The next Local History in Lock-down talk will be this Thursday 18th June at 6.45 p.m. and will be given by Jon Newman.
Before and After Windrush, a history of the Black community in Lambeth, looks at the very different experiences of Lambeth’s two Black communities: the well-documented story of the community that came to live in the borough after the voyage of the Windrush in 1948; and the much less understood history of Black people who were living in Lambeth in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The log-in details for the talk are here, or in full: https://zoom.us/j/91540334790
If required: Meeting ID: 915 4033 4790. Password: 176800
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, people used to go to work on the train, as many readers will have heard. And because they often travelled at the same times each day, trains got unpleasantly crowded. So, inevitably, did some of the stations.
Aspiring City Thameslink passengers at Herne Hill will have felt this pain.
But it was often much worse at Denmark Hill Station. No, it’s not in Herne Hill but for many commuters and other rail travellers wanting to touch down somewhere other than Victoria, or the City, Denmark Hill offered wider options, including the London Overground heading towards Clapham Junction and all points beyond, or north-east to via Peckham to Canada Water, Whitechapel, Shoreditch, Hoxton en route to Highbury & Islington. True, if you lived more towards the Brixton or Tulse Hill side of Herne Hill, it would have been something of a trek, but for those of us close to the Camberwell frontier, a brisk walk alongside or through Ruskin Park would get us there pleasantly. If you’re more central, the 68 bus may be the solution.
More important in some ways, Denmark Hill is a destination for visitors from other points in London and the South-East. Every day, King’s College Hospital draws in thousands of staff members, out-patients and visitors. The simultaneous arrival of several train loads of alighting passengers is the main cause of the congestion.
The station was redesigned and upgraded to ensure accessibility in a programme that concluded in 2013. But contrary to the hopes of many local residents and station users, the redesign left it with only one entrance/exit.
Meanwhile the number of passengers using Denmark Hill went up from 3.7 million in 2011-12 to 5.63 million in 2014-15. Much of this increase was down to the introduction of the London Overground services in December 2013.
This surge in traffic meant that the station was operating in unsafe conditions – because its only ex it, accessed up quite long staircases, could present a lethal bottleneck if the station ever had to be rapidly evacuated. Traffic numbers have grown further – at least before the pandemic. Last year (2018-19) the figures suggest that entries and exits totalled some 6.9 million.
Herne Hill station, by comparison, had 2.9 million entries/exits and we know how unpleasant conditions could be at rush hour. As a benchmark, Clapham Junction was running at 29.5 million – but of course it is vastly bigger station, indeed one of the busiest in Europe, some say.
Pressure grew from local groups for the obvious remedy at Denmark Hill – opening a second entrance/exit on Windsor Walk, the quiet street that leads from Champion Park down past the Phoenix pub then, with a sharp right turn, runs just to the north of the platforms and alongside the station to join Grove Lane.
Various groups including the Herne Hill Society and the Dulwich Society lent their support to the Camberwell Societywhose committee initiated and from 2016 onwards have led a persistent and well-informed campaign, building a positive working relationship with Network Rail and Southwark’s planning team over several years.
It now seems to have been a success. A planning application (No 20/AP/0745, for planning addicts, or link here) has been made to Southwark Council for the construction of a new entrance to Denmark Hill Station on Windsor Walk. Listed Building Consent was granted last month, and the rest of the process seems on track for overall approval.
So if Herne Hillians feels like going to work again on the train, Denmark Hill might in due course be an attractive option. Covid–19 permitting, the new entrance is planned to be open by April 2021. It will have 4 gates plus 2 wide gates and will connect up with the existing modern footbridge. The current one-way system will be dispensed with. Platforms 2,3 and 4 will have extra canopies at the east to encourage people to use that end of the platforms.
New pedestrian access
Separately, Southwark Council has been awarded £1.5m by the GLA’s Good Growth Fund. One slice of this funding will be used to create better pedestrian connections between Denmark Hill station and the hospitals and town centre. Our friends at the Camberwell Society think that the walk route to the hospitals and Camberwell will go through the Maudsley campus. There is going to be a new ward block on Windsor Walk called Douglas Bennet House, just opposite where the new station entrance will be. The plan is for this to have a walk-through route to the Maudsley garden and thence to the main road.
Fawnbrake residents will be familiar with Dorchester Court, the imposing 1930s apartment blocks sitting between Herne Hill itself and Dorchester Drive.
It is now threatened with wholly unsuitable development, as set out in a planning application submitted by the notorious and neglectful landlords. (Helen Hayes MP apparently described them as “one of the worst landlords I have ever come across”.) The landlords’ deliberate and cynical neglect over the years has made some parts of the estate almost uninhabitable, and indeed dangerous.
Yet Dorchester Court is a Grade 2 listed building, and is one of only two 20th Century listed buildings in Lambeth
it was designed by renowned architects Kemp and Tasker. Built in the 1930s in the British Moderne style, it is the only example of a residential block by the designers, who are known for their Art Deco cinemas.
