So yet another threat to Greendale playing fields has arisen. It is a route we have been down before. In this column in the 2003 Autumn issue of the Journal, (then called the Newsletter), it noted that the threat to the open land was averted in the face of an Appeal by the developers. It quoted the text of the upholding by the Government Inspector, of Southwark Council’s refusal to grant planning permission for a Homebase store on Metropolitan Open Land in Greendale, following an appeal against this decision by the developers, Cliveden Estates and Dulwich Hamlet Football Club. The Inspector’s decision was a significant one over the question of neglected open land – “I do not think the current regime of neglect is a good argument in favour of redevelopment. Such an argument would militate in favour of dereliction.”
In an article on page 4 of this issue, Ian McInnes goes into the detail of the latest application, essentially the same as made in 2003. The photograph of the neglected field shows that it has been unmaintained since Dulwich Hamlet FC acquired the lease in 1993. Use of this former sports field would have been of enormous help for pupils of the ailing former William Penn School, who instead were obliged to be bussed to Ewell for sport. It would also have made life easier for that school’s successor, The Charter School who use the next field but no doubt would like additional space.
It is understood that the field is leased to the football club by Southwark Council and this lease expires at the end of this year. If that is the case, then Southwark Council should not grant a renewal to the present owners of Dulwich Hamlet FC, on the grounds of purposeful neglect as much as anything else, but seek to find a new tenant. No doubt Bessemer Primary School, which is currently being enlarged, or the Charter School, or indeed the successful candidate for the proposed new secondary school would all be likely applicants.
Whether it is the quality of the water in Dulwich or perhaps its benign climate, but there is apparently something in the air which inspires the creation and growth of self-help groups.
In this issue you will read of the newly formed University of the 3rd Age (U3A). Perhaps, it might be argued, it has taken some time for Dulwich to have a branch, but there is one here now and it is offering a broad range of subjects, from Latin to Bird watching.
In North Dulwich there have been three self-help groups which have started recently. All three are on the council estates of Bessemer Grange and Cleeve Hill at Champion Hill. Two have been formed to protect and improve significant areas of woodland, with the blessing and assistance of Southwark Council. Whilst one area is wild but with maintained paths, the other has a small meadow which has been equipped with one or two picnic tables. The third group is a community-based group which is promoting activities in the communal garden behind the homes close to Bessemer Primary School.
The group maintaining the woodland and meadow (which is located behind Sainsbury’s supermarket on Dog Kennel Hill, has, in the process of finding out more about the history of this wooded area, uncovered very interesting information on the original Gaumont film studios which were, a century and more ago, located in a sports field in what is today, Sainsbury’s car park. More of this in a future issue.