don’t think it’s
practical to say we just shouldn’t manage our green spaces at all, and if we regard cemeteries as
green spaces I think we should manage it in a way. I think there is a conversation, and this is where I
think we need to, to see if there is any movement here, or there could be any movement here, I
think we can manage our cemeteries in a way that seeks to meet both our aspirations that you
maintain some of that element of wilderness, of the greenery that we have there but we still
manage to bury people who want to be buried in Southwark, and there are a large number of people
who want to be buried for all sorts of cultural and religious reasons, and I think we should try and
respect that. We should respect people who want to try and see something else of our cemeteries as
well. I don’t think that’s impossible. But it is impossible if you say we can’t bury at all. I think we can
go back and look at how it’s precise it’s managed, what the design looks like, what’s the, you know…
so we try and meet both sets of aspirations. Do you think that’s an impossibility? I think it’s possible.
BC: So how is Nunhead cemetery managed for burial at the moment?
PJ: Well it isn’t. I mean there’s…
DW: Well, no, Nunhead cemetery, one third of Nunhead cemetery is used for burial, the other two
thirds is classified as a local nature reserve.
LS: And the bit that is ugly is the part that is…
DW: But the whole of, the whole of the cemetery is managed by the council.
BC: But what you’re suggesting, OK PJ: But do … because… coming back to me with Nunhead that’s fine, but do you not think there is
the possibility of a way to continue burial within our cemeteries which would meet both aspirations
or do you think it’s simply mutually exclusive, because if you think it’s mutually exclusive, then that’s
clearly a position which we’ll have to go away and think about.
BC: I think this is being driven by a consultation that is invalid. And you, your whole drive is a
personal decision by the council to provide burial provision not driven by two thirds Lewisham
residents, one third Southwark residents, to a council consultation of 2011, a two-pager that didn’t
even present the plans being proposed. There has been a considerable change in approach since
that period four years ago which was based on the Honor Oak Rec ground, some other aspects, it
wasn’t known to people what they were voting for and two thirds of them were from Lewisham.
What’s your response to that? How can you say you’re being driven by demand from Southwark
PJ: Well because we have that demand day in day out
BC: So why have the consultation in that case? You could just say we have 200 people who want to
be buried every year, that’s what we’re going to do. Why have the consultation?
PJ: Because you’d be criticising me if we hadn’t had the consultation in 2011.
BC: But your consultation…
PJ: I can’t direct and go around and direct who responds to a consultation on Southwark’s cemetery
BC: You can, you can – because of who you sent letters to. You sent a thousand letters to Southwark
residents and three times that number to Lewisham residents. You chose who to listen to. You didn’t
send any to people around Camberwell Old Cemetery.
DW: Copies of the council magazine went to every household in the borough
BC: Sure, and it always does in every consultation, but who did you choose to send letters to?
DW: It went to every household, every household in the borough received a notification of BC: Only because they demanded... Nobody else except the Ryedale residents
RT: Underhill and Ryedale, Wood Vale knew about it as well.
AS: Not even a thousand because that’s what’s in your own…
BC: That was afterwards…
DW: Well I attended two council, two full council meetings…
BC: Yes, one week before the council meeting.
RT: No no, two minuted meetings in the cemetery offices.
AS: Are you talking about the burial consultation?
RT: Yes the burial strategy consultation in 2011.
PJ: Well you’re not answering, you’ve gone back to process which isn’t helpful in terms of trying to
understand whether the idea, the concept of having burials and valuable green space are mutually
exclusive. Are you saying that we will not concede that there should be any burials at all in these
BC: Yes, that’s right…
PJ: Because if that is the situation…
BC: What we propose is a transition to no new burials in the cemeteries and either Southwark says
as it was saying in ‘99 that they would move to an exclusive cremation service or you look at
provision outside of inner city green space, because it has more value to residents of Southwark as
woodland than it does to some people who are looking to be buried in these inner city greenspaces.
Uses change. Councils can decide whatever they want to do. It has to come down to what people
want. And we feel very strongly that people did not know. We know there were people turning up to
the Public Meeting saying, I’ve never heard about this. You thanked us for promoting the Public
Meeting because people hadn’t even, they weren’t even aware, however good the council is at
sending out magazines and so on, people don’t know unless they are fully consulted and there’s
advertising – the exhibitions before…
DW: How many people have you spoken to who have got relatives in the cemetery? Have you asked
them specifically?
BC: Sure, absolutely, we have people DW: How many have you specifically spoken to who have chosen to bury there?
BC: We have people approaching and writing to us all the time, saying I have relatives in the
cemetery DW: How many?
BC: I don’t know how many Des, I’m so sorry, you keep asking, I don’t know
LS: You know what, do you know what’s totally inappropriate is I feel like demanding an apology
from him for calling us a liar. And if you do not reprimand him in some kind of formal way for calling
us liars I think it’s totally inappropriate.
BC: Then you’re saying it yourself
LS: Then you’re saying it yourself. And I think the second thing is that he has DW: I apologise for calling you a liar.
LS: Yeah.
DW: I accept however that you have been telling things that are not true.
BC: That’s the same thing.
LS: No it’s not – deliberately, deliberately saying things that aren’t true? Or…?
DW: Yes.
LS: Then that’s calling us a liar.
BC: That’s exactly the same thing.
LS: Then that is – I don’t know what the policy is in this place is but that is unacceptable for him to
call us liars, and I’m going to say something else [being talked over by others] it is unacceptable DW: But it’s the truth.
LS: OK well you
BC: Right, then we’re asking Peter John…
DW: And we have it recorded that you accepted that it was untrue
BC: But it wasn’t deliberately misrepresenting you, as I said LS: It wasn’t deliberately misrepresenting you
PJ: Lewis, you said earlier on that’s the way of things, you said we all tell lies LS: NO! That is not true! And I refused to be called that! And we will demand an apology from you!
