The Dulwich Society has over a thousand members, approximately 20% of the households in Dulwich. It ought to have more. Elsewhere in this Newsletter are reported issues that affect us all - the possible extension of the Dulwich Village Conservation area and the implications this has for residents within the proposed new area; the case for and against an additional bus route through the Village; a proposal from the Dulwich Society to allow the Belair car park to be used at nightime by residents returning by public transport to West Dulwich.

Membership of the Dulwich Society gives individuals a voice in matters which affect them. As you will see, the Chief Executive of the Dulwich Estate, John Major, urges residents to join amenity societies like ours. You, the reader are a member, and we hope you will want to renew that membership in 2004. Perhaps you might consider introducing new residents to the Society.

As you know, the Dulwich Society functions through a range of sub-committees, all of these welcome new committee members and the chairmen of each sub-committee will be pleased to hear from you if you are interested in serving. The Newsletter is hand-distributed by members in a remarkable team effort, four times a year. Recently, one or two of the long serving distributors indicated that because of advancing years they are no longer able to continue. This is an unsung but essential task and new volunteers would be welcomed by the Distribution Manager. The delivery is not onerous, just one road or so.

This year, two prominent Dulwich figures passed away. Philip Spooner and Bill Alexander were both veteran members of the Dulwich Rotary Club and active members of the community. Philip was a founder member of the Friends of the Horniman and for many years secretary of the Dulwich Forum. Bill had done tremendous work over a long period for the Friends of Dulwich Hospital. Both men were lay-readers of their respective churches, St Faith's and St Clement's. Such public spirited individuals are becoming increasingly rare and we mourn their passing.

A meeting to consider extending the Dulwich Village Conservation Area was held at the St Barnabas Parish Hall on 30th September. Kieran Bartlett, Southwark Council's Conservation Officer, explained the what, the why, and how of conservation areas and a lively discussion ensued. Unfortunately many were unable to hear the contributions from the audience, or even Kieran himself. The Planning Department had provided a splendid ten-page handout showing historical maps of the area, and spelling out the basics, but unfortunately, Southwark's Graphics Department had failed to provide a map showing the extent of the current conservation area! And at least one road that would have been affected had not been notified of the meeting. However, Kieran stressed that this was only the beginning of the consultation process, and, if the council decided to go further, there would be more consultation. Meanwhile, he stressed the importance of sending letters with our views to his office (address below). But first the facts:

A Conservation Area is: "An area of special architectural or historic importance, the character of which it is desirable to enhance and protect."

The special character of the Dulwich Village Conservation Area is officially described as:

  • A semi-rural atmosphere, derived from the retained character of the historic village.
  • Fine houses, and the occupation of these houses as single family dwellings.
  • Wide grass verges and mature trees.
  • Attractive shops facing onto an historic high street.
  • A quiet atmosphere.

The Dulwich Village Conservation Area might be extended because:

  • The current designation does not include some of the historic routes to and from Dulwich Village.
  • Also the current boundaries exclude some fine listed buildings and open land, which would benefit from additional protection.

When Conservation Areas were first established, Dulwich Village was one of the earliest ,in 1968. During the past thirty-five years it has remained the same size, but it is clear that if it had been created now, under current policy, it would have been larger. So when a number of local people began to write to his department asking to have their streets included, the council thought it was time to look at the boundaries again. Indeed, they have a statutory duty to keep boundaries of conservation areas under review.

Currently the boundaries are well within the boundaries of the Dulwich Estate on the west and south, though they run together on the eastern side (see sketch plan). Possibly the boundaries of the Conservation Area could be altered to coincide more nearly with those of the Estate.

Basically, being in a conservation area affects the criteria for planning permission for certain works. Being within the Area will not increase the bureaucracy. Within the Dulwich Estate, we already have to submit two applications for planning; the council one costs £110, the Estate one anything from £50 upwards. Would there be a further fee? No, the status of Conservation Area affects what the Council Planning Department can allow but the Conservation Officer works within that department, liasing closely with other planning officers.

What advantages would it bring to residents? Is the area not already protected adequately by the Dulwich Estate? "No" said Michelle Pearce, one of our local councillors. "When the Woodyard site was being developed, the Estate had in mind to build a large number of small houses of no architectural merit. Instead, because it was already in a Conservation Area, the council prevented this, and refused planning permission until an alternative plan for larger homes, more space, and some interesting architecture was developed."

In a Conservation Area, the council would have power to prevent the demolition of large old houses to make way for smaller modern ones. There are still a few large old houses just outside the area which the Estate might feel tempted to demolish and replace and extending the area could give these protection, but only if the individual houses or the street in which they lay was held to have historical or architectural merit.

The council would be able to impose stricter limits on the size of extensions and the provision of dormer windows than it does now. Probably these new limits would be similar to those currently imposed by the Estate.

A priority of the conservation team in Southwark is to preserve the large areas of open land surrounding the Village, as part of the original pattern of Dulwich. Another priority is to include the historic routes into the Village, and buildings of historic interest along the way, including North Dulwich Station. To do this, they will have to include roads enclosing the open areas, even if these roads do not themselves possess an architectural or historic character meriting Conservation Area status. This is normal practice in Conservation Areas, and these roads are referred to in appraisals as 'neutral areas'.

