There are several matters of concern for Dulwich residents which appear to be taking on a greater significance. Interestingly, they are all inter-related. The first is the problem of finding a parking space close to one's own house. The second is anxiety over the possibility of subsidence of one's home. The third is the threat of flooding caused by occasional, but increasingly more frequent, storms.
As Dulwich and East Dulwich are largely Victorian and Edwardian suburbs, the streets are often narrow, built at a time when the passing of two horse drawn delivery carts, unimpeded by the parking of other vehicles alongside the curb determined a road's maximum width. Narrow roads allowed landowners to build more dwellings on a site. A growing number of residents, exasperated over damage to their parked cars on Dulwich's now congested streets have resorted to turning their front gardens into a parking space. Those residents living in houses with either a narrow frontage, often coupled with a very short front garden cannot avail themselves of this solution.
Many front garden conversions are a great success, both aesthetically and ecologically. Others are not only a complete eyesore with every vestige of plant life eliminated, but they visually impair the appearance of the street itself. Such - treatment also has implications for neighbours. Property values are usually determined by location. If the location assumes an aesthetically poor appearance then inevitably property prices in that location will not be as high as a location where the aesthetics are good. One only has to look at the Bellenden Area Renewal Scheme to note the success the restoration of front garden walls and the replacement of railings and gates has made not only to the appearance of the area, but also to improvements in social behaviour and steeply rising property values.
Other problems are created for everybody by poorly thought-out conversions of front gardens into parking spaces. The first problem may arise for the actual house owner himself. All Dulwich houses are built on very deep clay which is susceptible to shrinkage and expansion depending on rainfall. Most Dulwich houses are built on a very shallow concrete raft of foundations which will be affected by the movement of the clay which might in some cases lead to subsidence. By fully paving front gardens, and by turning rear gardens into apparently labour saving paved areas, house owners are diverting the rainfall away from their houses and thus depriving the clay beneath of the water it requires to remain stable.
Not only that, but rainwater is carried away from the property altogether adding pressure on already possibly inadequate storm drains and thus creating the danger of flooding in some areas. Elsewhere in this issue of the Newsletter the issues are addressed in greater detail. It may well be that locally a code of practice should be drawn up or improved guide lines issued for hard-standings within Conservation Areas and the Dulwich Scheme of Management Area.
As the Newsletter was about to go to the printers, the Royal Horticultural Society published a report of its concern over the national loss of front gardens. It noted that 14% of London house-owners had paved over their front gardens.
A fortuitous chain of events has led to the discovery and proposed restoration of the actual handcart used by the Post Office in Dulwich Village in 1883 to deliver parcels. The first Dulwich Society members to alert the Executive Committee to the cart's whereabouts were Kenneth and Gillian Wolfe, who saw it being used as an advertisement for an antique shop near Tower Bridge. Other members later saw it and the Society decided to pursue the matter.
Patrick Spencer and Brian Green duly went to the antique shop and negotiated the purchase, having first secured the permission of Mr Patel, the Postmaster at the present Dulwich Village Post Office to allow the Dulwich Society to install the cart beneath his shop's canopy. Mr Patel also obtained the ready agreement of the Dulwich Estate to placing of the cart there. The sum paid by the Society was around £750.
Following the purchase, a visit was made to the Royal Mail archives at Mount Pleasant. It was discovered that in Liverpool in 1883, representation was made by postmen that the load they were carrying on the six daily deliveries was often too heavy and the Post Master of Liverpool sought permission to obtain handcarts for delivering parcels. The GPO parcels office in London took up the matter on a national basis and submitted a request for an order of carts for all its districts to the Treasury. This was accepted and all the national postal districts were requested to obtain tenders from local coachbuilders for manufacture. The estimates varied over the country but in November 1883 the Treasury instructed the GPO to place orders in their districts for a total of 1079 handcarts at a total cost of agreed expenditure of £8610. It is hoped that further research will reveal which London based company built the Dulwich Village handcart.
According to the antique shop, the Dulwich Village cart came to them from Liverpool. What its history is after if was replaced by the GPO with a nationally standardised cart built with a wicker top in 1915 is not known. This rare or possibly unique cart has therefore returned to its place of origin after an odyssey of some 123 years. Miraculously it still retains all its original fittings; a metal rack on the roof, an inner shelf, the original waterproofed roof cover, a removable sliding tray beneath and a hinged flap.
The cart is in great need of restoration and Dulwich Society member Willis Walker, an experienced restorer has agreed to head a team to this end. Graham Nash is assisting Willis in this project. Ian Bristow, an expert on paint finishes will advise on the original colour scheme and materials.
