Neighbourhood Forum: what we discussed at the first meeting


Notes of a preliminary meeting held at St Barnabas Parish Hall, Gilkes Place, SE21, on 3 October 2017 at 8pm to discuss a Neighbourhood Forum for Dulwich Village.

The meeting was attended by about forty people as individuals or as representatives of local organisations and businesses.


Marianne Kavanagh, as chair, welcomed everyone and introduced Barbara Richardson as her co-chair of the Dovercourt Road (north) Residents’ Association; Brigid Gardner, from the Court Lane Residents’ Association; and Giles Gibson from the emerging Herne Hill Neighbourhood Forum (NF).

Marianne proposed that the purpose of this first meeting was to receive information about the processes involved in setting up a NF; to start discussions about what area a Dulwich Village NF might cover and how to define it; and finally, to discuss setting up a working group to move action forward.

Marianne informed the meeting that Southwark Council is dealing with a number of new local NFs and that more information is available on the Council’s website under Neighbourhood Planning. Marianne said that minutes of meetings would be uploaded to this website and that the intention is to work towards a larger public meeting in the New Year 2018.

Giles Gibson, Herne Hill NF

The Herne Hill Forum has been going for about eighteen years and has held various master planning events about, for example, the station area, the market, traffic management and calming measures.

With regard to the Herne Hill NF, Giles explained that the area of a ‘neighbourhood’ should be defined by the natural feelings of residents, businesses and other organisations about its geography and not necessarily by administrative boundaries (e.g. postcodes, wards, constituencies, etc). The Herne Hill NF includes parts of both Southwark and Lambeth. He stated that boundaries between neighbourhood areas should ensure that no roads are left out.

Giles explained that the process of defining and agreeing an area evolves from the ideas, suggestions and needs of the community, and its vision for the neighbourhood now and in the future. A NF facilitates the articulation of what the community would like to change or to conserve. The operation of a NF is part of the statutory land planning processes, but communities might want to identify additional priorities to do with transport, air quality, safety, education and green space.

The Neighbourhood Plan (NP) that a NF develops is an important legal document, which requires formal support through a public vote. It is a part of a hierarchy of interlinking statutory plans whereby neighbourhood plans have to be in conformity with the Council’s planning strategy, which itself conforms to the Mayor’s London Plan and finally the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework.

The Herne Hill NF has frequently referred to the Locality website, which has examples of completed NPs from around the country in very different urban, suburban and rural areas. Locality also provides grant funding to help with the organisation of meetings, consultations and marketing, as well as technical assistance.

Giles advised that the first task is to agree a boundary with residents, businesses and other organisations and to talk to any groups and residents on the boundaries of a possible area. He further advised that it will be necessary to provide information on how consultations have been carried out – methods and evidence – to support any application to the Council concerning the definition of the NF boundary. Southwark Council’s Cabinet has to consider the evidence and the community’s comments and views. Only after the boundary is agreed can the Neighbourhood Plan be written. Herne Hill has reached this point by submitting its proposed NF boundary to Lambeth and Southwark councils.

Giles advised that people should be reached in as many ways as possible. This gives validity to the evidence assembled. The agreed NP is submitted to the Council for consultation and, eventually, a ballot through formal polling within the area. This process will require marketing and publicity to ensure the electorate votes.

 Brigid Gardner

Brigid presented on screen a possible area. This used the border with the Herne Hill NF as a given, and roughly took in sections 3 and 5 of the Village Ward boundary, supported by a poll of Lordship Lane which asked at every house in what neighbourhood people thought they lived. Marianne emphasised that the mapped area was merely a starting point for discussion.

The map stimulated many questions and comments, including:

  • The position of the Dulwich Estate and Scheme of Management and its ownership of land in Dulwich (some of which is included in the Herne Hill NF)
  • The position of the independent schools, which could be viewed as businesses
  • The importance of protecting green spaces
  • What next after this meeting?
  • The point was made that many of those present were already fully involved in local issues (as individuals, councillors or members of residents’ associations or groups like the Dulwich Society)and that a working group would benefit from much wider participation from the community.

Barbara Richardson

Barbara stated that she supports the development of a Neighbourhood Plan as such plans have statutory status, and must be taken into account by the local planning authority. Her view was reinforced by the experience of what happened with the old S.G. Smith site – a Dulwich Village Neighbourhood Forum with its own Neighbourhood Plan could have influenced the decision-making on its development.

Marianne thanked everyone for attending and asked those signing the attendance list to indicate whether they would like to be involved in the working group and planning for a wider public meeting in the New Year.

The meeting ended at 9.15pm.

Please use the contact form if you would like to be involved in the working group. Anyone who lives and works in the Dulwich Village area is very welcome.