All posts by letterbox

The Explosion of Porch Piracy

Yes, the term and the phenomenon were originally American but are now current over here too, and escalating fast. Some reports suggest that doorstep  parcel theft has jumped 500% in the past four years. In the year to August 2023, there were apparently 16,421 reports of parcel theft in the UK, up from 2,700 for the same period four years ago. And that’s only the ones that are reported. The UK is well ahead of other European countries for online shopping, which of course increases the opportunity for opportunistic looting.

In America, doorstep delivery delinquency has also been growing; it probably started there anyway. One survey estimates that 210 million packages were stolen across America in 2021. Eight states in the USA have recently passed laws increasing the penalties for package theft from a misdemeanour to a felony.

These figures are lifted from an article in this weekend’s Financial Times. It goes on to claim that UK courier companies and retailers are making a great effort to ensure packages end up in the right hands. Personally we are not yet sure this is as true as we might wish. We’ve all been aware that some couriers just drop on the doorstep and run without trying to ensure that there is anyone at home to receive the parcel. Some delivery firms, including Royal Mail, do offer a “safe place” delivery option but this isn’t always observed.

The article also notes that, just as shoplifting as a whole has substantially risen, the cost of living crisis has also increased the market for stolen goods from people’s doorsteps – as we’ve observed locally. Though one could add that the police here are convinced that much of the shoplifting and theft has to do with the increasing level of drug trafficking rather than food poverty.

Not surprisingly Harry Wallop, the writer of this article and a freelance writer on consumer affairs, does not come up with any stunning solution. But he notes that there is an increasing trend – a hybrid solution as he calls it – to order goods online and then go for the “click and collect” pickup option. Well, yes, I think many of us have learned this the hard way. This is in some ways inconvenient but usually guarantees safer delivery.

Here in Herne Hill, many (but not all) Amazon deliveries can be diverted either to the post office on Norwood Road or to a rather un-prepossessing but efficient convenience store, Omsakthi Food & Wine, at 16 Milkwood Road. The routine differs from place to place. In the post office when you have shown your barcode, it’s the job of the poor overworked employee behind her/his glass screen to rummage around in the hundreds of parcels to find yours. In the convenience store, on the other hand, once you’re signed in with your barcode, it’s your job to plunge into the large boxes in the shop to find your parcel which you then present to the shopkeeper who scans it and then allows you to take it away: the boxes themselves are unsecured so an ingenious thief could theoretically snatch one up and  smuggle it out of the shop.

Many of us will be tempted to use these options more frequently. Of the two, the convenience store has some advantages since the post office – particularly at this time of the year – often requires a lengthy queue before getting to the counter. Other carriers, e.g. UPS, can divert to other pickup spots, for example Marie Russell, the newsagents on Half Moon Lane.

Dulwich parents start daily street patrols to stop kids getting mugged

‘It’s robbing our children of their freedom and their youth,” said one local mother.

This week (Monday, November 6) marked the start of the daily action that is designed to increase adult presence on the roads after school.

Father-of-two, Dr Matthew Allen, from Dulwich, said he had become increasingly aware of muggings taking place when children are on their way home.

“A boy tried to mug my son on the way home from school one day,” he told us, “luckily he was able to get away by running into the road. But it definitely had an effect on him.”

Fellow parent, Vanessa Perrin, shared a similar experience: “I moved here two years ago – in that time I have been present for a mugging and then my son was mugged.

Determined to do something about it, they said they set up WhatsApp groups in the community, which they claim were going off ‘almost daily’ with reports of a mugging or attempted mugging.

“We wanted to act,” Vanessa explained, “But we didn’t have the tools or the police support.”

That’s when they reached out to Emma Rigby, who has been running a similar scheme in Enfield for the last four years and claims robberies have reduced by nearly half.

Emma said: “After one particularly bad week when nineteen boys were mugged in the same month, we decided to start these patrols to increase the eyes and ears on the streets.

“Within a year of launching the patrols robberies fell by 48 per cent.

“These parents in Dulwich reached out to me and I decided to do a pilot scheme here until Christmas to see if it makes a difference in the area.”

The idea is that parents and community members patrol the areas that are known as ‘mugging hotspots’ from the hours of 3:30pm and 5pm when most children are out. “We just speak to people and if we see anyone get approached we’re on alert and we make ourselves known to them.