DM: I’m aware you’re very passionate about this
LS: I did not say I deliberately made a lie, and I did not say that. Will we have an apology.
[Des talking over]
BC: Would you like to choose which you state?
DW: If you think I’m calling you a liar, I’m not calling you a liar.
LS: Who are you calling? Are you calling Blanche a liar? Are you calling Darren a liar?
BC: Are you calling the campaign a lie?
DW: I’m saying at the public meeting someone from the campaign put out HB: Made a mistake. Made a mistake.
LS: Made a mistake DW: Promoted an untruth (not LS as first draft transcript stated)
BC: It was a mistake and it was one tiny thing which history has shown when we DM: We’re going round and round in circles here, we’re not actually getting BC: When we finally we got the information DM: We’re going round and round in circles here
BC: This is about availability of information
DM: Look, it has been a very heated campaign you’ve run, it’s been LS: It’s not over
BC: It’s going on, sorry, there’s a long way to go on this
DM: Let’s LS: I’m too upset about this. You know what it is? This is, I don’t, I don’t – first of all I’m going to
laugh at this situation, at myself for getting so upset. You know I don’t know how this happened.
Because I don’t even know what the hell I’m doing in this country, I didn’t want to be here, I married
a woman, I came here, next thing I’ve got two kids, I’m living in Nunhead. It was not my lifelong
dream. OK? To be living in Nunhead. OK, I’m making the best of it, I’ve fallen in love with the place,
like you’d fall in love with a kind of an ugly… child! (Laughing)
Peter John, OK, we’ve fallen in love with it? You live in Southwark you know? Obviously if we had a
choice we would pick a better borough (laughing) to live in. OK…
PJ: This is the best borough in the best city in the best country in the world!
LS: Exactly!
PJ: Come on!
LS: It is! It is!
PJ: I’m not going to have you talk down Southwark!
DM: I think we can agree on that
LS: We can agree. OK listen to me, listen, you don’t owe me an apology, but here is the point, here is
the point, the point is, the point is, yes there are people who want to be buried, and we respect that,
and yes, there are people who want their monuments of their dead ones respected, and we do
respect that. But at the end of the day, what is the greater good, the greater good is 100 acres of
beautiful woods and fields and meadows with beautiful monuments that people can visit like
Nunhead cemetery. And the image of that is just so much greater than cutting down a tree, cutting
down fifteen trees and planting other trees. We have to change our thinking DM: But can you appreciate, the council has committed to do this burial LS: Right
DM: Wrong or right on that, we’ve, that’s another argument, we’ve committed to these burial
spaces, we’ve committed to actually improve the biodiversity and ecology, I know you hate me
saying those words –
LS: Right, right
DM: But also, I don’t think we’re a million miles away from the same vision, the difference is that we
want to
LS: Where we are and where you are –
DM: We want to keep the provision of burial space for our residents
BC: Sure you do
LS: Which there are many residents that wish or require or for cultural reasons want the burial
spaces, as close – and if you read the London Plan here it does actually say that moving it out of
London and that affects the most deprived part of the community and it actually states that in the
London Plan.
BC: Yeah, sure
DM: So we want to be able to provide this for the most deprived part of our community which
you’ve already said, and also cemetery spaces are great green spaces, they give another option of a
green space, they’re normally more quiet, more sedate BC: It’s already a green space
LS: It’s already a green space, and it could be more
BC: All these cemeteries that were fought for in inner London, that were fought for, by communities
for years, have been turned over to nature reserves. Why? Because the council has had to concede
that they give more benefit, more value to citizens than they do as working cemeteries. If they’d said
in Highgate cemetery in the ‘60s or the ‘70s we’re going to dig up Marx’s grave, sorry, sorry, we just
need to keep providing new burial ground, new burial ground all the time, that’s what we’re going to
do, OK? You wouldn’t have Kensal Green, you wouldn’t have Highgate cemetery, you wouldn’t have
all those places that provide wild nature not managed, sterile, tame landscape – you’re taking away
DW: But that’s not the situation in Southwark, you wouldn’t have Nunhead cemetery if Southwark
council hadn’t bought it from the cemetery company which went bankrupt
BC: Sure
DW: And it’s been managed by Southwark council since the 70s for that
BC: There was a fight to bring in Southwark to manage it
DW: But has done successfully since
BC: One bit
LS: Well two thirds successfully – and one third is pretty damn ugly
DW: Despite the fact that 98% of people think we are a wonderful park, despite everybody saying
that actually we are one of very few boroughs in the country who are investing in its parks and green
spaces, you want to throw all that out and say, actually the council don’t know what it’s doing, we
know better BC: But we haven’t said that, have we? You’ve already tried to put that in our mouths at the
beginning of the meeting Des, and it’s not happening.
DW: But you are saying that because you don’t like anything that we’re saying about biodiversity,
you don’t BC: How can you improve biodiversity, right you’re saying you want to improve biodiversity, how can
you improve it if you haven’t done a Biodiversity Survey, a full Habitat Survey, a full Bat Survey, a full
Bird Survey DW: But we are committed to do that, we are committed to do that.
BC: When?? When? After you’ve drawn up the plans?
DM: Des…
DW: No, you know as well as I do, that before we go to planning we have to have all that in place
BC: Sure you do, that’s your max, that’s right up to the limit
DW: But it will be there
BC: But you haven’t based your plans on any of it!
LS: Do you know what Des, can I ask a question?
BC: You’ve done a reptile survey and a Tree Survey.
PJ: Let Rebecca say something.
RT: Yes, let me say something.
PJ: Go on
RT: Go on. We have done a couple of habitat surveys as would be normal at this point in the process,
and we’ve based a lot of our plans on those surveys because…
BC: Which ones are they Rebecca, sorry
RT: We’ve got our Phase 1 and 2 Habitat surveys which are online
AS: Aren’t they a bit old now?
