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Herne Hill rental homes shortage – and why

Wendy Peterman, one of our truly local estate agents, has posted an interesting comment on the rental housing shortages in Herne Hill (and nationally).

Based on current trends in the property market in terms of growth of the population  – Brits living longer, the lack of new homes being built, and the reduction in social housing (aka council housing)  –   demand for homes in the private rented sector needs to increase nationally by 227,000 homes per year, she says.





So, based on those numbers, Herne Hill theoretically needs to have an additional 72 private rented properties per year.

Problem: the number of private rented properties in Herne Hill has instead reduced from 2,535 in 2017 to 2,399 in 2021, a net loss of 135.

Wendy’s blog unpacks the reasons, as she sees them,  for this trend in private renting, and the possible upturn in rentals: see the full blog here

But maybe that’s not the whole story…

Firstly, some of us might add that the stupendously high cost of buying a flat or a house in London (where the ‘average’ deposit, according to one of this morning’s papers now stands at over £115,000) must inevitably push people towards the rental market, thus stimulating yet more demand in excess of supply, creating that frantic and highly competitive search for a decent rented flat that afflicts so many people these days.

And secondly, landlords are facing an imminent change in the landlord/tenant law which is hardly calculated to ease the supply of rented accommodation.

Here’s why.

Until now, landlords have had the right to terminate a tenancy and repossess the property – either because they want to sell it or live in it themselves, or perhaps because the tenants have proved unsatisfactory,  or even because they believe that they could get higher rental income with a new tenant.

But the government has today now confirmed its plans (trailed in the Conservative 2019 election manifesto) to change the law that until now has allowed such so-called Section 21 “no-fault” evictions. This has alarmed some landlords and likely making them much more cautious when choosing tenants.

The National Residential Landlords Association, a trade body, has warned that abolishing Section 21 would make tenants feel less obliged to pay rent. “For the new system to work, the Government needs to ensure it includes clear and comprehensive grounds upon which landlords can legitimately repossess properties,” he said.

The NRLA went on to say that “This should include a mandatory ground for serious rent arrears. It would be unacceptable if the new system gave any signal that paying rent was an optional extra.”

A medium-term consequence of scrapping Section 21, some landlords believe, is that it will also make it much harder for lower income tenants to find properties, particularly amid a chronic shortage of rentals. Some landlords had already started evicting tenants ahead of the abolition of Section 21 being put into effect.

Landlords are not a popular constituency for any government to protect, but if the costs and complications of renting continue to mount, this would be another reason why the rental market is shrinking, or increasingly available only to more prosperous and financially reliable tenants.

Artists’ Open House on Fawnbrake Avenue

The Artists’ Open House project, a major element of the annual Dulwich Festival every May, goes from strength to strength. The full programme now has nearly 100 pages! And the area covered reaches from Peckham Rye down to Crystal Palace and from Loughborough Junction across to the fringes of Forest Hill and Sydenham.




This year, we have an open house here on Fawnbrake at number 73 where Alan and Jorge are opening their house to show Jorge’s landscape, portrait and abstract paintings. There is more information about his work on his website

Here, as across the festival, the artists open their houses for visitors on 14–15 May and 21-22 May, normally between 11 am and 6 pm

The website for the whole of this year’s Artists’ Open House programme   can be found here.

Local Elections Results for Dulwich Village Ward

And the results for Dulwich Village Ward, over the other side of the hill in Southwark, were also announced:

Margy Newens Lab 2,111 elected
Richard Leeming Lab 1,922 elected
Richard Wingfield LibDem 1,133  
Tristan Honeyborne Cons 1,063  
Clive Rates Cons 1,053  
Raghav Parkash LibDem 1,037  
Christopher Langdon Green 387  
Piers Holden Green 370  
Paul Randolfi Reform UK 50  
Electorate: 7,658
Ballot Papers Issued: 4,645
Turnout: 60.66%

Local Election Results

The local election results for our ward were announced this afternoon:


