The first option is to reuse common graves once they have obtained Home Office approval – this involves adding two foot above the current plots (which are only 4 foot deep). Their initial thoughts are to use concrete blocks to add the required extra height, but this would be contrary to Southwark’s climate change strategy as concrete manufacture is carbon intensive. This option would give another 10-12 years of burial plots.
The second option is to use an adjacent sports playing field (Honor Oak Recreation Ground) giving another 25 years of burial plots. This is what they claimed when they took part of the Rec in 2000.
Friends of Honor Oak Park Recreation Ground are asking a series of questions of local councillors and have started a petition at petitionbuzz.com, but time is short as Southwark are due to make a decision this month. Sign up now to voice your concern.
Lack of burial space is not a new problem for Southwark. In the 1850's, the parish of Camberwell was having difficulty finding space for burials in its churchyards. The Camberwell Burial Board was established to find a solution to the problem, which they did - in 1855. The board bought 30 acres of meadow land and established it as the Burial Ground of St Giles, Camberwell. Camberwell New Cemetery was founded in 1901 in order to provide more space and was opened in 1927. By 1984, 300,000 burials had been carried out at the cemetery. The majority of burials now take place in the New Cemetery.
When you buy a grave in one of Southwark's cemeteries, you buy the 'exclusive right of burial' for that particular grave and this lasts for a period of 50 years. At the moment, anybody can buy a plot, although the fee is greater for those who are not or were not residents of the borough. Some religions prohibit the reuse of graves, but the Diocese of Southwark advises that while the reuse of graves within a period of less than 75 years is likely to cause distress and offence to the living, as well as appearing disrespectful to the dead, the reuse of graves as soon as 75 years have elapsed after the most recent burial should be encouraged, not least so that those presently arranging a burial are informed of what is likely to happen in the future. Rather than planning for re-use on a grave-by-grave basis, there is merit in seeking to bring larger areas into re-use as part of a coherent plan.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- Contact, email or write to your local Lewisham or Southwark councillors. Tell them how you feel about the loss of open space, how you use the recreation ground and what it means to you.
- Sign the petition at petitionbuzz.com.
On a side note, Southwark has spent a lot of time and money cleaning up the illegal dumping of building materials near Honor Oak Park station. This cleanup has taken over 18 months and will finally be resolved with the planting of new trees and bushes. This area is only expected to accommodate one year of burials.