RT: I know but Anne you know, the process is taking a while and we will refresh them as and when
AS: You did those ones back in 2011
RT: No we did them more recently than that, but I’ll have to check. Now I know it’s hard for you to
believe but we do care deeply and I know this will sound hollow to you but we do care deeply about
managing and balancing ecology with the needs of those who require burial and trees and as Des is
trying to say, parks and open spaces and we care a lot about that and I think we do agree with each
other BC: No-one’s criticising you for that at all
RT: I think and Darren’s already said and I agree, I don’t think our vision is incompatible. I mean
we’re talking about changes I grant you but I have stood in Area Z and in J, K, L on a lovely sunny day
and I’ve thought to myself, what is it that these people are so concerned about losing? and I’ve got
it, I really have got it, I hear it, I hear the birds, I see the wildness and I do understand and I really,
really do want to try to keep an element of this , I don’t want to see another Area F. I don’t want to
see the lawn and the poplars, and the sterility that you I think you’re really concerned about, I don’t
want to see that LS: It’s there. Can I ask a question. I’m new to this country –
PJ: You’ve lived here for fifteen years
LS: Fifteen years, alright, but I do feel new because I’m new to this whole council business, I mean
this is between us OK? You are our representatives, you’re job as the executive is to run this
Southwark, you’ve got to make a decision, OK? These are tough decisions. When you told me how
much money you were being paid, I thought to myself, Jesus Christ, that’s like nothing, OK you know
what I mean? I felt actually bad I’m even, we’re bringing even this stuff up, and I know the work
that’s involved in doing all this stuff and the decisions that you got to balance everything, it’s not
easy. Politics is hard, it’s harder than doing comedy, OK, cos I can leave at the end of the night I don’t
have to see these people again, you got to sit here and see us. What I’m asking you is this, it’s
between you and me, I don’t know why they’re so upset? (DW and RT) They should be neutral about
PJ: Because they’ve been working on it for years, trying to sort out an answer to this question which
has been a thorny question – I’ve been a councillor for thirteen years and it’s been an issue for as
long as I’ve been working there.
DW: I’ve been doing this for 8 years.
LS: OK right, OK
PJ: So Des feels passionate about it and I know he gets very passionate about it
LS: And I know you’re trying OK maybe –
PJ: That’s right
BC: Sure but what Lewis is saying is you’re the ones who are responsible to the people
PJ: I know but I’m talking, I’m very cool about it, I’m going to be cremated, I’m not going to be buried
but I recognise that there are people who want to be buried and do have very strong views about,
really strong views about it for all sorts of long term family reasons
BC: Sure, and they have a voice, they have a voice,
PJ: And they have a voice
BC: What proportion of your electorate, your residents, your citizens are they? And is a decision
going to be made based on the greater good being lost, to be responsive to people, not that you
can’t be responsive to them, you have no legal obligation to provide cemetery burial per se
anywhere, but to provide it right instead of our woodland in the heart of Southwark in Zone 2,
instead of looking at alternatives.
PJ: But Blanche the issue I’ve got BC: I still don’t understand
PJ: The issue I was trying to explore is whether these two, our meeting our obligation to those who
want to be buried as well as meeting our obligation to those who have a vision for a very green
BC: You can meet those obligations to people
PJ: Well, in the same place…
LS: I don’t think you can, these two things PJ: But we don’t know because we haven’t really drilled down into what that kind of cemetery could
look like
BC: We can only go on the information you’ve provided us with, based on that, and we did ask for an
extension to the response period after the public meeting of 9 days, when a lot of people had just
found out about the plans. We asked for an extension for the response period for a 28 day response,
and that was rejected. We’re just going to carry on Peter, because there are still people who don’t
know about it.
RT: I think we want to carry on with, I’m trying to carry on with remembering what I said about what
I could understand about what you’re concerned about losing, and I’m going to carry on looking at
all this and seeing how much of that we can keep and put into these plans with a review of
something slightly different, a different look and feel from the later. We have to have time to do
that, we do need to do that, so we needed to end the engagement process at a point so we could
really absorb what people are saying and I think Anne’s going to be coming to our stakeholder
meeting next week where we will be talking in more detail about this. If we can open, keep our
minds open to the possibilities, because the problem we’ve got at the moment, is you’re here and
we’re here and we have to PJ: I’m saying we can move here but you’re saying I can’t move from here.
BC: Well we’re canvassing PJ: That’s an insurmountable issue
BC: No it’s not insurmountable, and we’ve made our proposals as to how they can be surmounted, it
just requires looking a bit more creatively at the space we have, and can I just say that we do have a
request for this meeting as well, which is that works cease until a decision has been made about the
future of the cemeteries, that work ceases in Camberwell New Cemetery, that you can declare
protection for the existing trees on both sites until a decision has been made, protection for all trees,
both cemeteries currently covered by TPOs as you know. I know you’ve got a choice, I know you
don’t legally have to but can you commit to that in this meeting that you will protect existing, all
existing trees and LS: And scrub and brush
BC: And undergrowth, that works cease until a decision has been made that this is what we are
going to do.
LS: So we don’t have to go there, so we don’t have to be here
BC: We’re asking you not to start work early in preparation for something that has not been agreed
in council, OK? Is that possible to do?
PJ: I don’t know if that’s possible, I mean I BC: I’m asking you, you know PJ: I’ve got to look at my officers to understand whether this is something I can agree to. I mean, can
I just pick on one site which is the nursery site, what’s it called the RT: Area B
PJ: Area B – now are we are we seriously in dispute about that Area B, which is hard standing?
BC: Is this the area that you promised in exchange for the 2000 extension would be made into some
sports facility or a community orchard?