Jim Dickson Lab 2,429 elected
Pauline George Lab 2,393 elected
Deepak  Sardiwal Lab 2,342 elected
Celeste Hicks Green 1,838
Nick Christian Green 1,818
Paul Valentine Green 1,566
Robert Blackie LibDem 264
John White Cons 253
Dick Tooze Cons 251
Andrew Whitten Cons 243
Charley Hasted LibDem 175
Jonathan Price LibDem 148
Berkey Kartav TU & Soc. 71
Electorate: 11,301
Total votes: 13,791
Turnout: n/a
Number of postal votes sent: 1,373

Sydenham Hill Wood under pressure

Yes, it’s not in Herne Hill, and certainly not in Fawnbrake Avenue, but many of us know and treasure Sydenham Hill Wood,   and it became a precious haven during successive lockdown periods.

Sydenham Hill Wood, March 2022







In inevitable consequence, however, the paths and neighbouring areas got heavily trampled, and are now being restored by volunteers. Some vulnerable species have been put under real pressure, and without this vital work, they may not recover.

The wood is a rare remnant of the renowned Great North Wood which stretched in ancient times from beyond Croydon, over the Norwood Ridge (now Crystal Palace) right down to Dulwich and Herne Hill and even to Deptford. It is cared for by the London Wildlife Trust (LWT). The adjoining Dulwich Wood is cared for by the Dulwich Estate, but with support from the LWT.

There is currently an appeal, where public contributions will be matched by larger donors, to raise the money towards the restoration task.

In these tense times there are so many calls on our generosity, but this appeal for Sydenham Hill Wood feels hugely worthwhile. Click here to read about the appeal.



Herne Hill Safer Neighbourhood Team

Perhaps it’s not generally known that the Metropolitan Police have a Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) explicitly for Herne Hill Ward.




They have asked if members of the community could please complete a short questionnaire, for which the link is given below.

Herne Hill SNT is formed of a Sergeant, two PCs and one PCSO. The team is responsible for keeping Herne Hill safe as well as dealing with any ongoing Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) issues and concerns raised by the local community. They have regular meetings with a panel of community representatives, and aim to issue monthly reports on their activities locally.

The latest report reads as follows:

“The team this month [March] have focused on several community deployments aimed at targeting what have been identified as key priorities on the ward.

“The first tasking undertaken was a bike marking event at Brockwell Park utilizing smart water. This was following several reports of bike thefts. This was incredibly successful with over thirty bikes marked.

“The team then undertook two days of community speed watches on Herne Hill Road and Milkwood Road. This involved the use of a speed gun and saw many community volunteers participate. This led to several speed warnings being issues and one male being arrested for traffic and drug related offences.

“Finally, the team undertook a weapons sweep on the Thorlands Estate (comment: this lies to the north of Coldharbour Lane) with council community enforcement officers. This again was very successful with four knives recovered.

“The team will take on feedback from the ward panel meeting and will be looking to replicate this again in the coming months.”

Click here for link to short survey.


The Cambria pub in Loughborough Junction to reopen next month

Following our report last December, it has now been announced that The Cambria will reopen next month. It has been through an extensive and expensive repair and refurbishment process since November.

It will definitely be serving meals, too: a necessary feature for most successful pubs these days.

Being so close to one of the entrances to Ruskin Park should also be an advantage to the new operators.

Although it will be run by an independent pub company, Prospect Pubs & Bars Ltd,, The Cambria is ultimately owned by the giant global beer company Heineken, which augurs well for its financial stability, we must hope.

The Cambria reborn

There was some concern locally about the pub’s application for very late opening hours, but the opening times announced seem to indicate that  –  after local objections  –   Lambeth has wisely denied permission for this: normal closing times are 11 PM , which seem appropriate for a pub in the middle of a residential area.

They have a useful website, marred only slightly by predictable gushing PR speak.

In their report, the excellent Brixton Buzz expressed regret that The Cambria is not offering a wide range of independent locally brewed beers, but concedes that this was probably unlikely since Brixton Brewery, whose products will be on regular supply, is itself now owned by Heineken.

