There has been some confusion over the two recent surveys on the Scheme of Management. The Dulwich Estate’s survey was flagged up in the recent newsletter circulated with the annual charge invoice - in a strap line at the bottom of each page, while the Village Ward Lib Dem Councillors delivered letters to every household. Neither party knew that the other was doing a survey and, though they asked generally similar questions, though with a slightly different bias, it is unfortunate that both were only available electronically - as this will exclude many local residents of the opportunity of giving their views.
However, since we now have the surveys, what are they trying to find out? It’s no secret that there are differing views over how the Scheme of Management is run. There are those residents who feel that, whatever the problems, the ‘Scheme’ has made Dulwich the pleasant place it is, and that it keeps it that way. Others feel that the Estate is far too prescriptive on what they are or are not allowed do to and with their properties, inconsistent in their decisions, and are ignoring mounting concerns over the growing impact on residents’ amenity of the construction of new basements under existing houses. There is also a vocal minority that think the Scheme is merely replicating Southwark Council’s powers, and that the latter will be able to control what happens in the area through current planning and listed building legislation. It will be interesting to see both the results.
Given its remit of promoting the amenity of Dulwich, the Society sees one of its jobs as making sure the Estate runs the Scheme efficiently, appropriately, and at a reasonable cost. It continues to review and comment on the applications every month and, over the years, has had some successes. It encouraged the Estate to set up a website and it has lobbied hard for it to be more consistent and transparent in its decision making. The Society is also pressing for there to be better enforcement, for the ‘Scheme’ staff, and the Consultant Architect, to check that projects are implemented as approved, and that those residents who believe they can do what they like are prevented from doing so.
The remit of the Scheme of Management was clarified in a High Court judgement, now over forty years old. The ‘Scheme’ can be varied - by appealing to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber), the successor to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal, which reviewed the Dulwich ‘Scheme’ in the 1990s when the Estate wished to convert the quinquennial charge to an annual one. That exercise did show that the ‘Scheme’ can be varied, for example should it be varied to include control over basements, something no one would have even thought of 40 years ago?