“Most of the time it works just to go over and say hello and be visible. If anything ever gets out of hand we just contact the police.”

On their first patrol, Emma demonstrated this – introducing herself and a parent as the new community patrol to everyone who passed by. She stopped one schoolboy and asked if he’d ever been mugged, to which he casually replied: “No, but all of my friends have.”

The group is partnered with the Met Police and will choose which areas to monitor based on where they deem as ‘hotspots’ for crime. Emma hopes to take the scheme London-wide in the near future.

Dr Allen added, “I hope by doing these patrols we’re going to raise awareness and hopefully reduce the number of muggings that happen on the street, like they have in Enfield.”

As well as keeping the young people safe, he said it’s good for fostering community spirit as well, commenting: “You get to meet people and it’s good for your well-being.”

Vanessa said: “We’re here to be positive rather than vigilantes.”

For the first patrol, six willing parents were present but Emma is hopeful and will continue to spread the word. “Forty-five people have already signed up – you don’t have to be a parent to volunteer.”

They said that whilst doing a patrol every day after school is not realistic for working parents, they hope that if enough people sign up they will only have to go out once a month.

As it’s community-led, residents in other areas can get in touch to find out how to bring this to where they live. They are also hoping that schools and other local organisations get involved too.

Anyone wanting to find out more about the scheme and how to volunteer, go to this site

Article by Isabel Ramirez on Southwark News, filed by Isabel Ramirez ,7th November 2023

Short video available on You Tube via this page of Southwark News.  Filed actually on Half Moon Lane by the Judith Kerr School

Shakespeare Road Waste Site – Lambeth’s reply

In response to our message urging the Council to refuse permission to rebuild the waste site in Shakespeare Road, the Councillor responsible for planning has written a detailed and carefully worded explanation (below) which is worth reading in full. My emphases, in bold.





In effect Lambeth needs to allow legal applications for waste sites, and this one cannot be permanently closed without some alternative being made available. But there will be consultations.

Thank you for your email to Cllr Holland regarding the Shakespeare Road site, which I am responding to as Deputy Leader with responsibility for planning policy.

In respect of land use planning matters, the site is one of a number of designated waste sites within Lambeth. These waste sites are safeguarded for waste uses through Lambeth’s Local Plan and are identified in Lambeth’s Policies Map and the Waste Evidence Base.

As required by Lambeth Local Plan policy EN7 (Sustainable waste management), redevelopment of safeguarded waste sites for other uses will only be supported if compensatory waste capacity is provided elsewhere within the borough or if waste capacity is re-provided on-site. This is to ensure that Lambeth is able to continue meeting its waste needs.

As you note in your correspondence, planning permission exists for the redevelopment of the site for residential use . This planning permission was granted on 21st December 2021 for ‘Demolition of existing waste transfer station and re-development of the site to provide a residential development comprising of three blocks ranging from 5 -11 storeys in height to provide 218 residential units (class C3) with associated landscaping’.

This permission was granted subject to a planning obligation requiring the applicant to provide replacement waste capacity elsewhere in the borough, with a potential location being another safeguarded waste site at Windsor Grove in West Norwood, as noted in your correspondence.

Notwithstanding the recent fire damage, the Shakespeare Road site remains a safeguarded waste site in land use planning terms and the obligation referred to above is still binding and runs with the land.
Planning officers have confirmed to me that a number of pre-commencement planning conditions require discharge before works can begin on the Windsor Grove site. At the time of writing no application submissions have been received seeking discharge of these conditions.

I can advise you that there is no right to re-build the premises and the erection of any replacement building at the site would require planning permission. Any such application for planning permission would be assessed against the planning policies of the Council’s Development Plan and other material considerations.

The proposed use of any new building and its environmental impacts would be considered as part of the assessment of a planning application seeking permission for new development. Considerations would include matters relating to air quality, noise, transport and fire safety amongst other matters. The former lawful use and operation of the site for waste transfer would be a material consideration when assessing a planning application.

Importantly, were a planning application to be received, there would be consultation of adjoining and nearby residents and businesses in accordance with statutory requirements and the Council’s Statement of Community Involvement.

Therefore the council, as the Local Planning Authority, would need to consider the acceptability of any proposed development, including any replacement waste transfer facility, by assessing a planning application once submitted, meaning that it is not possible to pre-emptively outrightly prohibit such a use.