Willis writes "The first step is to find out as much as we can about its original design and appearance, and the materials used in its construction. More easily said than done! The paintwork is in very poor condition, and only one panel contains much detail. The present intention is to conserve this panel and not restore it. Volunteers are needed to assist with the project and a number of specialist skills are required. In particular we need a wheelwright, someone with metal working skills and equipment, a sign writer and someone to design the painted decoration using whatever information we gather." Willis may be contacted at: Tel. 020 7274 3276.
The relation between trees and subsidence is a very live issue in Dulwich. As we all know, Dulwich is built on heavy clay which expands in wet weather and shrinks in dry. As a result, many houses suffer subsidence to a greater or lesser extent, regardless of whether or not there are trees in the vicinity. Unfortunately, many insurance companies insist on any tree, or even bushes, anywhere near being removed. No doubt trees do, in some cases, contribute towards subsidence. But the main cause, in Dulwich, is the clay soil. Many of the older houses have shallow foundations and the remedy is often underpinning - which makes the removal of trees unnecessary.
There is a very acute example of this problem at present in Court Lane Gardens, where the loss adjusters are demanding the felling of three fine old oak trees in the little woodland in front of the houses. The Estate is in a difficult position because it can be sued if it refuses and if damage can be attributed to the trees. It is a problem, too, for the owners of the house. The Estate is as anxious as anyone to avoid felling any of the trees and so are the residents of Court Lane Gardens.
The oaks are older than the houses and appear on a Metropolitan Board of Works map dated 1885, discovered by Liz Johnson (of the Society's History Group), author of the new book on Dulwich Park. At least one of the houses there has had to be underpinned, with no trees being removed.
The Trees Committee are, of course, opposed to the felling. At our request, Southwark Council are putting Tree Preservation Orders on them. This means that the trees are protected for six months, during which the matter can be disputed, but at the end of that period, the protection orders will become permanent.
I hope that by the time this newsletter comes out, we shall know that these splendid oaks have been saved.
Stella Benwell, Chair, Trees Committee
The subject of the rapid increase in the number of hard standings came up at the December Community Council meeting, particularly over concerns that this might impact upon flooding in the area. The Society has asked the Estate to consider modifying their guidelines to either require the use of gravel or to make sure on-site drainage is installed where bricks or blocks are used.
Southwark have continued their policy of rejecting planning applications for masts in conservation areas, the latest one to be turned down was on the north eastern corner of Dulwich Common and College Road. There are, however, currently two other applications, one by Vodafone on the pavement opposite Rosebury lodge on Dulwich Common and one by Orange on the corner of Acacia Grove and Alleyn Park. This is not the first time that masts have been proposed on both these sites. T Mobile is also appealing against Lambeth's refusal for a mast at the junction of Lovelace Road and Rosendale Road.
There is still no resolution to residents' concerns over the proposed mast in the Pelo sports ground. The Society knows that other options were being considered and still awaits alternative proposals on suitable sites which do not impact on schools and homes.
The Society has not been advised of any further proposals for the Velodrome although it understands that the Estate is continuing negotiations with Citygrove Estates. One step forward is that local residents associations have finally been contacted by the Velo Club de Londrés, the current site manager, to initiate a discussion on their proposed development plan for cycling.
Among the schemes they wish to carry out over the next year are an expansion of the cyclo-cross circuit, mend the track fence, introduce cycle-polo in the centre of the track and treat the track surface to resist algae attack. Longer term thoughts include a BMX track, a cycle speedway track and track lighting - a controversial proposal bearing in mind the recent history of similar proposals by Southwark.
There have been a number of applications to install solar water heating panels although one might question their effectiveness in our climate and whether the energy saved will ever equal the amount of energy used in their manufacture. Notwithstanding this the Estate are drafting guidelines to control their locations as the panels are not particularly attractive. At the very least they should be restricted to rear elevations only, ideally at low level, so that they are not visible from other gardens or Dulwich's many sports fields.
There are rumours that the Dulwich Cricket Club is thinking of constructing covered indoor cricket nets on Metropolitan Open Land. The Southwark Unitary Development Plan has a presumption against any development in Metropolitan Open Land and the Society will look at any application very closely.
The College has submitted a revised proposal to redevelop the old swimming pool site in the centre of the College. The Society is supportive of the principle of providing additional facilities but considers that the proposed elevational treatment is not of a high enough standard for such an important and visible site.