The very best local read

There’s plenty of good stuff to read in the latest issue of “Herne Hill” magazine: a beautifully illustrated article about the treasures to be seen in Saint Paul’s Church; an interview with the owners of the new and already popular bubble tea shop, Cuppo Bubbo; a revealing survey of a unique 1935 house on Dorchester Drive; and a snapshot of the very cosmopolitan population of Herne Hill at the end of the 19th century and on the eve of the First World War – with an unexpected preponderance of residents of German origin. Also an affectionate review of the major exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, featuring the work of Helen Frankenthaler – a show that has been widely recognised in the national media as of major significance.

Members of the Herne Hill Society get the magazine automatically, of course. Non-members can buy it at Herne Hill Books, or can get it (along with future issues), by easily joining the Society online.

Holocaust Memorial Day: 27 January

International Holocaust Memorial Day is celebrated annually on 27 January, in accordance with a decision by the UN General Assembly.

This date was chosen because on 27 January 1945, Russian forces advancing towards Germany reached the extensive Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration, labour and extermination sites in occupied Poland.

“Selection” of Hungarian Jews on the ramp at Auschwitz-II-Birkenau in German-occupied Poland, May/June 1944, during the final phase of the Holocaust. From the Auschwitz Album

They first entered Auschwitz III, the IG Farben camp at Monowitz: a soldier from the 100th Infantry Division of the Red Army entered the camp around 9 am on Saturday, 27 January 1945.


The 60th Army of the 1st Ukrainian Front (also part of the Red Army) arrived in Auschwitz I and II around 3 pm.

They found 7,000 prisoners alive in the three main camps, 500 in the other subcamps, and over 600 corpses. The rest had been dragged onto the infamous death marches, on which many were killed or expired, though some survived.

The total number of victims can never be determined precisely. 6 million is the generally accepted total of Jewish victims deliberately murdered in the Holocaust; up to 5 million others (non-Jews) is often suggested – brutally starved, deliberately worked to death, shot or gassed.

For some background to Nazi Germany’s advance towards this nightmare, see the two immediately previous posts here.
We are encouraged to put a lighted candle (if safe to do so) in in our windows on the night of 27 January.

The UK Commemorative Ceremony for HMD 2022 will be broadcast online on Thursday 27 January 2022 at 7pm. The narrator will be Sandi Toksvig OBE. We can register to join the Ceremony by clicking here.


This blog not normally a platform for non-local historical or political musings. So feel free to look away if you’re not in the mood for this – or if it becomes too painful to read. But I’m giving myself permission to make an exception, provoked by an important and partly-personal coincidence of dates.
Also, it’s in two parts, because of the length.

An infamous date – 20 January 1942

Yes, before most readers of this blog were born.

The Wannsee villa today

20 January 1942, 80 years ago this week, saw the holding of the infamous Wannsee Conference in the gracious western suburbs of Berlin. The house was a luxurious villa acquired by the Reich Security Main Office, mainly the SS, for use as a guest house and conference centre. The meeting was summoned and chaired by SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich.

Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich

Aimed specifically at dealing expeditiously with the ‘problem’ of Europe’s Jewish communities, this highly secret meeting of senior bureaucrats was called to agree and accelerate the logistics and timing of the Holocaust – the Final Solution – in a manner sadly typical of the highly bureaucratic and efficient Nazi state. Thereafter the senior officials and state authorities attending the meeting were implicated in its decisions and consequences: there could be no turning back.

