Rus in (sub) Urbis only?

Mayor Ken Livingstone's line in the sand demarcating urban from suburban housing zones in the London Plan appears to have moved since we last reported the issue. Apparently he argues that the Southwark Unitary Development Plan does not conform to his London Plan. Instead of the boundary between the two zones being the railway line between Peckham Rye and Denmark Hill, it is now understood that the boundary is the Tulse Hill/North Dulwich railway line. The dividing line then appears to run along Red Post Hill, Dulwich Village, Calton Avenue, Court Lane, Lordship Lane, Cox's Walk to the borough boundary at Sydenham Hill. However, information on the precise boundary is sketchy. If this is the actual boundary, then houses to the east of this will fall into the 'Urban' classification.

The difference between urban and suburban areas in the London Plan is one of housing density. An urban area is anticipated to have 300-700 habitable rooms per hectare, with a building height of a maximum of seven storeys. Suburban density is for 200-350 habitable rooms per hectare. Southwark Council has succeeded in persuading government to reduce the upper limit for new building of flats in urban areas from seven to four storeys. This is still one more than Southwark wanted but represents a great improvement. The Council is hoping to compromise on urban density by proposing a figure of 450 habitable rooms per hectare. Importantly, conservation areas appear to be excluded from the housing density requirement.

This may not actually make any difference to those who live in the newly demarcated area but are residents on the Dulwich Estate, as applications for planning consent are first subject to approval under the Scheme of Management. The Dulwich Estate comments that since the Scheme was approved by the High Court it is thought that a change of legislation would be required to amend the area covered or a form of redress available to challenge refusal of consent by the Managers to development. Thus the Winterbrook and Stradella Roads Conservation area remains unaffected, as does, presumably Ruskin Walk and Carver Road. Properties in roads in the Dulwich Village Conservation Area also appear equally safe. Less certain are other roads linking Half Moon Lane and Herne Hill and Denmark Hill.

These roads comprise attractive and generally spacious Edwardian terraced or semi-detached properties, and lay in what has become known as the North Dulwich Triangle. There has been very little intrusion by later development and therefore they form an area of great suburban aesthetic value. Together with the architecturally important Casino Estate and Sunray Gardens they should be considered for listing as a Conservation Area and exclusion from the Mayor's designation as suitable for urban density building.

East Dulwich has also been designated as 'urban' by the Mayor and the same argument can also be advanced here. East Dulwich was created from farmland into dense terraced housing in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the area enjoys the period housing atmosphere of a kind of time warp. Most of the housing in East Dulwich is characterised by a harmonious low-rise townscape of simple but attractive terraced housing with front and rear gardens. To consider building flats of four storeys will harm this ambience. There is an urgent case for extending conservation status to much of East Dulwich and ensuring that the designation 'Urban' acknowledges the importance of such islands of interest.

Listed Buildings

The Dulwich Society, through its Planning and Architecture sub-committee is taking barrister's opinion on the way to proceed in order to seek the satisfactory reinstatement of the Grade II listed wall alongside Lyndenhurst in Red Post Hill. As has previously been reported in these columns, a former owner of the house sold part of the garden in 1990. The purchaser applied for planning consent for a series of different developments, finally losing on appeal to the Secretary of State. In 2002 he sold the site to the current owner, a company named Hausmann Hughes. This company submitted a series of planning applications to obtain access to the property from Red Post Hill. These were refused by the Council on the grounds of safety. In the meantime part of the wall collapsed and a more was taken down by Southwark Council as a dangerous structure in 2004.

Southwark Council conservation officers were advised and served notice on the owner to rebuild the wall. However, no enforcement notice was issued and Hausmann Hughes has taken no remedial action.

The Dulwich Society is frustrated that neither the Dulwich Estate nor Southwark Council is taking the matter further. As a way forward it is therefore seeking legal advice in order to assist these two bodies to find a solution.

A similar example of dilatoriness is to be found at St Peter's Church, Lordship Lane. This too is a listed Grade II building and is also on the Dulwich Estate. An enforcement order was served before 2003 by Southwark Council for the reinstatement of the adjoining listed church hall all which many years ago was externally altered without planning permission. Since then, the gate posts and part of the front wall have become in a ruinous condition.

The Council's failure to take action against these two examples of damage to listed buildings makes the whole idea of the preservation of listed buildings a mockery and invites similar neglect from owners of other listed properties in Dulwich. Southwark Council has a legal obligation to carry out the remedial work if the owner fails to do so, and to obtain reimbursement from the owner. 

Knock-on Effects of Neglect

It can be no coincidence that around what should be one of Dulwich's most attractive corners - where Dulwich Common meets Lordship Lane, which has a beautiful view of the uphill sweep of fields, woods and golf course, the sylvan Cox's Walk and a tree-enclosed Grade II listed Victorian Gothic church; there are deplorable examples of neglect and decay. We have cited the case of St Peter's Church and Hall. Opposite, stands what must be one of London's outrageous examples of neglect - a once beautiful Victorian mansion allowed to fall to rack and ruin and become a perpetual eyesore. In the last resort, and residents might feel this point has long been reached, it is the duty of Southwark Council to resolve the long-running question of demolition or restoration of this building - The first course presumably is to find the owner. If this proves impossible then Southwark Council should investigate what measures it can use to bring about a conclusion to the matter - on Health and Safety grounds alone it would appear to have ample reason to invoke its powers.