The landlords are in fact the ultra-rich Heinrich Feldman and family, sheltering behind Manaquel Ltd, one of their many holding companies. Manaquel Ltd acts as the landlord for Dorchester Court
The long-suffering Residents Association are fighting back and have created an information-rich website which is well worth looking at.
Fawnbrake Avenue is blessed with a glorious variety of trees – we enjoy one of the most varied and well-curated street avenues in our fortunate corner of Lambeth.
We often take them for granted but they need regular human care, including planting, support in their early years, pruning, and in due course removal and replacement when a tree becomes unsafe or when its days are done. And when newly-introduced trees are in their very junior years, we’ve all been called upon to make sure they have enough water to survive in their new habitats until their roots go deep enough.
This work is carried out, unnoticed by many of us, by Lambeth’s tree department. But they are supported, and sometimes reminded, by David and Laurence, our two conscientious street guardian neighbours.
Just this week, another neighbour noticed that some of the posts and supporting ties of a young tree near his house were in need of repair, and wondered what to do about it.
Regular tree inspections
We believe it is all – hopefully – in hand. On this and wider arboreal issues David has been in frequent touch with Lambeth’s tree department, where they have a keen and knowledgeable new man on the job.
After emailing him about the posts and other issues, David met him in Fawnbrake last week – while he was carrying out the street’s four-year tree inspection – and he says that the loose and redundant stakes will, hopefully, be dealt with in about three months. The tree department at Lambeth is currently light on manpower for obvious reasons.
Laurence and David also report that just before lock-down they walked the entire length of Fawnbrake, cutting away basal shoots from all the trees and picking litter from the tree pits. In a few cases – where the stakes were evidently useless, or leaning into the road/pavement – they removed the rubber ties as well as the stakes, several of which had simply rotted through at the base. Many, in fact, have been loose since being disturbed when the pavements were replaced. They didn’t have time to sort out several other stakes that needed attention, but that is in hand. Of course, as young trees become more firmly established they no longer need the stakes that supported them in their early years.
In addition to the imminent removal of the stakes by council contractors, additional work will be carried out on a few trees, to remove low-hanging branches, Lambeth’s man tells us.
Tree removal imminent
Cllr Jim Dickson also passed on a note, from the Tree Department this week, stating the following:
Dear Ward Councillors of Herne Hill, This email is to inform you of 2 trees that are to be removed from Fawnbrake avenue within the next 28 days, the trees will have notices attached to them by Lambeth Council’s Tree Contract manager by Monday 20/4/20, informing residents of the reasons they are to be removed.
The trees are: – A mature apple tree outside 58 Fawnbrake, due to fungal fruiting bodies that compromise the integrity of both of the trees’ 2 limbs, meaning that simply removing the infected limbs is not a viable option. – A young cherry outside 6 Fawnbrake, which has complete crown failure.
These two trees are also scheduled for the stumps to be removed, and will hopefully be replanted in the coming winter planting season.
More trees on the way
Other good news, reports David, is that we should be getting eight additional trees in Fawnbrake, this autumn, four paid for by residents (additional funds were raised after the initial donations of £8,500 were gift-aided) and four paid for by Lambeth. Lambeth has already written to properties adjacent to proposed tree pit sites to canvas opinion, receiving largely favourable replies.
So it seems we’re getting plenty of attention at the moment and everything is moving in the right direction.
London’s urban forest
London itself can be described as an “urban forest”. It is home to over 8 million trees – roughly one for every person. In fact 20% of the capital is covered by tree canopy.
The “forest” is a patchwork of natural havens “from the gardens of suburbia to ancient woodlands… and to parks and open spaces.”
(Quoting from the excellent book by Paul Wood, “London is a Forest”, 2019”)
Coronavirus (Covid–19) regulations are constantly being issued, and earlier ones updated.
The government’s Regulations on closing certain businesses and venues, announced on 23 March and later updated, are now, from this afternoon, enforceable by law in England due to the threat to public health.
A business or venue operating in contravention of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations 2020 will be committing an offence. Environmental Health and Trading Standards officers will monitor compliance with these regulations, with police support provided if appropriate.
Businesses and venues that breach them will be subject to prohibition notices, and fixed penalties. With the support of the police, prohibition notices can be used to force a business or venue to close.
The media are mostly reporting the latest government guidance on which premises and businesses can still operate and which must close. But sometimes it’s good to see what the government are actually saying.
Many neighbours (including Fawnbrake Avenue residents plugged into the Fawnbrake Street Party WhatsApp group) have already heard about the plans to erect a massive building sprouting two tower blocks of 20 and 29 storeys at Loughborough Junction, where Herne Hill Road approaches Coldharbour Lane. Yes it’s in Loughborough Junction, but this eyesore would dominate much of Herne Hill too, particularly on the Lambeth side.