I hope that this response is helpful but please don’t hesitate to contact me if there’s anything further I can be of assistance with.

Best regards,


Councillor Danny Adilypour
Streatham Common & Vale
Deputy Leader for Sustainable Growth and New Homes


Shakespeare Road waste site – the future?

There is, I suppose, a theoretical and legal possibility that when the site is cleared and the investigations all completed (which I assume will take at least a couple of years), the operators might claim the right to reopen the site.

Image by drone specialist DeTours360







I am sure that this would be bitterly opposed by all residents. It scarcely needs to be emphasized, but I have written to the Leader of the council to put in writing the quasi-certainty that this would be incomprehensible to residents. Following is the text of my letter:

Dear Cllr Claire Holland

I am addressing this message to you in your capacity as Leader of Lambeth Council.

You will of course be very familiar with the serious fire that occurred at the waste services depot on Shakespeare Road earlier this month, and with the worrying smoke and pollution issues that caused alarm to many residents in this part of Lambeth. We have heard much from your colleague Jim Dickson and from our MP, Ms Helen Hayes.

This note however is about the issue going forward. Clearly there is going to be an enquiry about how the fire started, what fire safety measures were in place and whether they functioned properly and why the water supply being used by the London Fire Brigade failed. It will be vital to understand also what the owners and operators of this site have to say about their apparent negligence and inaction.

We understand of course that the Shakespeare Road site is privately owned and operated, but licensed by the Environment Agency.  No doubt that Agency will be alerted to this incident and invited to consider their licensing policy in the light of possible negligence on the part of the owners.

I’m sure you will be aware that the incident has reinforced local resentment about the operation of such a site in the middle of a heavily built-up residential area and near some schools. This obviously raises questions about the future of the site.

As you of course know, the Shakespeare Road waste transfer station does have planning permission for residential development,  which would be a major improvement, but you will also know that this supposedly can only be implemented once replacement waste capacity has been provided on another site.

We realise that it was the intention of the developer that the replacement capacity should be provided at the Windsor Grove site in West Norwood.  Despite powerful and united opposition from the local community in West Norwood, and Lambeth Council’s decision to refuse permission for a waste facility at this site, the Secretary of State shockingly allowed the application on appeal. Meanwhile we understand that there are a number of planning conditions which must be discharged before work can begin on the replacement facility at Windsor Grove, and that this has not yet happened. Possibly the owners can be persuaded to look at a different location, and perhaps to revise their planning application.

Meanwhile you will naturally understand that the hundreds of Lambeth residents who have been affected by this incident will scarcely understand if, following this major incident and all the subsequent enquiries and investigations, the owners are permitted and licensed to simply rebuild the waste operation on the same site, pending the resolution of the planning conditions referred to above. I think it would not be an exaggeration to say that the neighbourhood would be, indeed, outraged if this was allowed to happen, whatever new and improved safeguards and precautions might be offered by the operators.

Of course these are early days: the Council and the Environment Agency have much work to do in the weeks and months ahead.

But I believe I am speaking for many residents in strongly urging the Council not to allow the rebuilding of this waste site on its present location, under any circumstances.

We would all welcome some reassurance from the Council on this point.

I am copying this message to our local Councillors and to Ms Helen Hayes MP.”

Ruskin Park Playground – temporary closure for refurbishment

Friends of Ruskin Park have announced that, following public consultation in June and July,  playground refurbishment works will begin on the 18th September and last for approximately 12 weeks. Lambeth Council will be responsible for these works.

Some small design changes have been made in response to feedback.



The Lambeth statement reads:

“The new playground will feature all new exciting and challenging play equipment, safety surfacing, interactive and imaginative play for all ages and abilities.

Following public consultation during June and July the design has been revised to:

  • include a replacement for the very popular trampoline
  • install additional benches (including some with backs)
  • incorporate more natural materials (including wooden benches
  • incorporate planting for shade around the perimeter
  • reuse equipment at other sites where possible.

We also received positive feedback on the proposals for the landscaping in front of the kiosk and eastern entrance. There will be a further update when these proposals have been finalised.

If you have any questions please contact project manager Rob Kelly .”

Lambeth Heritage Festival 2023

Lambeth’s annual Heritage Festival is happening throughout the month of September, and offers a quite remarkable choice of free events  – walks, tours, open house opportunities, talks etc – to anyone curious about the fascinating history of the place where we live. The work of Lambeth’s small team at the Archive is something residents can truly be proud of.