DW: No
BC: Which area are you talking about? The nursery hard standing?
RT: yes
BC: There was a commitment by the council at the time of the 2000 extension that that area would
be made over to community use.
DW: Not true
BC: It’s in your minutes
DW: No it’s not. Not true.
HB: Well I didn’t get that one…
BC: Well, it is –
DW: Not true! I have seen those minutes and it’s…
HB: OK well BC: Well we’ll send you them
LS: I have read those minutes, I have read them and PJ: So we’re not even arguing about purely green space now, you want a building on there now is
that what you’re saying?
LS: No we don’t want a building!
BC: It should be trees
LS: It should be trees
PJ: Well come on I’m trying to find a way through, and you’re holding back in a way that
(unintelligible) it frustrates me…
BC: No, we’re being entirely consistent, we’re being entirely consistent
DW: So what you’re saying to us is, you would like us to rip up probably around 2 foot of concrete,
generate something like, my best guess, 100,000 tonnes of contaminated waste take that to landfill,
put that into landfill and then dig up, and then test for contamination in the soil underneath that and
identify any, any, any contaminated soils in there because you are obviously concerned about public
health. If there is any contaminated land there, also they possibly generate something like up to
another 60-50,000 tonnes of contaminated soil and then ship in probably something around 500
truckloads out, down the M25 and put it in a hole in the ground.
LS: Well what are you planning on doing?
DW: And then replicate that, bringing in 500 truckloads of clean topsoil in and then planting trees so
that you can have a wood there. That’s what you would like us to do?
BC: This is the problem, there are more creative opportunities than this, this is not all you have to
do. I mean I know it’s not something you may have given a lot of thought to you’ve just gone, OK
there’s the concrete, it’s going to be very expensive to dig up, there may be contaminants
underneath, who knows, unless you already know? Unless somebody already knows? You know
where the rubble comes from at Area Z.
DW: I know that (anger again) and that’s the reason why the council took the decision it could not
create a play space on that space because there was potential contamination established there.
LS: You know what it is? I know you’ve put 8 years into this but at the end of the day you gotta calm
HB: Are you saying it wasn’t true?
LS: You gotta calm down DW: Stop speaking as fact things which are not true!
(Talking over)
BC: Henry’s going to say something
HB: I just want a bit of clarification, you’re saying that it wasn’t true that in the ’96 consultation, that
that was agreed then? To make that into a park or sports facility?
DW: It’s true that was agreed HB: So it was true? What we said was true then?
DW: There was a subsequent decision HB: But when you said that wasn’t true, that was true?
DW: There was a subsequent decision that overturned that
HB: A subsequent decision, when was that?
LS: When was that? He asked the question
DM: You’re technically both right
LS: So Blanche has asked a question on our behalf which is are you going, we want you to say that
you will not go in and do any work until this has been
BC: Agreed publicly by council
LS: Publicly by council to make a decision
BC: As to what the proposals actually are
LS: In advance, in advance of any decisions
DM: We are doing no work in advance
BC: Yes you are
LS: You’re going in and you’re ripping off shrubbery over the graves
BC: And you’re piling earth, OK so the big piles of earth on the concrete base is…?
RT: That’s operational spoil from graves but we have a plan where it’s taken away when it gets to a
certain level, it’s part of our normal management
BC: OK, so we’ve asked also for information from you about what works are going on at the
cemeteries at the moment. We’ve also asked for which companies are being contracted to carry out
those works
RT: Yes
BC: And I’m presuming that you’re going to be responding to those requests?
RT: Yes
DW: May I ask what is your interest in that?
BC: The commitment?
DW: What is your interest in that?
BC: General interest Des. The other issue that we are concerned about is works taking place, even
you might say it’s under your existing management plans, woodland management plans, however
people are very jumpy and I think in the interests of this whole situation to agree not to carry out
any sort of felling work, any kind of clearance work of undergrowth it’s going to help you as well,
there are a lot of people it is not just us involved in this campaign, you might think it is, but there are
thirty or forty people who are constantly involved in the discussions of the meetings and so on and
there are 4,000, 5,000 people who are very aware of it
LS: I’m going to tell you something, you mentioned this to people and they go mental
HB: A load of people know the history, a lot of people are very upset about it. You know I think
there’s a lot of trust issues around the local public and the council, mostly because of that illegal
behaviour which you say you’ve dealt with and we all accept that DW: Which is what we’re trying to do!
HB: Which you’re trying to deal with and we want to move forward to make these places beautiful
for everyone not just for people who want to use them as burial
PJ: OK well I’ve honestly got to go I’m really sorry about that
LS: So what is your answer?
PJ: I’m, I’m, can I give that response, can we say that we won’t do anything which is deemed
preparatory works for DW: Then I can’t give you a guarantee that we can continue to have a burial space.
BC: Sorry, say that again Des, sorry?
DM: I think there’s one thing we can say which is no preparatory work for the areas that we’re
looking at here, but there is general maintenance work and it’s the season for it, you know, and that
BC: I understand that you have other works, management plan, that you’ve got PJ: We are not going to do any preparatory works for these areas until a final decision has been
made, which will presumably be at the er LS: Are you going to stop the destruction of undergrowth in the wooded area?
PJ: I don’t know what we’re talking about so I’ll have to enquire about that
BC: So in that case, would you be able to provide us please with your maintenance plans for this year
RT: They’re all er BC: And direct us to where they are online if they’re online
RT: Yes the woodland management plans are online already for both cemeteries
BC: Those are over a period of years, though, can you send us what you’re planning to do in the next
six months, the next year – just under those plans. It would be really really useful to be able to share
RT: I shall get our normal maintenance management ones drawn up and we will share that
BC: Because that must be there for this year? It must be there for 2015/16 – someone’s got it, they
know when they’re coming in to do whatever work
DM: Obviously because the cemetery is open, it’s down to weather, so if we say we’re going in on
the 26th and we don’t go in until the 28th
BC: Of course
DM: Don’t hold us to it
BC: I’m explaining why it would be useful. Do you understand when people see machinery ,
chainsaws whatever RT: Now when we did the temporary toilet, I made a point of finding Anne’s number thank you, from
the Save Southwark Woods campaign on Facebook, and we called you didn’t we Anne?