The site is bounded by Hinton Road (the short extension of Milkwood Road), Wanless Street (right up against the back gardens of the houses), Herne Hill Road, and one of Loughborough Junction’s many railway viaducts, this one carrying trains to and from Denmark Hill Station.
The proposed new building (it is nominally one “podium building” with two towers superimposed) would offer some employment and retail floorspace, and 170 flats.
Time to send in our comments
Few of us would argue that these two sites are perfect as they are. Redevelopment is overdue, with the emphasis on more housing accommodation, but with some space for businesses too.
But why the looming towers? The crass unsuitability of such an intrusive development has provoked an unprecedented torrent of predominantly hostile comments on Lambeth Council’s planning site. There is still time for others to lodge their objections. It’s easily done and now is the time, before the website closes for comments. The site can be reached by clicking here.
A host of objections suggest themselves, including the grotesque disturbance of the traditional, mainly low-rise landscape and views around this part of south-east London including from Ruskin Park.
Herne Hill Society on the case
The Herne Hill Society’s highly expert planning group have already posted a report, available by clicking here. They are currently preparing a major, detailed objection to this plan. We will post a link to this when it becomes available.
Meanwhile, this post focuses mainly on the transport issues.
But first … another 16-storey tower looms
What makes things worse is that the proposed development would sit alongside another earlier one, in the pipeline already, featuring a 16-storey tower, on the neighbouring so-called Higgs Estate. This lies just the other side of the same railway viaduct and abuts on to Coldharbour Lane. Lambeth granted planning permission for this development in December 2019. Local societies including the Herne Hill Society and the Brixton Society strongly objected to this application too, but were overruled by Lambeth.
So if the current application were to be granted, Loughborough Junction would “benefit”, as the estate agents say, from three highly intrusive tower blocks – see the picture.
In our view, one’s enough.
Rail transport links? Wishful thinking
What is particularly nonsensical is the claim that the development is well served by public transport.
It is literally true, as the application blandly states, that “The application site is well served by public transport and Loughborough Junction Station, which is within a two-minute walk of the site, offers mainline train services to central London and elsewhere.”
But of course, this ignores, either deliberately and cynically, or unprofessionally, the fact that at critical times of the day (and particularly at morning rush hour between 7:30 and 9:00), the Thameslink trains stopping at Loughborough Junction are already full to bursting – so much so that passengers wanting to board at Herne Hill station, just 2 minutes up the line, often have to wait for several trains to go through before they can squeeze on. No way would the hundreds of additional commuters emerging from the proposed tower blocks be able to struggle on board at Loughborough Junction.
Lies, Damned Lies and Cynicism
A Transport Plan, one of the many supporting documents accompanying the application, concedes that a Lambeth Council study in 2014 already identified, even back then, that “Loughborough Junction … suffers from sharp peaks that contribute to relatively uncomfortable conditions for passengers both within the ticket hall and on the platform.”
Things have undoubtedly got worse in the last six years, and will get even worse when the residents of the 16 stories on the Higgs Estate start trying to get to work. But the authors of the Transport Plan, inevitably delivering what the developers want to hear and have paid for, suggest that people could quite easily walk to Denmark Hill station (already highly congested) via Ruskin Park or to Brixton Underground. We have seen no evidence that the developers or their transport planners have bothered to open a dialogue with the train operators to address these issues. Perhaps because there is no solution?
Raising the very same objections last March to the earlier Higgs Estate proposal, the Brixton Society pulled no punches:
“The present Public Transport Accessibility score is … deceptive, and new residents will experience difficulty if they wish to travel to work in Central London at normal hours. Yet that access to Central London will be the main appeal of this location for purchasers of the sale or shared ownership dwellings within this development. Claims by the applicant that only a few will wish to do so are entirely specious.”
It still went ahead.
Maybe our new neighbours in Loughborough Junction will all resort to cycling? In which case, the cycle shop on Coldharbour Lane might do quite nicely out of it. The rest of us won’t.
Next weekend, the Friends of Ruskin Park are planning another extravaganza with old favourites and new surprises for all ages.
It’s Saturday afternoon, from 12pm to 6pm at and around the Ruskin Park Bandstand.
As they say … Bring the family, there’s so much to do including donkey rides, arts workshops, face painting, raffle, craft stalls and local groups.
They will have live music on the bandstand and in the new acoustic tent. Plus this year we’ll be joined by Matt Barnard juggler extraordinaire and a daring trapeze show.
Food and Refreshments
These will be provided by Canopy Beer Company, Tyjanick Galettes, Deli Jerk, Clarkshaws Brewery, Gourmet Sausages and Eden Organics. There’ll also be a Friends of Ruskin Park stalls selling tea and cake and Pimms and strawberries.
For this and all their events, they have an excellent website.
News about Fawnbrake Avenue & neighbouring streets in Herne Hill, London