When I was a teenager my father did not offer me the usual advice given to young men of that age; avoid hard drink, loose women and gambling, he left that task to my mother, instead he warned me of the dangers of failing to attend boring meetings for even more boring causes. When he was twenty my father was an ardent Communist, by the time he reached middle age he was a Conservative. His lecture to me, gleaned from this long political journey, was that militant idealists endure attending those early boring meetings when a new issue is addressed because they are able to assume positions of power at a critical stage when so few are left to oppose them.
The same argument might be addressed to your average Dulwich resident, who after a hard week in the home or out of the home cannot find the energy or enthusiasm to consider what appears to be a rather barmy new initiative by government/ the London Mayor/ local council/residents' association/or whatever. Unfortunately, and this is where my father's advice rings true - proponents of some possibly hairbrained scheme will. And before you know it there is a draft proposal and as everyone knows once an item is written in draft form it is virtually set in stone with only the odd comma or full stop being chiseled out by those who read it in the first place. And most do not. According to reliable sources, or perhaps just tea leaves in my cup, if 10% of a consulted group of people respond to any questionnaire, then that is considered a very good result.
The next stage of most processes is called the 'consultation'. By now some off those who failed to find sufficient energy earlier have been stirred to attend such an event, often by their nearest and dearest. But the original draft concept has definitely solidified and although attendees at the 'workshops' gathered around tables in the room will pour over what is proposed, their voice will have very little effect. You see, as my father explained all those years ago, you should have gone to the initial boring meetings and been elected to a boring committee.
And so here in Dulwich, we have an excellent example of this in action; the flawed scheme for the junction of Calton Avenue and Dulwich Village. Indeed, so flawed that it is said that Southwark Council now disowns it and places the blame on TfL As a local historian, I am aware how the junction was created in the first place. Calton Avenue was the start of a footpath leading (via Green Dale) to Camberwell, Court Lane was a dead-end access road to Court Farm. Turney Road only appeared when the Greyhound's cricket field was built over. Dulwich Village itself was (and is) the main road.
We have arrived at the present impasse because in the distant past various pressure groups demanded change; more housing to meet need, additional roads to access other areas, increased income from development. Oh, and do something about the increased traffic.
We now have three camps of opposing local residents. Group 1 who welcome the closure of the junction as a means of improving air quality and pedestrian safety and who see the new space created as 'Dulwich Square '. This opens their minds to endless possibilities, possibly including maypole dancing. Group 2 comprises largely those residents who took no action in the early stages but turned up at the 'consultation' and are miffed that their voices are not being heard. They liken the new roadblocks to a cut -price Checkpoint Charlie. Group 3 is a body of residents who just want to be left alone and prefer not to have the place where they live messed about with and do not want their roads tuned into rat-runs for displaced traffic. And they want to drive where they wish, especially if they are too old or infirm to walk or cycle.
How can the Dulwich Society hope to steer a course through this minefield in its efforts to achieve its Object - To foster and safeguard the amenities of Dulwich? Its executive committee decided to back what Southwark Council says is a 'temporary' closure of the Dulwich Village junction for a period of 18 months under the emergency Covid 19 measures. But are Southwark Council to be trusted to review the plan after this time has elapsed? If Dulwich Hamlet Football Club's application for a new stadium to be built on the Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) in Greendale so the existing stadium can be redeveloped for housing (blocks of flats up to 6 stories high, to which the Dulwich Society objected) can be passed by the Planning Committee, despite the leader of the Council saying two years ago that consent would not be granted, who would put money on it?
You will find letters commenting on the Society's position in this issue.