AS: Yes
RT: And that is our commitment to you
AS: I sent an email round to everybody
RT: We will always talk to you about what’s going on at the cemetery and you asked the question
you know about well what’s going on, there was a truck parked outside the cemetery and that
wasn’t anything to do with the cemetery. Had it been, we would have told you
LS: But you’ll also cc Blanche in on this the more people who know about this the better
BC: There are hundreds and hundreds of people who, I mean as you’ve seen from the Facebook
LS: It’s good for Anne
AS: Well there are over 70 people on the email list
PJ: I’m sorry to leave you but thank you, thank you for coming and talking to me anyway, I do mean
LS: Thank you
BC: Yes, it’s good for us as well.
PJ: And I am confident that we can, we can get somewhere which I don’t know, it’s very difficult
because I’ve got to try and keep two disparate sets of people happy and for as many people as you
say don’t want to see burials, there will be as many people saying we want to see burials, is my
BC: OK, well I hope the two aren’t related in terms of 200 people dying of air pollution last year and
200 people needing burial (laughs)
PJ: Well you know that means growing trees all over London, that’s not London at all, which is BC: That is the All London Green Grid approach!
PJ: I know but…
BC: That’s what it’s for
PJ: I know. We try to make green links and green chains around the borough where we can
BC: Very good to meet you anyway and I’m sure we’ll be in touch
PJ: Thank you for your time
BC: OK, thank you alright
[Peter John and Des Waters leave the meeting]
LS: Should I demand an apology from him?
BC: Yes
RT: How? He’s left the room
BC: We didn’t get one did we?
RT: I think we can talk in calm and quiet voices.
BC: That would be good
DM: (to Henry) I know I’ve not personally met you before, is there something that you’ve particularly
come to say?
HB: Well I think this has been pretty much DM: Rather than go away LS: I can’t speak for Henry but I think you’re gonna just to say what we were saying…
HB: Yeah exactly, you know I think that’s what’s captured – well I think personally as a local resident
and all of us talk to a lot of people about it when we’re putting out leaflets and a lot of people are
very shocked by it, a lot of people are very upset, a lot of people know the history. It’s just you know,
there needs to be a better public engagement – you guys have started that and we appreciate that,
you know you set up that meeting and that was great but that needs to be ongoing and we need to
take it forward.
DM: Well to reassure you, the engagement is, even though that was the deadline I set just so we
could start collating, I’ve been engaging ever since
BC: You have Darren, you have, all credit to you absolutely right, absolutely right. The thing is it has
taken a lot of shouting – not to you – but in general just to tell people what’s going on, to get to that
point. You know, the original end of the consultation period [engagement period] was the 9th of
January. You were expecting people to absorb information from an exhibition and to get your results
in, do you know what I mean?
AS: Can I say one thing about your stakeholder group, you sent me that invitation and I asked to
clarify how you see my role in it to represent the people?
RT: I think it would be useful for you to represent Camberwell Old Cemetery friends but also Save
Southwark Woods, I mean…
AS: A lot of people have been emailing me and saying what about the New Cemetery and people are
very worried. I was wondering if somebody could be invited specifically to speak for the New
RT: We have stakeholders from the New Cemetery…
AS: Have you applied to ask anyone to represent the New Cemetery?
RT: Yes we have
DM: The New Cemetery, Nunhead Cemetery, the Old Cemetery…
RT: Actually, I say the New Cemetery, I mean Honor Oak Rec friends, the One Tree Hill allotments
group and also One Tree Hill friends group
AS: Well I know a lot people, say to me really you know everybody feels there should be a friends
group for both cemeteries
RT: Yes, I agree…
AS: And it has been floated that there could be one group that would take in two but Jeff Hart from
Friends of Nunhead Cemetery has been to talk to us and give us advice and he said look don’t bite
off more than you can chew. So he suggested to people that were present that we should start with
Camberwell Old Cemetery and hopefully that someone will RT: But this would generate LS: Well we’re not AS: And I would like actually, I mean there are people like Henry, as example one of the people HB: Yeah, you know, exactly why I got started in this especially the D1 area
AS: For the people who are worried about the New Cemetery
LS: People are involved in a vision
HB: Like you and Tom yeah
LS: They’re involved in a vision. The vision is, is saving the woods that are there and for expanding it.
It’s a fantastic vision. And you know what it is? I grant that there are some communities, some faith
communities who need – it says nothing in the Koran or the Talmud or the Torah about needing to
be buried in Southwark. There’s nothing there’s no obligation, you pass around these words like
obligation, there’s no obligation. If Southwark cares they could get a bus going to Kemnal Cemetery.
RT: You know there’s erm there’s sort of interpretation and value judgements going on here and I
understand that Lewis, and I’m not, I’m not going to rant and rage with you but I think, you know,
erm I don’t believe that the issues are incompatible. Like I’ve already said I don’t believe that the
vision statement can’t somehow sit with what we’re proposing
LS: With continued burial?
RT: Well, yeah…
LS: It can’t because every grave you sell off, that the council sells off is an area that’s not a tree or a
bush. OK? So it’s not compatible.
BC: So in what sense can it be compatible then?
RT: Well, for example, we’re looking at ideas at the moment for the areas called J, K and L which I
believe are something that people really do value for recreation, the sort of spirit of the places, that
the glades inside those bits of woodland –
BC: This is the northern area of woodland to Camberwell Old Cemetery?
