Rus in (sub) Urbis only?

Mayor Ken Livingstone's line in the sand demarcating urban from suburban housing zones in the London Plan appears to have moved since we last reported the issue. Apparently he argues that the Southwark Unitary Development Plan does not conform to his London Plan. Instead of the boundary between the two zones being the railway line between Peckham Rye and Denmark Hill, it is now understood that the boundary is the Tulse Hill/North Dulwich railway line. The dividing line then appears to run along Red Post Hill, Dulwich Village, Calton Avenue, Court Lane, Lordship Lane, Cox's Walk to the borough boundary at Sydenham Hill. However, information on the precise boundary is sketchy. If this is the actual boundary, then houses to the east of this will fall into the 'Urban' classification.

The difference between urban and suburban areas in the London Plan is one of housing density. An urban area is anticipated to have 300-700 habitable rooms per hectare, with a building height of a maximum of seven storeys. Suburban density is for 200-350 habitable rooms per hectare. Southwark Council has succeeded in persuading government to reduce the upper limit for new building of flats in urban areas from seven to four storeys. This is still one more than Southwark wanted but represents a great improvement. The Council is hoping to compromise on urban density by proposing a figure of 450 habitable rooms per hectare. Importantly, conservation areas appear to be excluded from the housing density requirement.

This may not actually make any difference to those who live in the newly demarcated area but are residents on the Dulwich Estate, as applications for planning consent are first subject to approval under the Scheme of Management. The Dulwich Estate comments that since the Scheme was approved by the High Court it is thought that a change of legislation would be required to amend the area covered or a form of redress available to challenge refusal of consent by the Managers to development. Thus the Winterbrook and Stradella Roads Conservation area remains unaffected, as does, presumably Ruskin Walk and Carver Road. Properties in roads in the Dulwich Village Conservation Area also appear equally safe. Less certain are other roads linking Half Moon Lane and Herne Hill and Denmark Hill.

These roads comprise attractive and generally spacious Edwardian terraced or semi-detached properties, and lay in what has become known as the North Dulwich Triangle. There has been very little intrusion by later development and therefore they form an area of great suburban aesthetic value. Together with the architecturally important Casino Estate and Sunray Gardens they should be considered for listing as a Conservation Area and exclusion from the Mayor's designation as suitable for urban density building.

East Dulwich has also been designated as 'urban' by the Mayor and the same argument can also be advanced here. East Dulwich was created from farmland into dense terraced housing in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the area enjoys the period housing atmosphere of a kind of time warp. Most of the housing in East Dulwich is characterised by a harmonious low-rise townscape of simple but attractive terraced housing with front and rear gardens. To consider building flats of four storeys will harm this ambience. There is an urgent case for extending conservation status to much of East Dulwich and ensuring that the designation 'Urban' acknowledges the importance of such islands of interest.

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