Instead of moving house, Dulwich residents are increasingly altering, and often enlarging their existing houses. With the VAT liability removed from new-build houses, there is also an advantage to be gained from demolishing an existing property and rebuilding on the footprint of the old. However, there are consents to be obtained before work can commence. Because of the existence of Dulwich Scheme of Management, applications to alter properties on the Dulwich Estate must, in the first instance, be considered by the managers of the Scheme. Through its status as the local amenity society representing 1100 member households, the Dulwich Society is a consultative member of the Scheme.

The Dulwich Society, through its Planning and Architecture Group appraises these applications. Like other Dulwich Society sub-committees, the group is made up of experts in the subject as well as interested laymen. Time is given up on a considerable scale by these members and in the past twelve months 200 separate licence applications have been examined and commented upon. Usually the group sends a team of up to four members to the Dulwich Estate Office each month to examine the applications. The guidelines for external alterations are on the Estate’s website and the consultant architect can be contacted for advice.

In the past year, twenty-nine applications were the subject of objections by The Dulwich Society. Sometimes the objections were accompanied by a suggestion as to what alteration or addition would be better received. Applications are then referred back to the applicant and may result in a modification, consultation with the Dulwich Estate’s consultant architect and/or referral to the Manager’s committee of the Scheme of Management for a decision.

Some applications, such as new builds, are welcomed by the group. Some are not. A contentious application for a house in Frank Dixon Way which involved considerable excavation for basement rooms was objected to by the group, neighbours and the planning department at Southwark Council. A more eco-friendly design for a new house in the same road has been better received all round; from the neighbours’ point of view, no doubt because the construction time for the brick-slip and timber clad house’s basic structure is estimated to take only 3-4 weeks!

In the autumn, the Dulwich Society’s Planning and Architecture Group stepped out of its comfort zone of the Dulwich Estate to intervene in East Dulwich’s Hindman’s Road where an application for a backland development was particularly contentious.

The Dulwich Society’s Trees Group is also consulted through the Scheme of Management on the issue of tree disputes; in cases where a tree might be removed at the request of the householder, or the householder’s insurers. The Scheme is receiving an increasing number of applications for tree work (all freeholders on the Dulwich Estate are required to obtain a licence before carrying out tree work), with 283 applications three years ago, rising to 320 in 2013. The Dulwich Society’s Trees Group has carried out four site visits this year.

In the last issue of the Journal, the Traffic & Transport Group asked members for their views on Controlled Parking Zones (CPZ’s) in Dulwich. Surprisingly, this resulted in only 50 responses, less than 5% of the membership. In most members’ minds this subject is clearly not a priority. However, elsewhere, evidence shows that when the moment is reached when decisions on the matter are imminent the issue can become highly emotive. Elsewhere in this copy of the Journal members are again invited to respond over the matter.

If you, as a member feel that you might be willing to participate further in the work of the Society then the chairmen of the various sub-committees should be approached or the chairman of the Dulwich Society, Ian McInnes.