The Dulwich Society, through its Planning and Architecture sub-committee is taking barrister's opinion on the way to proceed in order to seek the satisfactory reinstatement of the Grade II listed wall alongside Lyndenhurst in Red Post Hill. As has previously been reported in these columns, a former owner of the house sold part of the garden in 1990. The purchaser applied for planning consent for a series of different developments, finally losing on appeal to the Secretary of State. In 2002 he sold the site to the current owner, a company named Hausmann Hughes. This company submitted a series of planning applications to obtain access to the property from Red Post Hill. These were refused by the Council on the grounds of safety. In the meantime part of the wall collapsed and a more was taken down by Southwark Council as a dangerous structure in 2004.
Southwark Council conservation officers were advised and served notice on the owner to rebuild the wall. However, no enforcement notice was issued and Hausmann Hughes has taken no remedial action.
The Dulwich Society is frustrated that neither the Dulwich Estate nor Southwark Council is taking the matter further. As a way forward it is therefore seeking legal advice in order to assist these two bodies to find a solution.
A similar example of dilatoriness is to be found at St Peter's Church, Lordship Lane. This too is a listed Grade II building and is also on the Dulwich Estate. An enforcement order was served before 2003 by Southwark Council for the reinstatement of the adjoining listed church hall all which many years ago was externally altered without planning permission. Since then, the gate posts and part of the front wall have become in a ruinous condition.
The Council's failure to take action against these two examples of damage to listed buildings makes the whole idea of the preservation of listed buildings a mockery and invites similar neglect from owners of other listed properties in Dulwich. Southwark Council has a legal obligation to carry out the remedial work if the owner fails to do so, and to obtain reimbursement from the owner.
It can be no coincidence that around what should be one of Dulwich's most attractive corners - where Dulwich Common meets Lordship Lane, which has a beautiful view of the uphill sweep of fields, woods and golf course, the sylvan Cox's Walk and a tree-enclosed Grade II listed Victorian Gothic church; there are deplorable examples of neglect and decay. We have cited the case of St Peter's Church and Hall. Opposite, stands what must be one of London's outrageous examples of neglect - a once beautiful Victorian mansion allowed to fall to rack and ruin and become a perpetual eyesore. In the last resort, and residents might feel this point has long been reached, it is the duty of Southwark Council to resolve the long-running question of demolition or restoration of this building - The first course presumably is to find the owner. If this proves impossible then Southwark Council should investigate what measures it can use to bring about a conclusion to the matter - on Health and Safety grounds alone it would appear to have ample reason to invoke its powers.
A few yards away, and this time on Dulwich Estate land is the sports ground of the Streatham & Marlborough Cricket Club. The club lets some of its accommodation to a nursery school and in 2004 received additional income of £25,000 from the Dulwich Community Council for "ground improvements access". Although the ground is in splendid condition, the club has done nothing to improve the appearance of the entrance area, with broken down fences, great deposits of rubbish and unsightly temporary buildings. As ground landlord, the Dulwich Estate has a duty to require the club to honour its covenants and the Dulwich Community Council to satisfy itself the large sum of ratepayers' money given has been satisfactorily spent.
These examples of neglect are all preventable; to ignore them is to encourage failure by other trustees and property owners' to care for their buildings. It encourages 'neighbourhood blight', with its attendant dangers of the spread of graffiti, vandalism and other forms of hooliganism to take hold.
A policy change by the Dulwich Estate might affect unwary residents who are seeking to carry out alterations to their property. The Estate has now adopted a position that that where a freeholders makes an application to the Scheme of Management for new works but where unauthorised changes to the property were made in the past (such as the formation of a hard standing), the licence for the new works will be conditional on remedial action being taken (to restore the garden).
An informal link has been made between the Dulwich and the Camberwell Society with a view of sharing information on matters of mutual concern. Following discussions between members of both executive committees it has been found that topics such as traffic and transport, and especially the possible route extension of the number 42 bus in order that it can serve Dulwich Community Hospital are of shared interest. Co-operation may also extend to parks and wildlife and local history (Dulwich was formerly in the parish of Camberwell)