A few yards away, and this time on Dulwich Estate land is the sports ground of the Streatham & Marlborough Cricket Club. The club lets some of its accommodation to a nursery school and in 2004 received additional income of £25,000 from the Dulwich Community Council for "ground improvements access". Although the ground is in splendid condition, the club has done nothing to improve the appearance of the entrance area, with broken down fences, great deposits of rubbish and unsightly temporary buildings. As ground landlord, the Dulwich Estate has a duty to require the club to honour its covenants and the Dulwich Community Council to satisfy itself the large sum of ratepayers' money given has been satisfactorily spent.

These examples of neglect are all preventable; to ignore them is to encourage failure by other trustees and property owners' to care for their buildings. It encourages 'neighbourhood blight', with its attendant dangers of the spread of graffiti, vandalism and other forms of hooliganism to take hold.

Unauthorised changes to Dulwich properties

A policy change by the Dulwich Estate might affect unwary residents who are seeking to carry out alterations to their property. The Estate has now adopted a position that that where a freeholders makes an application to the Scheme of Management for new works but where unauthorised changes to the property were made in the past (such as the formation of a hard standing), the licence for the new works will be conditional on remedial action being taken (to restore the garden).

Co-operation with the Camberwell Society

An informal link has been made between the Dulwich and the Camberwell Society with a view of sharing information on matters of mutual concern. Following discussions between members of both executive committees it has been found that topics such as traffic and transport, and especially the possible route extension of the number 42 bus in order that it can serve Dulwich Community Hospital are of shared interest. Co-operation may also extend to parks and wildlife and local history (Dulwich was formerly in the parish of Camberwell)

Horniman Play Park and Gardens

Members following the investigation by the Dulwich Society's Local History Group of the series of earthworks in the Horniman Play Park will recall that after extensive research of the history of the site, it was decided to check the period between the end of World War II and when the Play Park was created in the early 1950's. At the same time, Dulwich Society member Steve Grindlay, had discussed the Society's plans for an excavation of the site with a friend who had been a gardener at Horniman Gardens. The friend recalled that the series of banks and mounds had been created with spoil from the digging of the paddling pool to provide a kind of early adventure playground.

Further research at the London Metropolitan Archives reveals that he is quite correct. Although no documentary evidence was found in the LCC Parks department files, the photographic archive produced positive results. The series of mounds was indeed an adventure play ground.

Children's adventure play parks in England were the initiative of Lady Allen of Hurtwood who had seen the success of these in Denmark and Sweden. In 1960 she published the first of two booklets outlining the concept and implementation of their use. She wrote that adult play leaders and counsellors were essential. Stockholm which had 28 such parks which were open all year had 225 playground staff in summer and 60 for the remainder of the year. She said that adventure playgrounds were simple and cheap to provide. In Design for Play she recommended sand pits and earth shaping for imaginative play, "artificial mounds made good wind shields, serve as banks for rolling down".

As the photographs show, the London County Council was sufficiently impressed by Lady Allen's argument that it provided the amenities she suggested, including a sand pit. The reason this facility ended was that neither the LCC nor Lewisham Council which succeeded it, were willing to employ staff as play leaders or supervisors who were responsible for the success of the scheme in Scandinavia. In time, the sand pit was filled in, the paddling pool drained and the adventure area allowed to revert to a hillocky meadow.

Perhaps, with the envisaged regeneration of Horniman Gardens, some thought might be given to including the Horniman Play Park within in its remit. After all, the thousands of children who visit the Museum each year would find the play park an excellent adjunct to the Museum.

Janet Vitmayer, Chief Executive of the Horniman Museum and Gardens writes :

For over 100 years our much-loved Gardens have provided the public with an opportunity to enjoy ' the open air and sunlight' that Frederick Horniman felt was so important to peoples' well being. The Gardens now need a significant investment to ensure that we can maintain high standards and provide for our visitors needs now and into the future.

As well as consulting with many groups in the area, we would be interested to hear from you if you have any ideas about how you would like to see the Gardens develop in the future.

The areas we are considering so far are:-

  • Improvements to paths, fencing, toilets, and services like drainage, electricity and water. We would like to build in more sustainable usage of water and heating where possible.
  • Improvements to the buildings in the Gardens - the Bandstand, the Dutch Barn and our Greenhouses.
  • Improvements to the animal enclosure.
  • New Horticultural facilities with more opportunities for volunteering, training and public educational events.
  • Improved provision for events and education and better interpretation about the history of the Gardens and the trees and plants they contain.
  • Re-landscaping some areas to provide quiet areas, activity areas and better picnic spaces.

In order to proceed with this project, the Museum will have to raise the majority of the funds required. Work is not therefore expected to commence until 2009, once the funds are in place.

