In recent weeks there have been a series of small triumphs for local democracy. Of course it took some time and considerable effort to achieve them. Probably Southwark Council can be mildly excused from assuming that Dulwich residents have little interest on anything beyond their front doors considering the minimal response to invitations to comment on other issues. However, when the full implications of various proposals did sink in, then Dulwich residents were swift to man barricades, form committees and get highly indignant.
There was of a slew of proposals in recent weeks as chairman Ian McInnes explains in his Comment Column, and it was when these came to the boil at the Dulwich Community Council meeting on Wednesday 27 January that there was a very large attendance of anxious, articulate and disgruntled people.
The chairman, Councillor Andy Simmons did well to keep a light but firm hand on what turned out to be a polite and calm meeting. Various delegations representing local residents, Safer Routes to Schools, Friends of Dulwich Park and others concisely stated their differing objections or support of the traffic schemes and cycle way routes being proposed. The Council’s traffic officer’s consultation was judged to be inadequate and many residents attending the meeting considered that the proposals for cycle ways were being railroaded through without the full details being released and the officer promised to go away and return with fresh proposals for a wider consultation in March.
The welcome news of the evening was the announcement concerning the Dulwich Hospital site, a topic which has turned up (and turned many off) regularly at Dulwich Community Council. It was in 2004 that the partial closure of the hospital was announced and later that year the demolition of about a third of the buildings took place. A group of activists, hoping to secure a new community hospital on the site, then formed, and numerous campaigns and feasibility studies followed on this concept. At the same time Kings College Hospital continued to run a number of clinical functions in the remaining old buildings and erected some temporary accommodation for others.
More recently, the case for using the site as a benefit for the local community rather than allowing it to be sold off and developed for private housing, was taken up by several local councillors. In 2013 NHS Southwark agreed plans for a new health centre in the south of the borough, serving Dulwich and the surrounding areas, with the preferred location being the Dulwich Hospital site.
An extensive consultation with local people and clinicians was carried out with a view of providing a base for a wide range of health services in the community, especially for people with long term conditions. Studies were conducted to determine how big the centre needed to be and how large an area would be required. Assessments of likely future activity and population changes were also considered. As a result of these and other studies, NHS Southwark has decided on a new build on the Dulwich Hospital site. It will invite architects to tender for the project in coming months. In the meantime, those services being provided in temporary accommodation on the proposed space (in the south-east corner of the cleared area between Melbourne Grove and Jarvis Road) will be housed in the existing main building.
It was also announced that there are on-going discussions between NHS Property Services (who own the site) and the Education Funding Agency about education facilities being located on the remainder of the site. If the outcome is the provision of a new secondary school this news will be gladly received as a further much needed local facility. As far as The Dulwich Society is concerned, it would welcome such a step and also see it as a means of retaining the attractive ‘chateau’ style main building and the Military Hospital WW1 Memorial, both of which would lend considerable architectural gravitas to a new school.
As reported previously, there are two potential bidders to run a secondary school on the site, Haberdasher Aske and the Charter School. They have submitted proposals to the Department of Education - and both were called to interview in February.