5G Rollout in Dulwich

Over the last few months, the countrywide rollout of 5G, the new generation of wireless technology, has reached Dulwich. Ofcom’s website is enthusiastic about the benefits telling us that not only is it more responsive and much faster than previous generations of wireless technology, it also offers greater capacity, allowing thousands of devices in a small area to be connected at the same time. It also implies that the way we use mobile technology will change and that the connectivity and capacity offered by 5G is opening up the potential for new, innovative services.

A recent letter from the Department of Media Culture and Sport (DCMS) to Councils asks them to actively promote investment in the roll out of next-generation networks in their area and to facilitate this by ensuring that the highways and housing/estates teams are working together to enable digital infrastructure deployment (no mention of the planning department). They are also asked to Identify a senior executive within the council to act as a ‘Digital Champion’ to ensure a cohesive digital infrastructure strategy and to work with the Government’s ‘Barrier Busting’ Task Force to identify and remove local barriers to deployment - presumably planning controls and concerned local residents.

The first application in the area was on the Southwark Community Sports Trust (SCST) Sports field off Turney Road. There is already a mast there and members with long memories will remember how long it took to agree its location - given that fact, the Society did not object. The next application was in a prominent position on Dulwich Wood Park on the junction with Lymer Avenue. The 18m post planned would have dominated a pleasant open space leading onto the Dulwich Wood Park Estate and there were over 170 objections - the Council turned the application down but it is currently at appeal. The next application was on the pavement on Dovercourt Road at its junction with Court Lane, again for an 18-metre pole. Here there were over 260 objections and. again, the Council responded to residents’ concerns and turned the application down - and the applicant has subsequently confirmed that he will not be appealing the decision.

Shortly afterwards the Estate provided the Society with a copy of a letter sent to Alleyn’s School asking for their comments on a site on the corner or Townley Road and East Dulwich Grove, right outside Alleyn’s School’s new building. This is a pre-consultation and, hopefully, the school will have responded negatively, but the reality is that these masts are coming whether we like it or not, and the community will have to work hard to make sure that the locations chosen do not impact too heavily on our local environment.

Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) consultations

During March Southwark Council distributed a leaflet on the upcoming public consultation to households in the current LTN areas, plus all addresses on both sides of boundary roads. Residents were originally told it would start in February but because of internal delays in agreeing the consultation format, and the impact of the pre-election period of the London Mayoral elections, was delayed. The leaflet confirmed that the eight-week consultation process would enable the Council to understand local views on all the LTN measures it had recently introduced. The consultation will be online or, for those who prefer it, there will be paper copies of the consultation documents to allow a response by post. People living outside or adjacent to this area can also register their interest in the consultation. To register see this link: https://consultations.southwark.gov.uk/environment-leisure/dulwich-review-registration-form/.

The Council says that the review will be conducted as follows:

  • Full public consultation will commence in May 2021 and run for 8 weeks into July 2021
  • Online meetings in May/June 2021
  • Assessments of previous feedback and objections
  • Traffic Counts (before and after)
  • Cycle and pedestrian movements
  • Congestion monitoring to help measure changes to the amount of traffic on key roads
  • Air quality monitoring (including comparisons with any prior monitoring) The outcome of the review will then inform a final decision by the council in autumn 2021 on which permanent measures will be implemented and which measures will be amended or removed.

But the Council also needs to provide additional information regarding the detail:

  • Who will be included in the consultation, how will they make sure that local residents have the biggest say?
  • Who will be chairing the online meetings in May/June and who will be invited to attend?
  • Who will assess the previous feedback and who will have access to the reports once an assessment has been completed?
  • What are the locations and precise dates of the traffic counts?
  • Where and when will cycle and pedestrian movements be measured?
  • How will 'congestion monitoring' be undertaken and which are the key roads that will be used, and on what basis were they selected?
  • Where will the air quality monitoring units be installed and how long will they be active? Where will this data be published and what will the results be compared to? Will residents' diffusion tubes information be included in this data?
  • When will the results be published?

Village parklets

Southwark Council has now installed a ’parklet’ in front of Romeo Jones and added some temporary seating to the temporarily closed off Calton Avenue/Dulwich Village junction as part of the emergency traffic measures works. Parklets are part of Southwark’s ‘Kerbside Strategy initiative but the current proposals are also linked to the current LTN trial. For more information, see https://www.southwark.gov.uk/environment/climate-emergency?chapter=6

The Council did discuss their plans with one or two shopkeepers but there was no consultation with anyone else, neither the Estate or the Society. None of those approached said that the parklet was necessarily a bad idea but the key question is of course why there wasn’t a wider discussion and should there not have been a more general consultation with the wider community dealing with public seating throughout the Village? On a more practical level, how much did the additional works cost and who will be responsible for maintenance of any planting and keeping any paved areas clean, tidy & free from litter?

Birch trees can mean misery for many from March to May

Many people suffer allergic reactions to the pollen from the catkins on Birch trees which can cause sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose and asthma. Allergy UK’s website www.allergyuk.org states that the Birch is one of the most allergenic species currently planted in streets, school playgrounds and urban gardens. An example is Ruskin Walk where over the last 30 years a variety of flowering street trees which produced attractive blossom in the spring have gradually been replaced by Silver Birch trees. A survey in the road in March 2021 found 22 Birch trees and only 19 non-Birch ones. Birch trees have one advantage in that their roots do not spread out and damage the pavement surface but that does not override their allergenic impact. Several local residents have asked Councillors to ask officers to stop planting Birch trees along streets and find a more suitable alternative species.

Help for Dulwich & Sydenham Hill Woods

The very wet winter coupled with an 80% increase in footfall, amounting to 340,000 visits in 2020, due to the lockdown requirement to stay local has seriously eroded or widened the paths in the Woods. Muddy in normal winters, social distancing and searches for firmer routes has led to new paths being made into sensitive natural areas. With the covid restrictions preventing the use volunteers from addressing the problem, the paths deteriorated further. As the LWT report on page ?? says, it has some money to repair the worst damage, but other paths also require attention.

The Dulwich Society has agreed to fund part of this extra work and is looking at ways to assist the London Wildlife Trust, which manages the woods, in raising additional funds from local users who have enjoyed the benefits a walk in the woods has brought in recent months. More information on this will be published in the next issue of the Journal.

Meet Sam Taylor - Manager of Dulwich & Sydenham Hill Woods

Sam graduated from Leeds University in 2009 with a degree in Geography. After leaving university he worked for a start-up food delivery business in North London offering local and seasonal produce, supporting small, sustainable food producers around London. Sam then took some time out to realise a long-held ambition to cycle across Europe to Istanbul. On his return he worked as a gardener for two years before starting a job with the charity Trees for Cities. He was there for five years and during this time helped deliver tree planting projects across London, including woodland creation projects, street and park tree planting. These projects were successfully carried out with the support of volunteers. Sam has always had a love of working outdoors with a particular interest in trees. When the opportunity arose to help manage Sydenham Hill Wood, a woodland he has always been fond of, he jumped at the chance.