The School appealed against the refusal of planning permission for the new theatre building against officer advice. The enquiry has taken place but the result has yet to be announced.
Kingswood School have now received planning permission for the new sports hall and music school and are currently applying to re-clad the main building. They have consulted extensively with local residents and the preferred scheme replaces the existing blue spandrel panels with polished stainless steel. Sample panels are on the building.
The Kingswood Nursery School in Lyall Avenue originally built in 1954 is to be replaced. The new design is much larger and two stories high.
Majestic Wine has submitted a planning application for this site. There will be only minor changes to the main building and on site car parking will be provided so as not to impact upon the surrounding roads.
A planning application to demolish this still functioning pub on the Kingswood Estate and replace it with a block of flats was rejected by Southwark Councillors who overruled the planning officer's recommendation for approval. A revised application for a smaller number of flats has now been made and the Society will seek the views of local residents who previously objected both to the loss of the pub and the size of the new development.
There is still no progress on the falling boundary wall of the Grade II listed house, Lyndenhurst, at the corner of Red Post Hill and Village Way. Both Southwark Council and the Estate have turned down a proposal to form a much larger opening in the wall and the Society remains concerned whether a satisfactory solution will be found in the short term. The Dulwich Estate has already served a Breach Notice to the owner of the land requiring action be taken to repair the wall. Southwark Council also served notice to rebuild the wall and a Dangerous Structure Notice was served. As no action was taken Southwark Council authorised a contractor to take down a dangerous section of the wall.
The Estate have confirmed that they have instructed the house behind the Grade II listed mile stone in Red Post Hill to rebuild the part of the garden wall that was recently demolished without Estate consent.
The Dulwich Society asked the Dulwich Estate for its view on the situation in Croxted Road where flower and fish stalls use the area in front of The Dulwich Trader as a sales pitch on a Sunday. The Estate replied that it had approached the flower seller with a request that he formalise his use of the site and this he has agreed to do. There has been no contact with the fishmonger. In view of the fact that no complaints have been received from either the Estate's commercial tenants or members of the public, the Estate is not averse to this kind of activity but it welcomes the views of The Dulwich Society.
The Dulwich Society asked the Dulwich Estate to clarify its arrangements for maintenance, management and monitoring of Dulwich Woods as fallen trees were not being cut and removed even when they appear to be a significant hazard to walkers. The Estate replied that the Woods are inspected on a regular basis by the contractors (Emery Facilities & Property Maintenance Contractors Ltd). The policy is to maintain the woods in their natural state and to allow fallen trees to rot down. Footpaths are kept clear of fallen trees and branches but there will inevitably be times between visits by contractors when there might be trip hazards to walkers.
In January the Dulwich Community Council heard submissions from residents regarding the existing Controlled Parking Zone operating in the Herne Hill Area. It was recommended that the Zone be extended to include Carver Road, Ruskin Walk, Warmington Road and Hollingbourne Road for a six month trial period and to operate between the hours of 12 noon - 2pm.
The residents of Ruskin Walk submitted a second request to the January Dulwich Community Council meeting that the road should be one-way only because of its narrow width, the damage to cars experienced by residents from passing traffic and the impossibility of converting front gardens to hard standing because of the narrow frontages and short front gardens. This request was rejected in view of including the road in the proposed CPZ extension trial period. On the face of it, making Ruskin Walk a one-way road seems a sensible idea. There are also arguments for making similar arrangements for neighbouring Hollingbourne Road but one way in the other direction.
Similar congestion problems are faced by a number of other narrow Dulwich and East Dulwich Roads and a one-way system would ease the problem. Particularly difficult passing places occur in Aysgarth Road, Pickwick Road and Boxall Road which could be solved by such an arrangement. Similarly Dekker, Druce and Desenfans Roads might be considered. One of the most difficult roads to negotiate, and one which receives considerable traffic is Dovercourt Road. A one-way scheme in conjunction with Beauval Road might be the solution.
The new government licensing laws, allowing sports clubs as well as public houses, bars and other licensed premises to remain open for longer hours has caused an unexpected problem in opposing such application. The new regulations require the applicant to display a notice of intention to extend opening hours and it is the public's responsibility to see such applications and respond to them within a very limited period. When such applications are made by sports clubs for extensions in their bar opening times until 1pm, such notices are not easily spotted. Such extensions might cause considerable inconvenience because of noise, to those residents who back on to sports club premises. The Dulwich Society is drawing up a Code of Practice for such applications for submission to the Community Council.