The full programme is attached as a PDF:  lambeth-heritage-festival-2023-brochure (1).  But it’s perhaps worth singling out the Lambeth Local History Fair on Saturday 2nd September (10am – 4.30pm) up at the West Norwood Library and Picturehouse,  1-5 Norwood High St, Norwood, SE27 9JX (a short ride on the no 68/468 bus).

Lambeth looking to roll out 191 new parking bays for e-scooters and bikes

The excellent Brixton Buzz news site has a detailed report, based evidently on a press release from Lambeth, stating that the Council has decided to introduce 191 new dedicated parking bays for e-scooters and dockless bikes. The estimated cost is £97,150.

This amounts to an extension of the existing e-scooter trial, and seemingly echoes a similar scheme inaugurated earlier this year by Southwark Council.

The initiative is part of Lambeth’s Kerbside Strategy Implementation Plan approved by the Cabinet earlier this year, which has the goal of repurposing a quarter of the borough’s kerbside space for sustainable uses. [Snarky comment: In their little world, “sustainable” simply means not using fossil fuels, but clearly does not take into account the environmental, economic and indeed human impacts of extracting rare metals for lithium batteries, building heavy bikes in China, and shipping them over here in fossil-fuelled cargo ships.]

The proposed expansion aims to address concerns about e-scooters and dockless bikes cluttering footways: there has been some discussion about this on our street WhatsApp recently.

Lime bike on the pavement on Fawnbrake Avenue this morning

By introducing dedicated parking bays, Lambeth Council claims it will offer a more organised solution, reducing street clutter and making the environment more pedestrian-friendly.

Currently, 56 parking bays are operational as part of the trial in the borough. The proposed plan seeks to make the Experimental Traffic Management Orders supporting these trial schemes a permanent fixture in the borough.

The long list of proposed sites or such parking bays identifies, for the most part, new bays for e—scooters and dockers bikes, for which an ‘experimental traffic order’ will be made and eventually published.

Nearby sites for dockless bikes

Most of the streets listed  – Lambeth is of course a very big borough – will be of little interest to us here, but some streets named are quite close:

Deepdene Road (just off Ferndene Road, near Ruskin Park)

Bicknell Road (quite close to the bottom end of Ruskin Park)

Lowden Road (just behind Fawnbrake Avenue, where Jessop School is based)

Railton Road (two sites)

Brantwood Road (two sites)

Rymer Street (near Herne Hill station)

Hurst Street (near Herne Hill station)


The Brixton Buzz report is worth a careful read. But to some of us, the ambition of corralling all dockless two-wheelers in specific licensed sites has a fundamental weakness. What has made the dockless bikes such a rapid success is the fact that riders can leave them anywhere their journey ends. And for that matter, using the clever app, can often pick up a new bike at random locations. (I have a friend who, after a festive evening in Soho, can easily find a Lime bike within three or four minutes and ride it home to Nunhead. Rather her than me, but she has survived so far. And much cheaper than and almost as fast as an Uber.)

If the rider or the company is to be penalised unless the bike is deposited in some “official” location, I’m not sure how this will work. For example under the Lambeth scheme just announced, the nearest official site would be either in Brantwood Road or one of the streets near Herne Hill station.  Are London boroughs trying to make dockless bikes work in the same fashion as Santander bikes?

If I can find a similar statement of policy from Southwark Council, I will amplify this report accordingly. To date, Southwark has marked out two such sites on Half Moon Lane.

Weekend closure of Herne Hill Road in mid-August

There will be an official closure of part of Herne Hill Road from 23:00 hrs on Friday 11 August 2023 until 05:00 hrs on Monday 14 August 2023.

This is to allow the removal of the enormous tower crane that has been used for the construction of Peabody’s Higgs Yard mixed-use development at Loughborough Junction.

Street closure map supplied by construction company

The Higg’s Yard project is billed as offering ‘106 stylish 1 and 2 bedroom apartments in the beating heart of SE24, within walking distance of trendy Brixton and fashionable Herne Hill’.

‘Beating heart’, eh?

During this weekend (11-14 August), Herne Hill Road will be closed between the junction with Padfield Road and Coldharbour Lane. Traffic diversions will be set up.

We can probably expect to see puzzled drivers and diverted traffic spilling over into other streets. But in mid-August, it might be a quiet weekend anyway.

