Burst water main on the Dulwich Village section of the South Circular – Update

As many of you will be aware, on Thursday afternoon – 15th October – a major water main burst beneath the South Circular just outside the more westerly entrance to Dulwich Park resulting in considerable damage to the highway and pavement and copious flooding. The road has been closed in both directions between Lordship Lane and College Road since the incident resulting in gridlock throughout the entire area. It has been advised that there is now a signposted diversion via Croxted Road, Norwood Road, Half Moon Lane, Village Way, East Dulwich Grove, Lordship Lane.
Officially, we have been advised that the repairs will take at least until Sunday evening to complete. Meanwhile, a Thames Water engineer on site this morning indicated that the works could well extend into next week and that the extent of damage to the highway would mean that it is likely to remain closed to motor vehicles in both directions for the duration. Access to pedestrians and cycles will be maintained throughout. 

Update on Southwark’s Plans and our Complementary Proposal

A fair amount has happened since our last report on  Southwark’s ‘Covid-19’ road schemes.

Southwark are pressing ahead with their plan, combining the 24/7 Village junction closure (already done) with a brace of timed camera restrictions designed to relieve Dulwich Village of the standing traffic jams caused by that closure.  They have added an extra camera restriction on Burbage Road at the junction with College Road, which will stop that road being used as a bypass to Croxted Road, but does amplify the access issues for our residents.

They have started installing the cameras; we are not sure when they will ‘go live’ but expect end-October or thereabouts.

We have developed what we call our ‘Complementary Proposal’ – first outlined in our last mail – which is designed to tweak Southwark’s plan and create a more fair and balanced outcome for our residents, for the shops and restaurants in the village, and importantly for the streets around us.  This involves re-opening the village junction and installing a westbound camera on Calton Avenue at the Village junction, and implementing an access scheme for all Southwark residents.  The proposal is set out in some detail in a slideshow which is available below.

Southwark have reshuffled their cabinet and Richard Livingston has been replaced by two new Cabinet members – Catherine Rose (catherine.rose@southwark.gov.uk) is the new Cabinet Member for Leisure, Environment & Roads and Radha Burgess (radha.burgess@southwark.gov.uk) is the new Deputy Cabinet Member for Low Traffic Southwark, together they assume responsibility for the road closures, restrictions and so on.

We have met with Catherine and Radha and presented our proposal to them.  It was a constructive meeting and they seemed open. We are sending a delegation to Southwark’s Cabinet Meeting on 20 October, which is addressing a petition to remove the various road closures, see link below for the petition (count to date: 2,558).  In the interests of balance, there is also a petition to support the closures, also via the link below (count to date 44).  We understand the Cabinet meeting proceedings will be ‘live-streamed’ on Youtube so we will send out a link when we get it for anyone interested.  There is no guarantee our delegation will be called on to speak but we are hopeful, in which case we will outline the issues caused by the current plan and how we think it could be amended rather than abandoned.

We have also met with The Dulwich Estate, the Dulwich Society and One Dulwich and presented our proposal to each.  We are aiming to agree a ‘cross-community’ position which will be harder for Southwark to ignore.

We will update after the Cabinet meeting next week.  In the meantime, if you have any questions, concerns or if you would like to get more involved in this effort, please do reach out.

Link for Southwark petitions:

DVRA presentation Draft 12Oct20

Village junction closure and phase 2 measures

We met with Southwark last week to discuss the impact of the Village junction closure and the proposed phase 2 restrictions.

Southwark’s Cabinet Office minister for Transport is due to make a decision next Tuesday (1 September) on whether or not to proceed with the phase 2 measures, and if he decides to proceed, the precise nature of those restrictions.

If you have a view on the phase 2 measures (http://moderngov.southwark.gov.uk/mgIssueHistoryHome.aspx?IId=50023654&Opt=0) please e-mail the Cabinet Office minister at richard.livingstone@southwark.gov.uk – ideally TODAY so he has your representation while he deliberates tomorrow.  We must each follow our consciences, but we think that the major concern is around access – see below.

