There are two subjects which are currently exercising the minds of some Dulwich people. They are not necessarily the same people.
The first is the matter of the future of Dulwich’s sports fields, open spaces, parks and woods. A look on Google, focused on Dulwich reveals plenty of open space, admittedly a lot less than say before World War 2. Then, if Google had been invented, further great swathes of open land would have been revealed in both north and south Dulwich, at the extremities of the Dulwich Estate. Go back even further, to pre-World War 1 and a great deal more would be visible, private parkland now covered by the Casino estate on Red Post Hill and the subject of Bernard Nurse’s article, ‘Homes fit for Heroes’.
What remains is still extensive and perhaps an anomaly in suburban London. Let’s take the Woods for instance. You will read elsewhere in this journal, of the late Stella Benwell’s spectacular success in opposing the development of the sites of two former houses, Lapsewood and Beechgrove, by the predecessors of the Dulwich estate. It appears that this land is not preserved for the public forever, but rather is still controlled by the Dulwich Estate and not included in the Sydenham Hill Wood remit to the London Wildlife Trust. Which is rather a clumsy way of saying, that given unlimited resources a further legal contest could one day ensue.
However, more pressing is the apparent need for Dulwich’s surviving sports’ clubs, especially those who cater for young people, to pay their way, especially with last year’s very wet winter and this year’s absolutely appalling one. Grounds cannot be used so income falls. What to do? A solution come up with by some struggling clubs is to turn their premises into daytime educational facilities which will help pay the rent. The problem is that a conflict of interest occurs when the premises are too small and an extended building is deemed to be required. Questions arise of course, whether clubs are paying too much in rent, or whether additional use, say by schools, might alleviate the problem
This question will be discussed at a Public Meeting at the Crown & Greyhound, Dulwich Village on 18th March.
The second subject exercising minds is the adequacy of local provision of education, i.e. are there enough local free schools, either primary or secondary? Some readers will remember a distant time when London school rolls were falling so fast that schools were closed and the buildings sold off. However, what we now seem to have is a return to the demand of the 1890’s, when the population of Dulwich, and especially East Dulwich, expanded at such a rate that few vacant sites remained for schools. The schools that were built were three-deckers with minimal playground space.
We seem to be reaching that stage again. Three sites present themselves locally for schools. The smallest, the former East Dulwich police station on Lordship Lane has already been earmarked for purchase by the Education Funding Authority. But is it large enough? A more spacious site, but one which is being fought over by several other interests, is the Dulwich Hospital site. The last, with the tantalising possibility of using nearby sports’ fields, is the site of the former Grove Tavern at the junction of Dulwich Common and Lordship Lane. It would be irresponsible if these options were not considered by the people of Dulwich. What may be required is a second public meeting where the facts could be presented and options discussed.