Dockless bike issues

Dockless semi-electric bikes are cropping up more regularly on our street – sometimes parked correctly, sometimes blocking the pavement. They are surprisingly heavy, and can be dangerous, e.g. to children,  if knocked over.

Our ever-helpful ward Councillor Deepak Sardiwal tells me that some Fawnbrake Avenue residents have been in touch with their understandable concerns over the proliferation of poor bike parking in the neighbourhood. He has shared with me the response he gave them, following a discussion with the council team involved. He explains that the council ultimately intends for the dockless bikes to be placed on kerbside space allocated for this purpose, as part of its new Kerbside Strategy. (I don’t know whether they intend to make dedicated kerbside spaces on every street…). Meanwhile I thought it might be helpful if I shared this position more widely.

Lambeth policy

The statement reads: “Lambeth recognises the conflict since Dockless bikes reappeared in numbers on the streets earlier last year. Currently, we have no legal lever to control them or licence them in the borough as no such legislation exists although it is expected in the coming years. In terms of confiscating the bikes and returning a fee, we have come to a temporary arrangement with the operators requiring them to move a bike within 2 hours of it being reported if it poses a clear obstruction. Our enforcement officers will also remove a bike if it is deemed to cause a danger or threat, in this case, we would charge the operator for the costs of confiscation and storage.

“We have recently come to an agreement with all the operators and developed a memorandum of understanding (MOU). This MOU and associated agreements will address Lambeth’s concerns on footway impediment and the serious accessibility issues they cause., whilst ensuring the bikes can still be used by the public.

“Once we have allocated kerbside space for the dockless bikes all bikes [presumably they mean all dockless bikes] in the borough will be required to be parked in dockless bike bays. If a resident sees a bike parked inappropriately, blocking the footway, falling, preventing or making it difficult to walk, please report this to the Operator, quoting the location and its serial number, This can normally be found on the QR code used to book the bike.”

I am trying to find out whether there is a number within Lambeth Council where we can report dangerously parked electric bikes.

Community Road Watch – request for volunteers to monitor speeding traffic

Reacting to residents’ concerns voiced in the Herne Hill Ward Safer Neighbourhood Team panel meetings, the police have proposed holding some more Community Road Watch exercises this summer. They will focus principally on Milkwood Road and Herne Hill Road, both of which are particularly notorious for badly driven vehicles, often exceeding the 20 mph speed limit and putting pedestrians, cyclists and other road users at risk. Both roads of course have schools on or very close.

The Community Road Watch  exercise involves a Police Officer or Community Officer standing alongside local neighbours who operate a handheld speed camera. Photographic evidence of dangerous driving does not automatically result in a prosecution, but does provide evidence for the police to send a serious warning letter to the driver concerned. The programme requires a member of the public to hold the camera alongside the Metropolitan Police representative. I think we all recognise (the police certainly do) that an immediate speeding fine would be a stronger deterrent, but the law does not apparently permit this at present.

The Safer Neighbourhood Team for this Council ward (I am one of several local members) would like to find some local volunteers to allow this project to take place this summer. For Herne Hill Road it might make sense to look for support among parents whose children attend Saint Saviour’s School. For Milkwood Road, I am looking for volunteers who live perhaps in Fawnbrake Avenue or maybe on Milkwood Road itself, although I have no contact details for that particular community.


The police have proposed the following dates. Note that they are not expecting people to volunteer for all of these dates! This is just a start to find people who might be available for one or two dates – which might need to be adjusted depending on police rosters nearer the time.

Dates proposed by the police:

Friday 14th July – between the hours of 14:00 – 18:30

Monday 17th July – between the hours of 14:00 – 18:30

Tuesday 18th July – between the hours of 14:00 – 18:30

Wednesday 19th July – between the hours of 14:00 – 18:30

Monday 24th July – between the hours of 08:00 – 15:00

Tuesday 25th July  – between the hours of 08:00 – 15:00

Wednesday 26th July  – between the hours of 08:00 – 15:00

Thursday 27th July – between the hours of 14:00 – 18:30

Friday 28th July – between the hours of 14:00 – 18:30

Can you help?

Thank you for anything you can do to circulate this request or mention the project to people that you think might be interested.

It would be great if anyone seeing this message who may be interested and available could please to get in touch direct with me at or mobile number 07774 424 410. I appreciate that we are not giving people much notice.