If you would like to share your thoughts with us please email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or post them to Marketing, Horniman Museum, 100 London Road, SE 23 3PQ

(As the Newsletter goes to print, the Dulwich Society is to meet representatives of the Horniman Museum to discuss how, as a society it can help in this project)

Dovercourt Road Centenary

The residents of Dovercourt Road will be celebrating their centenary this year with a street party in June and other events. The road was created around 1906-7 following earlier development of farmland into Dekker, Desenfans and Druce Roads. Two years ago the residents of Desenfans Road celebrated their centenary with a number of events including the publication of the history of the road and biographies of some of its former residents. These were found to include the actor, the late Peter Cushing.

Awards for 1475 Squadron

1475 Air Training Corps Squadron which was formed in 1941 and which has its headquarters at High Wood Barracks, Lordship Lane received two prestigious awards at the end of May at a parade at Dulwich College. In 2001 the unit celebrated its Diamond Jubilee with a concert in aid of the RAF Benevolent Fund. Two more concerts followed in ensuing years from which the sum of £20,000 was raised for the charity. In recognition of this splendid effort the RAFBF presented the Squadron with a Poignard, the Fund's highest meritorious award. Since 1919 it is only the ninth time this award has been presented.

It also received the Air Training Corps Certificate of Merit. There are 33 squadrons in London and 1475 Squadron already held one of the two then awarded. This makes it the unit's second such award. 

Dulwich goes even Greener!

The Dulwich Goes Greener Group is not only encouraging us to reduce our car use but is also trying in a practical way to reduce our plastic bag use as well. To this end it has produced a handsome, strong brown canvas carrier bag decorated with the group's logo. It is selling the bag through local shops including The Art Stationers, Dulwich Village, at the cost price of £2. A bargain not to be missed. For more information on the campaign go to www.dulwichgoinggreener.org

Green Chain Walk gets Funding

The proposed extension of the Green Chain Walk from Crystal Palace, and into Dulwich via Sydenham Hill and Dulwich Woods and the Upper Wood in Farquhar Road to Dulwich Park, Dulwich Picture Gallery and the Horniman Museum has now received funding from Southwark Council. The Council has approved the sum of £150,000 for capital works for the extension and a £15,000 per year contribution towards its management and maintenance. The Green Chain Walk starts at the Thames Barrier and is a footpath connecting South London's numerous 'green' areas such as Oxleas Wood and Beckenham Place Park. It would also be a challenging route for a sponsored walk.

Swimming Pool Renovation

Despite being proposed for demolition under the London Development Agency's 2006 proposals for the redevelopment of Crystal Palace Park, the National Sports Centre at Crystal Place now looks likely now to be retained. The LDA appears to have changed its mind in the last few months, partly as a result of the many objections but possibly also because of the Government's recent backing down over the demolition of the Commonwealth Institute, another Grade II* listed building. The swimming pool machinery, pumps and other equipment at the National Sports Centre are to be replaced. The work will start in the autumn and will cause a closure of the pool for up to six months

The most recent proposals by Arup Associates, the architects appointed to prepare the redevelopment scheme for the area, show the building being used initially as an ancillary training pool to the Olympic Aquatic Centre. After the 2012 games the pool will be decked over for an indoor sports hall for 5 aside football or similar sports. Initial works will involve refurbishment of the services installations and the changing areas and there will also be changes to the levels of the external landscaping, demolition of the high level concrete walkways and a more proactively managed security policy.

Major sporting events such as the athletics Grand Prix and the London Youth Games will continue at Crystal Palace until at least 2012 but international athletic events will transfer to the Olympic Stadium at Stratford.

P.E.L.O. Football Club

The club, which occupies the ground in Gallery Road opposite the Old College was the brainchild of Mario Fauvrelle. He founded PELO - Positive Education Learning Organisation as a non-profit making community organisation in 1995. Today it has 1100 attendees of whom 95% are deprived youngsters, all from diverse backgrounds.

Each week some 350-400 of these youngsters attend mid-week (after school) and weekends. The club functions through a dedicated team of volunteers. It offers a range of activities which include football, running/athletics, basketball, volleyball, dance and multi-cultural celebratory events.

Mario says that the Club is in the process of obtaining full charity trust status and expects to sign a long lease for the ground with the Dulwich Estate. PELO has ambitious plans to lay new land drains at the ground and to rebuild the present pavilion to provide a new Community Sport Recreational Facility. It also hopes to run vocational and education courses to enable youngsters with no basic skills to get qualifications.

To assist with this project it has gathered support from a wide range of organisations. Tessa Jowell MP is the club's patron.

Village Ward Police Team

In the twelve months since the Village Ward Police team has been established crime has fallen significantly in the area. The original five members of the team have now been joined by Police Community Support Officer Nathalie Fichet, pictured in the right of the front row of the accompanying photograph. The remainder of the team are (L - R) PCSO Sheri Robey, PC Shaun Mulcathy, Sgt Stephen Farrant, PCSO Darren Weems, PC Alastair Gellatly, PCSO Nathalie Fichet.

You can call the team on 020 8721 2446 or Mobile 07920 233 913. The Team does not provide a 24 hour service as it works various shifts, however it will get back to you as soon as possible if you leave a message.

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