And the personal coincidence? 1942 was also the year in which I was born in wartime England (though not in that January; not in fact until October). Perhaps because I was born then, around the midpoint of World War II, but also because I lived for a short time in Berlin in the 1960s, I’ve perhaps been more preoccupied than many of my generation with the tumultuous events of that era, which of course for many people alive today is of mainly historical interest, if that.
I guess  some outlines of the Holocaust are taught in UK schools, but the details are probably left to professional historians and, of course, Jewish and other groups representing and remembering those who were massacred so brutally. It would not be surprising if many people today struggled to get their heads round the scale of what happened. (Though there have of course been subsequent holocausts on a much smaller scale (Bosnia, Cambodia and some of the less blessed parts of Africa) – smaller but no less terrible.) A quick survey tells me that many people alive now, including the highly educated, haven’t heard of Wannsee at all, or only vaguely.

The point of Wannsee?

It was sometimes thought that the conference, convened on the orders of Himmler and with the approval of Hitler, instigated Nazi government plans for the Holocaust. (The term “Holocaust” is normally applied just to the killing of Europe’s 6 million Jews; but is often stretched to include other deliberate victims like gypsies. It is not normally used to encompass the millions of others, such as Russian and Polish civilians and prisoners of war who were caught up into the same process.)

But … Wannsee did not launch the systematic murder of the Jews – that policy had already been decided and the early steps had been taken.

By the end of 1941, it was already being implemented in a deliberate but only partly coordinated fashion, along with the imprisonment and ultimately killing of other unfavoured people – Poles, Gypsies, Russian military and civilians, disabled people, political opponents from within Germany, resistance workers from the occupied territories, and of course thousands of others. The Jewish community inside the Reich was already enduring savage persecution.

But the capture of Poland in late 1939, and later (in summer 1941) the invasion of Western parts of the Soviet Union, immediately placed millions more people – combatants and civilians, and particularly Jews, as well as other nationalities – under the brutal regime of the German forces, notably the SS and its murder squads. In the end, some 3 million Polish Jews – approximately 90% of Poland’s pre-war Jewry – and between 1.8 and 2.8 million ethnic Poles were killed during the German occupation of Poland.

Mass shootings in Poland, Ukraine, Russia and the Baltic states were initially the method used to eliminate Jewish and other victims, to be followed by mass displacement where the Jews transported from the West joined those in Poland, Russia and the Baltic regions. Here, “special treatment” methods could be devised and tested. The scale of the ‘problem’ now required better methods.

By late 1941, before Wannsee, some more “efficient” killing centres and methods had already been set up in occupied Poland, the Baltic states and elsewhere. The first small-scale gassings at Auschwitz took place in early September 1941, when around 850 inmates—Soviet prisoners of war and sick Polish inmates – were murdered.

The site of Chełmno today

Another infamous example was in the Western part of Poland which had been formally incorporated into the Reich. Chełmno, 30 miles northwest of Łódź, was the first of the pure extermination centres and had been set up in December 1941 in order to annihilate the inhabitants of the ghetto in that town. It was the first stationary facility where poison gas – in that case, carbon monoxide in enclosed trucks – was used for the mass murder of Jews. Other similar extermination camps that quickly followed in 1942 (Bełżec, Sobibór and Treblinka) used fixed gas chambers fed by large carbon monoxide engines. All four existed purely for the purpose of murder, chiefly of Polish Jews. They paved the way for the much bigger extermination facilities that were quickly established in mixed labour/extermination camps and their numerous satellite sites across Poland and other territories, fed by an elaborate rail transport system from all over Europe. Notably, of course, Auschwitz-Birkenau and its vast complex of industrial workshops and extermination facilities: over 1.1 million men, women and children lost their lives here. But there were many other sites.

What Wannsee did achieve for the Nazi regime, on that day 80 years ago, was that it brought together a representative group of very senior officials and military/SS officers (including one, SS-Standartenführer Dr Rudolf Lange [see below], who had personally developed the killing methods at Chełmno just a week or two earlier) to decide and impose an enhanced, ambitious and accelerated method of moving Jews out of the Reich and the occupied territories, assembling them in ghettos where necessary, and then exterminating them in large numbers in dedicated sites. The meeting also discussed different treatments for different levels of ‘Jewishness’; but any categories that were thereby spared were later included anyway, on Heydrich’s orders.

Continued in Part 2