RT: Camberwell Old, yeah, erm, just so you can see them, well there you go (shows revised plans)
And these areas which I think, I mean, well I’ve experienced them myself so I’m not arguing a lot
here, I do have my own opinions and impressions of these places. But actually, if it could remain, if
we were creating largely unchanged, you know there would be a little bit of difference, but we could
be doing burials in these areas without there being –
LS: Ah you know what, Rebecca wait
BC: Oh no way!
LS: First of all Rebecca, Rebecca, wake up and – god bless you – wake up and smell the coffee, OK?
Here’s the coffee, the coffee is you’re saying erm, we’ve got demand for, in Southwark for the
hospitals to provide female genital mutilation, you’re against female genital mutilation Lewis –
surely we can get an even ground some place in the middle where we do provide some female
genital mutilation. That’s what this is
RT: This is quite a different issue
LS: No it isn’t
RT: Henry is recording I’d like you to know that is quite different
LS: No this is biodiversity…
RT: Yes it is,
LS: …wildness mutilation
RT: No
LS: You’re mutilating a potential forest
RT: I think we’ve got very robust ecological ideas about how to make this more ecologically valuable
BC: You can’t say that without an existing Biodiversity Survey, but even so it doesn’t matter, this is
wild, I know – why are we even talking about this?
LS: (To DM) Could she leave? Could she leave?
RT: I think actually Blanche invited officers to this meeting? You said perhaps you’d like to bring
some officers
BC: Yes that you might want to bring some
LS: But you shouldn’t have an opinion, you have to advise, you don’t even live in the borough you RT: I probably live quite near to Blanche
LS: Exactly but you RT: Are Lewisham residents not welcome in the room?
LS: Well you know, the point is
DM: I listen to my officers’ advice, I listen to residents
LS: Right
DM: And I listen to all residents. Some of them might not have as loud a voice as others
LS: Right
DM: And I think that you would respect that I would have to listen to everyone
BC: Absolutely, that’s your job
DM: That’s my job
BC: Yeah yeah exactly
DM: To see if there is a possibility that we can come to a common ground on this
LS: We can’t come to a common ground, there’s no common ground. There is no common ground,
there’s only we’re against it, we’re against, we – I can’t speak for everybody, I can’t speak for Anne
or Henry or Blanche – I am against digging up old bodies for a grave, I’m against putting graves there,
OK? That’s what I’m against, OK? And I think if you speak to people, when they say how do you
envision it, they love Nunhead Cemetery, you know not the little cemetery bit that you guys are
digging up and destroying, f***g ugly excuse me, it’s ugly you know? We’re here to create beauty.
BC: People want wild woods. They do not need any more sanitised landscaping. This is an unusual
and rare piece of landscape ecology that is a wild woodland with undergrowth. You can talk all you
like about improving biodiversity, that is only one aspect. None of these plans are going to save any
species, no species are being saved by this plan, I promise you LS: And humans least of all
BC: They will find somewhere
RT: Yes but BC: Humans, humans need access to wild areas…as we know
RT: Yes we agree with you LS: You don’t agree DM: From people, from specialists I’ve been talking with in the ecology field and everything like that,
they do say that you have to manage, especially in such a small area, the land so you can maximise
the –
LS: That is not BC: This isn’t about – this is not being driven by managing -
LS: It isn’t about managing, it’s about selling off
BC: It’s about finding space for burial, and then doing the best you can do…
LS: It’s about selling off
BC: …with the result. It’s not being driven by managing woodland now. If that was the case, you
would have come up years ago with a plan for these cemeteries to make them more biodiverse
altogether. You would be offering woodland burial as part of your options
DM: Can I just, I have looked at woodland burial and do you know how they actually do woodland
burial? They find an area of land, flatten it, get rid of all the trees, and then as they bury, plant a
BC: You don’t have to get rid of the trees, you have one yourself in the meadow where you provide
woodland burial already.
DM: But that’s what we’re talking about, woodland burial and BC: You don’t have to take trees away to bury.
RT: So these
BC: You cannot put that as woodland burial, it’s already woodland!
DM: Yes. Woodland – burial.
BC: No, it’s green burial, it’s creating woodland
LS: It’s creating woodland that’s what –
BC: Woodland burial is to create –
DM: You just said to me, you don’t have to take the trees down to create woodland burial, you can
keep trees in.
BC: No no no, that’s not what I said, what I said is woodland burial is not in a woodland. You take a
site to create woodland. You can’t do it in a woodland. A woodland already exists. You chop…
RT: You can do it in a space like this, if you have burials in the glades LS: No you can’t
BC: No you can’t - your own Tree Strategy says the right tree for the right place. This is a mature
woodland, OK? It’s secondary woodland, but it is mature and it has its trees…
RT: Some of it
BC: OK some of it is mature, but the right tree in the right place. You do not need to create more
trees there. Where you need more trees is where you have a flooding issue from the underground
springs that are forcing water through existing new burial spaces which are recently buried bodies
and all the rest of it, that’s where you need more trees
RT: Actually we probably need to just sort out our drainage in that area, but BC: Yes, trees will help you do that
RT: Well, they can or they can also actually not help
BC: Well it’s the right tree for the right place
DM: Well that’s one of the reasons the working group has been set up cos ideas like that, bring it to
us and say we need more trees in Area F, let’s look and see how we can do that.
