Just before Christmas the Dulwich Estate advertised for a ‘Media Relations and Communications Manager’. The advertisement in the Guardian said that the Estate was looking for someone who would develop, deliver and drive, with the Chief Executive and the Management Team, a comprehensive and cost-effective communications strategy which enhances the reputation and protects ‘the brand’ of the Charity. It then gave a long list of stakeholders, and it was good to see that residents were top of the list! The Society has repeatedly pressed the Estate to do something about its public persona and this is a positive step forward.
The Estate will certainly need some communications management on the Crown and Greyhound. The question most people ask us is when will it finally re-open? The dates have been put back from last summer to January, February, and now March this year. The Estate employs a project manager and other professionals on the project - how did they continue to get the completion date so wrong? Serious questions need to be asked.
At the time of writing at the end of January we had expected the incoming tenant to have started his fitting out contract but have now been told that this has not happened. It is not clear why. The latest information we have is that both the pub and hotel will open at the very end of March but we suspect it may be April. On the positive side, work is going well at the Half Moon Hotel, and it will probably re-open first.
The former Shepherds shop unit remains closed and the ‘pop up’ picture shop in the former post office unit also shut just before Christmas, citing a lack of trade and high business rates - which may yet affect other local traders as they are due to rise substantially in April. Two empty units in a prime village frontage is not good for either residents or beneficiaries. The Society raised its concerns at the last Advisory Group meeting in November, underlining how important it is to have a convenience store in the Village. We have been assured that the Estate is working actively on finding an appropriate tenant but, in the meantime, it is planning to put a short term ‘pop up’ into the unit while it alters the area behind to provide more storage for a potential convenience store operator. The tenant will be Stone Cold Clothing Ltd, a family run independent womenswear boutique.
At the north end of the Village the reduced footfall remains a problem for the shops there following the closure of S G Smith’s showroom. The Estate has recently raised rents in the shops and it should be doing something more to help. While giving the old showroom over to McCulloch Homes while they build the housing development behind, has some logic, it would be much better if the unit was let to an occupier who would attract people to the area. If the existing shops are not used, and they fail, they will be left empty or taken over by occupiers who can pay the rents - chains, coffee shops and estate agents. One of Dulwich’s selling points used to be the range of independent shops, it is the Estate’s job, whether they like it or not, to make sure they are retained.
The recent planning applications to install electric car charging points on several roads have been approved by the Council despite there being no consultation on their location or whether there is actually any demand. The potential loss of three parking spaces in Pickwick Road has reinforced resident’s concerns over parking in the road. In January, some national newspapers were talking about ‘car parking paranoia’ where some house owners feel unable to use their cars because they will not be able to park them when they return. It is clear that the new CPZ in the North Dulwich Triangle has impacted quite seriously on Turney Road, Aysgarth Road and Pickwick Road. - how long before the residents start campaigning for their own CPZ?
Last but certainly not least the Society wishes to record the sad death of former Southwark Archivist, Stephen Humphrey. Although his interests tended towards the north of the Borough he was the person who, in the 1980s, organised the rescue of a large number of old drawings and minute books that the Estate had put in a skip.