Often what motivates people to object to a development taking place near their homes is the potential upheaval it will cause to them; months (or longer) of a procession of noisy skips, inconsiderate parking by building contractors, noise and unsightliness. Of course this is nothing new. However, it is invariably thought that there was some golden age, whether in Dulwich or elsewhere, when there was no building works going on to upset the locality and streets were pristine.
Jerry White’s book London in the 19th Century demonstrates this was profoundly untrue in that period. Not only was the disturbance visible and unpleasant but it went on for years with railways, sewers and housing redistributing population, tearing up fields and snarling up traffic. He notes, and this especially was true of parts of East Dulwich, that a road might not be fully completed for 40 years.
Since then, London, and Dulwich in particular, has come under increased pressure to be built upon with massive council estates created to tackle post WW2 housing shortage and built on former beautiful open land. This was followed by a government requirement to increase the density of housing. This led to the expansion of the post-war private roads and estates on the former sites of large houses.
Now there is further pressure as old and new residents seek to expand their homes and schools add on new buildings to cope with increased roles or curriculum demands. Not unexpectedly there are frequently objections to what is proposed. Most objections are reasonable but sometimes objections reach unacceptable levels. It is disturbing for instance, that Marion Gibbs, the retiring headmistress of JAGS received hate mail over the school’s application to build a new music centre. Invariably, the level of complaint about a proposal diminishes the further one gets from it.
Ludicrously, the Dulwich Society has sometimes been accused of being in cahoots with, say the Dulwich Estate over development issues and sometimes of its members having vested interest. On the contrary, the Society is fiercely independent in its reviews of planning proposals and its representatives are not only democratically elected at each AGM but are required to declare any interest on issues they might be involved in. They therefore have every right to exercise their judgement on behalf of the Society.
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The Journal (formerly the Newsletter) in its current format has now reached 50 issues since the present editor was appointed in 2003. He says that he only agreed to do it for a couple of years! The first of these issues raised the matter of the poor state of those posts and chains in the Village which are the responsibility of Southwark Council (the ones maintained by The Dulwich Estate through the Scheme of Management, are now, as then, in good order) Over the years, often through the efforts of our Chairman, the appearance of the council maintained posts did improve. Now they are back to the 2003 level of broken chains and fallen and dirty posts. At least some of the money raised locally through the Community Infrastructure Levy should be allocated to rectify this. Dulwich Village is a conservation area and it has large numbers of visitors to its picture gallery and park. Neglect like this, not only looks dreadful but it encourages vandalism and graffiti.
The Journal is a considerable team effort. In addition to the regular contributors there are a number of other members involved in the distribution of the quarterly publication of 1200 copies. Particularly important to the smooth running of the operation are Barbara Kley who corrects the proofs of each issue and Jean Howell who co-ordinates the distribution. More distributors are always welcome to replace those who retire through age or infirmity. There is a steady stream of occasional contributors to the Journal and we would like to encourage more, particularly in the areas of sport, literature poetry and music - and not necessarily in that order! The criterion is that articles have a local interest.