BC: Sure but that’s the tip of the iceberg Darren it is a good idea, but it’s the tip of what is a good
idea that we’re presenting that there are benefits to all the aspects that we’ve presented to you,
which are going to be of benefit for generations, that are going to generate, have an economic value
to Southwark as well as a health value to citizens etc
DM: I quite understand your benefits there but there’s also a benefit, and you’re going to shout me
down just as I’m about to finish this sentence, that there is benefits to burial space. To a certain
degree that’s why we’ve got what we’ve got because it’s a cemetery, I actually agree with that
LS: Because people actually like burial spaces, some people like that
DM: There’s the benefit that you capture the history of the area and you capture people’s histories,
you know BC: Right, you care so much about history, you’re covering over the paupers’ graves, there are
graves in Area Z that have already been covered in rubble, 1949 – this is not 75 years, it’s more
recent DM: And I blame the BC: What heritage of the monuments that you care for at the moment are you looking after?
DM: And I’ve made it quite clear in the consultation and the engagement with other people. I
appreciate what’s gone on there and I want to recognise the paupers’ burials and that, and do some
sort of memorial for them
BC: Fine. Reuse of graves, digging up graves, digging up old graves, moving headstones
LS: 6 feet of stuff on the graves, I mean come on. The whole thing is ugly
BC: It’s not about heritage, it’s not about biodiversity
LS: It’s terrible
BC: It’s purely about providing burial space
LS: Yes exactly it’s about burial, making money
BC: Making millions of pounds
LS: It doesn’t matter it’s about making money, it’s a sell off
RT: Did you get our financial information?
BC: No
RT: You did not get the
BC: It hasn’t been sent to us, absolutely not
RT: No-one in this room has got an email called which was entitled the email that you asked
somebody to send us
BC: Did you send me a copy? Did you send one to [email protected]?
RT: Yes
BC: Well, we haven’t received it
RT: That is shocking actually
BC: Because everything that we receive gets sent out around people
RT: It was sent on Friday so I’m going to check that because that is poor…
LS: Is there anything else we need to say? We need to say this – Darren, Darren: think of the future
the future’s going to be good, it’s going to be good for all of us, it’s going to be beautiful, it’s going to
be Nunhead Cemetery at Camberwell it’s going to be all beautiful
DM: My reply to you there is I am thinking of the future and as you say, we have to think out of the
LS: Yeah
DM: But we have to think out of the box where we can achieve… You have to be able to think out of
the box and we have to think out of it
BC: Totally
DM: Both of us have to
HB: Ultimately we are representing BC: People know more about cemeteries than they ever imagined
HB: Ultimately we’re representing the 4,000 people who signed the petition and they are currently
against these plans, and that’s kind of what we’ve said really
DM: And ultimately I’m representing the 400 odd thousand people in Southwark
RT: It says [email protected]? It was sent on Friday
HB: Well the 400 people who replied to the consultation said, say 400 people said they need this and
4,000 people said they don’t want it so -
RT: It says it was sent to you
BC: Directly to…?
RT: It says Blanche Cameron
BC: Is it a hotmail?
RT: It was Hugh Jordan, it’s [email protected]
BC: At gmail, OK I’ll check
RT: And it was in response to the financial information you requested, and a couple of people we’ve
sent it to have responded…
RT: To say that that helped them understand things better. So we know it’s gone to people
BC: I will check and I will respond to that
LS: Listen BC: You can imagine the number of emails
LS: (To DM) One thing I can say about the people who work for you, they’re really committed, OK?
You can feel the passion that they have. (To Rebecca) Your job is not to do passion, your job is to be
dispassionate, you’re employees of the council. Your job is to calm down.
BC: If they were to change their idea tomorrow –
RT: How can we passionately deliver the plans that we’ve, do the job that we’ve been asked to do
and I think actually most people would ask us to be enthusiastic members of staff advocating for the
council. I do think that that’s the right thing to do Lewis and I think that I feel actually a little bit
personally hurt by that comment, there’s a lot of council employees are considered to be robots and
grey – I don’t want to be like that thank you very much, this is a really important job
LS: It is an important job serving the council but at the end of the day, like we all, everybody has to
serve somebody OK? I serve somebody, I’m a comedian, I go up, I make people I hate laugh, OK? I
got to serve them. And I hate them. And I hate them. More than anything in the world. (Laughs)
DM: Do you, in answer to the officers being sort of, I would personally prefer an officer that’s
passionate about their job than somebody that comes in from 8 o’clock autopilot
BC: That’s brilliant Darren and I absolutely LS: It’s brilliant, but not be one sided
BC: It’s great, I don’t think you can call Des’s passion one er RT: It’s very loud his passion
LS: He called us liars and I think, I did say BC: He hasn’t withdrawn it and Peter John didn’t ask him to either. I think that the behaviour of
people and how they work in a situation like this, you know – and (to Darren) you’ve offered to meet
us several times, we’ve asked to meet with you and this is great to be able to meet with you Darren,
and you’re a fantastic person to talk to. You’re also deeply interesting and interested in what’s going
on here. However, the decision will have to be made based on what is the greater good for all the
residents of Southwark, and that’s what we’re going to keep telling people about, and informing
them of what’s happening so that they can make up their own minds. There are plenty of
constituents who don’t know about it yet.