As a reminder, Southwark plan the following camera-controlled restrictions which would apply weekdays 8am-10am and 3pm-6pm; these restrictions would not apply to buses, taxis or emergency vehicles but they would apply to residents (ie if we go through the restrictions, we would be fined):
– Northbound restriction on Dulwich Village road, north of the the roundabout/ junction with College Road
– Northbound restriction in Burbage Road, north of the junction with Turney Road
– Eastbound restriction on Turney Road, east of the junction with Burbage Road

– Northbound restriction on Townley Road, at the junction with East Dulwich Grove

A further plan to re-phase the traffic lights at the Dulwich Village/ East Dulwich Grove junction, to allow traffic headed north on Dulwich Village to clear, seems to be delayed pending discussions with TFL.

In summary, we expressed the following views which reflect the balance of opinion among the 40+ residents we have spoken to:
– the junction closure has caused significant issues and in some cases real hardship for residents, particularly those living on Dulwich Village
– the phase 2 measures are needed to fix a problem which Southwark should not have created in the first place
– the key issue for our residents arising from the phase 2 measures is access; in combination, they mean that during the restricted hours, it will be very hard for residents on Dulwich Village to access their homes by car from the south, or for residents on College Road/ Woodyard Lane to head north (for instance to Kings Hospital)
– this raises many issues around carers, deliveries, hospital visits, mini-cabs

– we also pressed for increased frequency of the P4 bus, though in practice steps being taken by TFL are likely to reduce access to the P4

To help gauge the impact of the restrictions on access for residents, we have marked up a map of the Dulwich area to show the required detour for a resident trying to get to their home on Dulwich Village from the South – either via Lordship Lane or Croxted Road, see link below.  Note that displaced traffic on these routes – together with further traffic reduction measures planned for the Herne Hill junction – are likely to make them increasingly congested and slow to navigate.

Click here to view and download map

We have urged our Councillors to be imaginative and come up with some simple scheme for resident access – see the attached mail.

Dear Richard,

As requested here is a link to the description of the Hammersmith & Fulham scheme.

In summary, cameras have been installed on certain roads and access is only for Hammersmith & Fulham residents – the camera simply checks the registration against DVLA records and if the car is registered in the borough, access is allowed.

In the context of the current Southwark plans for Dulwich, we feel that such an approach has the following benefits:
– it is simple to apply and does not require expensive infrastructure to validate and issue permits; DVLA records suffice
– it would achieve a massive reduction in through traffic passing through the village, without dividing the community and with significantly less disruption to businesses
– it could be positioned, if Southwark wished, as an interim solution pending a tighter ‘permitised’ system being introduced alongside a CPZ at some point in the future

We would strongly urge Southwark to pursue this or a similar option.  The access issues faced by residents will, after phase 2 has been implemented, be very real and a solution is needed.  A resident on Dulwich
Village would, during restricted hours, need to take a huge detour to get to their house from the south, and given the steps being taken elsewhere to restrict traffic, as well as congestion from displaced traffic, the journey will soon become so impractical that it will be moot as to whether residents continue to retain ‘access’ to their homes at all.

As discussed on the call today, resident access would mean that our residents would no longer have as their only northbound ‘access/escape’ route the proposed open route via Burbage/ Turney/ Croxted and thus remove the tension with South Burbage/ West Turney who have expressed a valid concern that their streets will become rat runs to Croxted if the restrictions do not apply from the DV roundabout.

We never wanted to be set against our neighbours in this way.

Dulwich Village junction closure – our view as a Committee

We are meeting with our Ward Councillors on 26 August to discuss the impact of the Dulwich Village junction closure and their proposals for ‘phase 2’ to be implemented in September.

To make sure we have a strong voice in that meeting, we need to get as much additional input as we can from you as our residents on what you think.  To this end, and given that it has not been possible to hold a ‘General Meeting’, myself and Bridget will be conducting a ‘door-to-door’ on Wednesday (19 August) – we will try to speak to everyone who is around, and will of course be suitably masked and socially distanced!In the meantime, we feel that we owe you our view, as a Committee, on the Dulwich Village junction closure and the likely steps to be taken in ‘phase 2’ in September.  We also want to set out, for the record, our thoughts on how this situation has arisen, and why – these are set out in the Appendix below.

This is an open letter to our members which we are forwarding to other interested parties, in the hope that it will be read and understood in full.

We didn’t support the junction closure in late June 2020.

This is because it was clear to us, and repeatedly made clear to Southwark, that the impact would be higher traffic flows and/ or traffic jams along Dulwich Village road and elsewhere.  We do not believe that there is residents’ support for the closure, and we have always feared that displacement traffic would harm the amenity of residents.

