The Dulwich Estate held two public consultations on 4th and 6th July when they showed a number of proposals to enhance the retail offer in both Dulwich Village and West Dulwich in an attempt to try and generate more footfall from locals, and to make both areas more of a destination for visitors.

Starting in the Village, the plans are to take down some of the large trees in front of the shops at Nos 25-49, and level the pavement area in front of them (and plant smaller trees). Unfortunately, there was no mention of controlled parking, an essential addition to free up more space for shoppers by preventing commuters parking there.

In order to improve the footfall here (rather like Gail’s has at the southern end), the Estate are planning to locate an upmarket restaurant/café chain in the former S G Smith showroom - the rumour is that it will be the ‘Ivy Café’, there are already branches nearby in Blackheath, Richmond and Wimbledon. ‘Roger Pope’, the optician, is shortly to be extended at the rear, as is the former Harvey Wheeler unit - but there is no news on the likely occupier there. There was also no news about the potential convenience store, ‘Simply Fresh’ - though the Estate assures us that the company has signed the lease, paid a deposit, and is currently in its rent-free period. About a month ago there were some comments on Twitter saying that work would be underway shortly but, as yet, there is no planning application and nothing happening in the shop unit. ‘Simply Fresh’ do appear to be expanding elsewhere, most recently in South Wimbledon.

Moving to West Dulwich, there are two major initiatives, one is to relocate the ‘Alleyn Park Garden Centre’ to the South Croxted Road corner next to the ‘Dulwich Bakery’. This will then free up its former site to be redeveloped for housing and the plans are for four two-bedroom mews houses, possibly for rent, like the new flats over the road. The other is to pave over the existing parking area in front of the eastern parade and form a landscaped piazza - to provide space for sitting out (for possible future coffee bars perhaps) and opportunities for weekend markets and other public events. The existing parking will be moved to an area behind Tesco, accessed from Park Hall Road.

As far as the shops there are concerned, the ‘Dulwich Bazaar’ restaurant is fitting out at the moment, in the former Italian next to Tesco, and hopefully will open shortly, but the plans to locate a wine bar in the former kitchen shop on the corner of Alleyn Road have run into a number of objections from nearby residents. The other empty unit, the former Phase Eight, is rumoured to be under offer to a men’s barber.

The consultations were quite well attended but there were several comments on whether the Estate was relying too much on restaurants and cafes as the solution to Dulwich’s retail problems. Perhaps it should be reviewing its rental aspirations so as to attract a wider diversity of smaller local operators. The recent opening of the zero-waste shop in Herne Hill is perhaps an example of the type of tenant that could have been attracted to Dulwich if the rents had been right. The other point being made was that empty shops benefit no one, neither residents nor the Estate.