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Council leader admits 'grave error' in cemetery row
The latest from the East London Advertiser on the suggestion that my ancestors be dug up and removed from their rest.
TOWN Hall leader Denise Jones has given a personal assurance that Tower Hamlets Cemetery park will not be reopened as a multi-faith burial site. She gave the pledge as the row over the controversial idea to exhume 350,000 bodies continued to boil in London's East End.
The Town Hall has been attracting critical headlines throughout Britain and beyond.
Now an irritated Cllr Jones has moved to kill the speculation.
"It definitely will not happen," she told the East London Advertiser this week. "It's just not a viable option."
Th authority's environment Lead member Abdal Ullah had said all 350,000 bodies would have to be removed if the idea was to see the light of day to meet the demands for religious burials.
Cllr Jones insisted: "That might well have been his personal opinion. But it's certainly not the view of the council. If Cllr Ullah said those words, he should have made clear it was his personal opinion."
But she conceded that her entire cabinet and senior council directors have discussed proposals for a new cemetery. A high level steering group of top Town Hall directors was told to examine three options: to buy a site away from the East End, to redevelop the former Bow gasworks in Bow Common Lane, or to reopen Tower Hamlets cemetery itself.
"There's been some bad and exaggerated reporting in the papers," she claimed. "That has upset a lot of people who don't fully understand the issues." She added: "We were obliged to look into the cemetery option. It was not outlandish. We had to look at it because the policy of London Mayor Ken Livingstone's London Plan is to reuse existing cemeteries. But it's not a viable option. There would be far too much bureaucracy involved. It would require an Act of Parliament to reopen the cemetery."
Her decision means the council is now considering the two alternatives, with a possible discussion paper in the New Year.
The Labour-run authority has been contacted by worried Tory MPs in Epping and Upminster, where many former East Enders now live, complaining that the BNP was breathing down their necks over the issue.