DM: And that’s how I will make my decision, for the greater good of the whole of Southwark
LS: Right, and just remember one thing, just remember one thing, the decision you make now in the
near future may not be considered the right decision possibly, OK. I doubt burial will be much more
in demand in the future
RT: I think BC: It’s reducing, it’s reducing, there’s a massive, UK is increasing faster than anywhere else that
people are looking at green burial, alternative options to burial standard burial. This is a standard
based approach based on old thinking that diminishes Southwark, it diminishes wild places, and it
turns them into tame areas that damage people’s health
RT: Let us try and do some creative thinking because we’ve already started that as a result of the
engagement, but we are committed to doing that. Now it may not meet your needs because you are
doing exactly what you should be doing as campaigners which is you got a very certain position, you
stay there. And I admire the campaign I have to say it’s a good example of a campaign and I think
your vision is also admirable and I understand where you are coming from and I understand that you
have to stay there. But we will go away and we will think creatively and try, and frankly we’ve got to
try to do the right thing, the best thing possible in the circumstances and Darren has to make a
decision and you’re right, it may not be the right decision but he has to make a decision and that’s
the important thing here I’m afraid. And I will do BC: I’m sure he’s aware of that
RT: …as I’m asked, although I’m not a robot and I will deliver the council’s plans and strategies within
my remit
DM: And my job – and Rebecca will back me on this – is to challenge. I’ve challenged it these designs
RT: He has
DM: I’ve challenged them to go away and I don’t like these designs. I’ve challenged them so it’s not
the fact the officers come to me with these fabulous ideas and I go where’s the bit of paper, and sign
BC: Sure
DM: I am challenging and I am pushing boundaries, I am trying to get you know BC: This is a long process and you’ve got people who are very invested in it carrying on the way it’s
carrying on and you’re doing brilliant in the way that you’re challenging it. However, we’re here to
help, because there is a much bigger opportunity which is a vision for Southwark which is a fantastic
LS: Oh my god
BC: It’s a really beautiful opportunity, much more visionary
LS: Imagine Peter John Wood, there’ll be a Darren Merrill Lane (laughter)
BC: Maybe there’ll be a Rebecca Towers Clearing where you can see the sunlight through the trees
LS: She’ll have a tree, she’ll have a tree (laughs)
RT: Can I just give an example where I’ve sat round the table like this with heart – we did a project to
Burgess Park some years ago with £6M? and I have to say there were similar meetings, similar
vociferous opinion about and objection to our ideas and we got to a point where we delivered some
work on the ground and I think we got a better result, as a result of that campaign which at the time
was painful, was costly, delayed us greatly but as a result, what was delivered was better and the
community has rallied round and said this is great, and I sort of say thank you to that campaign. Now
you may not LS: No BC: Sure, but that’s not a surprise is it? Involving the community improves decisions?
RT: Absolutely but the campaign didn’t stop BC: So why did we have to fight so hard RT: They didn’t stop the work
BC: Why not apply that to each of your next projects? This is the next one
LS: We’re going to, and there are going to people climbing up on trees, people are telling me they’re
going to climb up on trees RT: They climbed on trees at Burgess Park as well
BC: So what you’re saying is that it doesn’t matter, you’re just going to keep going
DM: It’s very much the key of what I’m trying to do
LS: Well DM: The community also has to come with an open mind to a certain extent as well
BC: Well it has to have its own opinions and it has to present it and then you will make a decision at
some point, it’s just that the work is not done, to tell people what is actually being proposed. And
people are still finding out about it and you know when, in the future in ten fifteen years’ time when
all these sites are filled and the wild woods have gone, and the new trees are still not even doing any
of the work pf the trees that you’ve removed or woodland that you’ve removed, and you go like,
what next? Where are we going to go after now?
DM: Well that’s the whole point of this strategy is to get it to a point where BC: The reuse of graves requires - so you’re not for heritage, you’re not for history, you’re not
interested in the past, you’re not interested in creating places like Highgate like Kensal Green like
Nunhead. Reuse of graves is a horrible, horrible thing to do and you cannot claim both to appreciate
heritage and history and at the same time want to dig up all the existing graves over 75 years is the
minimum – 100 years is best practice anyway. That’s not what you’re stating you want. You want
down the wire, minimum, you’ve already covered over existing graves
RT: It is a sustainable burial strategy
BC: No. It is not a sustainable burial strategy, this is not the only way , you could do exactly the same
thing by buying land somewhere in a AS: I think this is a controversial issue reuse, I don’t think we should get into it today if you don’t
mind. We’re going to have to look at all the options. I had a phone call from a journalist from
Southwark Woods – Southwark News (laughing) – and I said to her if I could find a way for everyone
to be happy I would be really pleased because I really dislike all this stressful stuff
RT: Yeah
AS: And I’m just hoping if we can work together we can end up with a beautiful cemetery like
Nunhead Cemetery, we know that’s what we’re aiming at isn’t it, that’s the ultimate aim to have a
cemetery that’s considered to be as nice as Nunhead Cemetery. And we already spoken to them,
they came and talked to us and gave us lots of very helpful very practical advice
BC: And that was a long process for them
AS: And they’ve got lots of experience, I mean thirty years they’ve been
RT: They have, they have and all that voluntary time
LS: We want to move beyond Nunhead Cemetery, cos we think one third of Nunhead cemetery is
ugly, one third is ugly. Two thirds is beautiful, which is fantastic but one third is ugly. So what, what, I
think the ultimate goal is, is 100% of Nunhead Cemetery, ending burial in Nunhead Cemetery as well
and letting that revert to nature. That’s what the spirit of our
AS: There’s no stopping this man
LS: No, there’s no stopping
BC: We’re in agreement. Cemeteries that have been closed in other parts of London have done it for
a good reason. It’s not through want of you know, councils haven’t automatically agreed, that
question has had to be put to them
DM: There is one, is it Westminster? It’s actually stopped burying, and now has restarted
RT: Or will now be doing reuse
BC: I know, oh I know, there’s still plenty of pressure on them
HB: But they haven’t actually started yet
BC: What I’m saying is RT: We’re in good company in London because everybody has challenged but we like many others BC: Have got some woodland that you can dig up
LS: Has some woodland you can dig up
RT: As a sustainable burial strategy
BC: That is lucky
RT: We think it is a good option er is a good way forward to meet the needs of a wide range of
LS: Who is ‘we’?
HB: Well clearly we don’t so anyway (laughs)
LS: Who is ‘we’?
RT: Lewis! I don’t like being told what I can and can’t say
BC: You do sound as though you’re the representative I’m sorry
LS: You’re not the representative
RT: Well Darren, perhaps you’d like to tell them
HB: “…what I think” yes (laughs)
End of tape 1:07:43