The vexed question of telephone masts has raised its (70 feet high) ugly head once again. The difference this time is that application has been made with the approval of the Dulwich Estate. The Estate indicated some months ago it was to take a pro-active stance over sites in Dulwich for telephone masts after fears that telephone companies would gain sites in public roads which would be of greater inconvenience to residents than those it might be able to offer sites for itself.
However, the first site the Dulwich Estate has proposed is in the playing fields in Gallery Road. Not only does the site lie within the existing Dulwich Village Conservation Area but the proposal is for two masts, some 40 metres apart. The masts, although disguised as fir trees, will impair the rural view from the Picture Gallery garden and surrounding fields.
Nevertheless there remains a problem if planning permission for the masts is refused. The telephone signal required for the new generation of mobile phones is not sufficiently strong in the Dulwich area and apparently fades altogether when used on Eurostar and Victoria line trains. This, for fellow passengers might be considered a benefit.
There seems to be a general objection to this site, and yet another petition has been delivered to the Estate's Office. The problem is where to place the masts. If any reader can offer an acceptable alternative site it will certainly be printed. As the Editor is one of the few people in Dulwich without a mobile phone he has already considered the more obvious solution!
Few visitors to Dulwich Park can have failed to have noticed the obtrusive outline of new housing looming over the tranquil rivulet near the College Road entrance (see picture below). We are assured, no less than by our own Planning Committee that the new building sits squarely on the foundations of its more modest predecessor and that its height is no loftier than what stood before. It seems as if these constraints were also sufficient to persuade the Dulwich Estate, the Dulwich Society and Southwark Council to approve the application. However to the man on the Dulwich Village omnibus such interpretation makes little sense. To him (or her) the roof across the hypotenuse is greater than the space on the previous two sides.
When the idea of introducing a CPZ (Controlled Parking Zone) in Dulwich was first mooted in the Herne Hill area several years ago in an attempt to alleviate parking in streets in proximity to Herne Hill Station by commuters, many people, understandably, turned a deaf ear to the implications. The effect of the CPZ at Herne Hill has been to displace the commuters' parking to vacant parking places beyond the boundaries of the Zone. This in turn has frustrated residents in neighbouring streets to such an extent that they too wish to consider applying for a CPZ.
The latest news is that a CPZ may be introduced around North Dulwich Station, thus affecting the whole of the North Dulwich Triangle. Watch this space (or park in it!).
The planning brief for the new Dulwich Community Hospital has been approved by Southwark Council. It outlines the parameters for any potential future use in the development of the site. The Dulwich Society's Local History Group has called for the listing of the central 'chateau' block as representing a significant example of Poor Law architecture and application for such listing has been formally made by the Dulwich Society to English Heritage.
Mr Patel of the Post Office mentioned to one of the Society's committee members some months ago that the Estates Trustees were asking him for an increased rent, which was more than double the amount he had been paying previously. He felt he would not be able to afford to pay this and would have to close the Post Office. At one of their regular meetings with the Estate Trustees, the Society's representative raised the matter and stressed that the Post Office provided an essential service for all members of the community, including the shops and other businesses. Concern was raised that this should be taken into account when setting the rent which, it was felt, should be based on an ability to pay rather than the Trustees seeking the maximum commercial rent that might be obtained for the property.
A local paper, The Southwark News, heard of the situation and published an article. They then telephoned Adrian Hill, Chairman of the Dulwich Society, to say that they wished to follow this up with a photograph to be taken outside the Post Office, with some residents demonstrating their support for its continued existence. One of the Society's committee members was asked to get a group together for a photograph with the result that at 10am one Tuesday morning in March more than a hundred local people demonstrated their support for the continuance of the Post Office. At the same time a Petition was started and ultimately handed in to the Estates Trustees when over a 1000 signatures had been obtained.
The Society has been instrumental in persuading Mr Patel to be professionally represented in his discussions with the Estates Trustees. As the Newsletter goes to press at the beginning of May these negotiations are continuing with both parties saying that there is a good chance that post office services will continue to be provided within the Village. We very much hope that this will be the case.
The Dulwich Estate took the unusual step of issuing a Statement in March in response to concerns over the future of the Post Office in the Village. It explained that the lease on 84 Dulwich Village expired in March and the Estate was in negotiation with Mr Patel. ' To allow additional time for these negotiations to be concluded it is proposed a short extension of two months.
On the expiry of the lease the Estate's professional advisors have been seeking to agree with the tenant's solicitors the current market value for the premises and it has indicated that it would be willing to continue to grant a concession against this for the operation of a post office. The Dulwich Estate has not asked the tenant to pay an increase of £13,000 p.a. but the rent initially offered by the tenant for the renewal of the lease is unacceptable since this would further increase the percentage discount against the market rent of the premises.
The Dulwich Estate as a charity, whose principal beneficiaries are schools in Dulwich, has a duty which prevents it from heavily subsidising the activities of its tenants.
The Estate does wish to see post office services continue in Dulwich Village. It will fully consider any proposals to combine additional commercial activity with the limited post office services on offer at 84 Dulwich Village (or an extension of the hours of operation) in order to ensure the financial viability of the business. It is hoped that the local community would then demonstrate its full support by patronising such a business.'
The Estate added to this Statement with a further comment at the end of April. 'For the avoidance of doubt (and to put the record straight) Mr Patel does not currently pay £10,000 p.a. in rent and the Estate is not seeking him to pay double his current rent.
The Dulwich Estate confirmed at the end of April that it was close to signing an agreement with a new tenant and that it hoped to complete within a matter of weeks and that it understood that it is the intention of the new tenant to grant a license to the London Velodrome Trust so that the cycle track may then be re-opened in the interim.