One of the benefits of the former joint Lib Dem/Conservative Council administration was the introduction of Community Councils. This devolved some Council decision making to the local level – anticipating by several years the current coalition government’s localism and ‘big society’ agenda. However, as part of their money saving proposals the current Labour administration is looking to cut back on them. This would be very unfortunate as a recent event clearly demonstrated.At a Community Council Meeting in September, one specifically intended to discuss cuts in council services such as libraries, the meeting was given an unscheduled report by ‘Southwark Events’ informing us that the Council intended to spend over £50,000 on a one hour firework event in Dulwich Park – they had already briefed a ‘local’ theatre group to organise it (one based in another borough, Greenwich) and we were told that was that. Of course, in these days of political correctness it was not actually called a firework display, and there was no mention of Guy Fawkes, but a firework display was what it was. The Council were apparently unaware that there were to be at least four other major firework events the same weekend within half a mile of the park and they were going to it on Friday 4th rather than Saturday 5th like everyone else.
Unfortunately ‘Southwark Events’, the organisers, had forgotten to tell the local ward councillors about it, and most of the other local interested parties – they did at least have some preliminary discussion with the Dulwich Park Friends but that was all. Local councillors were, quite rightly, up in arms, and none of the local amenity groups were particularly enthusiastic – an event for upwards of 3000 people on a potentially wet early winter night in a heritage park did not seem, on the face of it, a great idea. In the end there were so many objections that the Council was forced to back down – a good result for the park, and a lesson for the Council that early consultation is always worthwhile.
However, the real problem is of course that times are hard and the Council does need to cut back – closing ‘Southwark Events’ could be a start perhaps, but the Council want to take a percentage from every service - and Community Councils are no different. A not very widely published ‘on line’ Council survey (why is it assumed that everyone is on the internet?) asked what suggestions residents had to save money on Community Councils - the options did not of course include keeping them and cutting elsewhere!
Community Councils are the one forum where local residents can influence Council policy and they have been a success in Dulwich. It would be bad to lose them – and we have been reminded what can happen if major decisions are made at the centre without local involvement.
The historic Dulwich Millpond is a reminder of Dulwich’s past, when there was a windmill on the corner of College Road and Dulwich Common, and Pond Cottages was a tile works rather than a row of bijou houses. The pond is where the clay to make the tiles was dug from and, when work stopped in the early eighteenth century, it filled up with water. It is an important local amenity for flora and fauna but the water is now virtually stagnant and the pond needs remedial work.
Following much discussion with various experts the Dulwich Estate has now prepared a scheme to deal with it. A bathymetric survey revealed a build-up of some 1200m3 of silt which needs to be removed in order to improve the water quality and a silt trap will then be installed to reduce the risk of this happening in the future.
The works will be carried out in autumn 2012. An ecological survey confirmed that carrying out the dredging phase at this time would minimise the potential disturbance of wildlife and vegetation during the dredging phase,
The costs of this major project will be recovered through the Scheme of Management Charge in September 2012.