It was pointed out by Cllr. Pearce and others, that the Dulwich Estate, unlike the Council, never consulted residents, and although the Estate's rule was generally benign, there was no way of finding out why a particular ruling had been made and no recourse against it. This, she claimed, was unlike the council's more transparent way of working.

The whole consultation, even with its poor organisation, was infinitely better than any consultation the Estate has ever had (has it ever had any?). The Council has chosen to consult with residents on this issue, although not obliged to do so. It is clear that the council's regulations are open to all and their application is closely monitored by our elected representatives.

This was primarily a preliminary consultation for residents in the affected areas. Questions and comments related largely to how the change would affect the wider community. Would the council's efforts, for instance be better spent in preserving other areas in Southwark?

It would seem logical to bring the boundaries of the Conservation Area more into line with the boundaries of the Estate. There would be double protection against unsympathetic development and some extra protection from arbitrary behaviour by the Estate when dealing with its own land.

As a consultation for residents, it reached a very definite conclusion. Well over a hundred were present, and on a show of hands the great majority were in favour of extending the Conservation Area.

Report by Margaret Hanton

If you would like to write with your views, the address is;

Design and Conservation Team
London Borough of Southwark
Chiltern Building
Portland Street
London SE17 2ES

The Dulwich Society Newsletter would also welcome its members' views.

It was unfortunate that The Dulwich Estate was not consulted prior to the meeting, since it has a dual interest as a property owner and, perhaps more importantly as Managers of the Scheme of Management (established in 1974).

The rights and powers of the Managers under the Scheme are conferred for the purposes of enabling them to preserve the amenities of the Estate for the common benefit. The Managers therefore welcome any measures by the Council which will assist in meeting this. In addition, designating parts of the Estate as Conservation Areas reduces the likelihood of applications for building works, which may have received planning permission from the Council, being rejected under the Scheme of Management. Recently the Managers have been pleased to encourage and approve new buildings of architectural merit, for which Southwark Council has granted planning permission. Extending the boundaries of the Conservation Area

The Dulwich Estate covers some 1500 acres of land, situated in three boroughs, Southwark, Lambeth and Lewisham. Although it is unlikely that the Councils would consider all properties within the Estate's boundaries to be of such architectural and historic merit as to warrant conservation status, the Scheme of Management already applies to the whole of this area. Thus, the Managers are obliged to preserve, for the Estate as a whole, the amenity for the common benefit by seeking to maintain the character and appearance of individual properties, streets of properties, monuments, open space and woodland

The Dulwich Estate as landowner

The distinction must be made between the Estate in its role as Managers of the Scheme and its primary function, as a Charity endowed with property. As a Charity it is the duty of the Trustees to manage the assets in the best interest of the Beneficiaries.

Occasionally, there may be instances whereby this duty appears to conflict with the Scheme of Management and the situation apparently cited by Cllr. Pearce, regarding the Woodyard is such a case. The Estate was not the developer, it sold the site and it was the developer who originally wanted to build a number of small houses but the Council refused planning permission.

The Estate is not usually a developer and when sites are sold for development, these are of course subject to planning permission and generally, the Scheme of Management. In addition, although the Estate's own properties fall outside the Scheme, when carrying out works to these which may have an impact on the amenity of neighbours, the Estate goes through a similar consultation process of informing the relevant freeholders of its proposals (see below).

Consultation under the Scheme of Management

As regards the apparent lack of consultation and transparency under the Scheme of Management, this is an accusation often made and based, we believe, on ignorance of the operation of the Scheme:

When an application under the Scheme would have an impact on the common amenity or amenities of the immediate neighbours, the Managers write to those residents, advising them of the proposals and inviting comment (within 21 days).

If the proposals comply with the Policy Guidelines (as issued from time to time by the Managers) and barring adverse comments from third parties, the works will be licensed without further reference.

Works, which do not comply with the Guidelines and those proposals to which objections have been received, are put to the Scheme of Management, which meets monthly. The Committee will have regard to representations received from neighbouring properties, the Dulwich Society and other third parties, in considering the application. If the Committee approves the proposals, a licence is then issued.

If an application is refused, the applicant is always informed of the reason in writing. Generally, wherever possible, applicants will be invited to submit revised proposals after consultation with the Scheme's consultant architect or tree consultant. Where an applicant wishes to challenge the decision of the Scheme, there is an arbitration process.

The Managers do not automatically inform objectors of the decision of the Committee but it does encourage such individuals to telephone the office for information should they wish to know the outcome. The reason that the Scheme Managers do not advise the objectors of this in writing is cost.

It is also worth noting that under the provision of the Scheme there is an Advisory Committee. This body (which comprises an equal number of Trustees from The Dulwich Estate and representatives of the amenity societies) meets three times a year, in addition to receiving details of all applications made for works to properties. Residents of Dulwich are encouraged to join the amenity societies since one of the benefits is to be able to make collective representation to the Estate over any issues of concern.

John Major
Chief Executive, The Dulwich Estate

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