We now find ourselves in an invidious position.  If the junction closure stays in place, it seems the only way to effectively relieve Dulwich Village road of traffic jams is to close it for at least parts of the day as well as changing the traffic light timings at East Dulwich Grove.  This will have implications for traffic displacement across the whole area, as well as making it extremely hard for residents to get around by car when they need to.

In our view, the situation prior to the junction closure, where through traffic was more fairly shared among streets across Dulwich, was far preferable to both the current situation and that which would exist if these likely further measures were implemented.

We strongly support measures to encourage walking and cycling, and to reduce through traffic and air pollution.  The measures Southwark have taken, and plan to take, don’t in our view achieve these objectives and are in practice counter-productive and causing real hardship.

We think Southwark should re-open the junction forthwith and recommence a proper consultative process, with residents properly represented, to work out how to manage through traffic in the area, to encourage walking and cycling, and to decrease air pollution.

We look forward to speaking to those of you who are around on Wednesday.


Where does the support for this junction closure come from?
The ‘Our Healthy Streets’ Phase 2 consultation did not evidence a majority of residents in favour of the junction closure, and the detailed results of the Phase 3 consultation have not been released.  Since the junction closure, Southwark have sought comments via the Streetscape app (dulwichvillagestreetspace.commonplace.is/comments); unfortunately, in our view this survey is not a serious tool for measuring opinion.So we cannot see any hard evidence of support from affected residents which could be sufficient to justify this junction closure, given the severity of the problems it is causing for residents.The support seems to come largely from non-resident pressure groups.What have been the implications of this junction closure?The implications are stark and predictable.  Large areas of Dulwich and beyond are now subjected to higher levels of traffic and, in particular, standing traffic jams.  We cannot see that the closure has delivered any benefits whatsoever as regards dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Cairns Report “Disappearing Traffic – the story so far” (nacto.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/disappearing_traffic_cairns.pdf) has been cited by Southwark to support the closure and to make the case for ’traffic evaporation’.

The report is dated March 2002 so it is 18 years out of date.  It examines the impact on overall traffic levels of various schemes around the world.

It does conclude that ‘Traffic levels can reduce by significant amounts, with the average being that perhaps 11% of the traffic on the treated road or area cannot be found in the area afterwards. However, all schemes are different, and each will need to be considered according to its own circumstances.’

A review of the data supplied by Southwark on traffic flows during the OHS Phase 3 consultation makes clear that, given the traffic flows on Calton Avenue and Court Lane, even if the overall traffic across the Dulwich area did reduce by 11% as a result of the closure, there would still be huge displacement onto Dulwich Village and other still-open roads.

The Cairns study also makes clear that the impact on overall traffic is highly dependent on the specificities of the area subject to closures, and shows a very wide range of reported changes in overall traffic levels, from significant decreases to significant increases.  It seems to us that the implied assertion that Dulwich is ’typical’ for these kinds of schemes, and should therefore experience a ’typical’ overall traffic fall is highly questionable.  Dulwich is part of a complex pattern of traffic flows within South London and sits on a major commuter route to Central London as well as being a hub for thousands of schoolchildren; it is not easily circumvented by drivers.  None of the schemes cited by Southwark – such as for instance Waltham Forest – share these characteristics.

The same applies to school streets, which various pressure groups have been advocating.  Across London, there is only one example we have found of a school street with a bus stop on a through road – in London Fields – and there, there are ample diversionary roads for drivers to take.  This does not apply in Dulwich.

So we have seen near all-day standing traffic jams on Dulwich Village (right opposite Dulwich Hamlet school and JAPs), significant increases in traffic on Burbage, and various roads linking Court Lane, Woodwarde Road and Calton Avenue emerging as new rat-runs.  As schools return this situation will only get worse.

What happens next?

Rather than facing reality, and re-opening the junction, Southwark seem to be planning to double-down.  In an effort to relieve Dulwich Hamlet school in particular of standing traffic jams and the associated pollution, changes to the phasing of the traffic lights at the Dulwich Village/ East Dulwich Grove junction seem likely, together with some kind of timed restrictions to be installed on Dulwich Village.  The effects on traffic flows are easily predictable – starting with displacement onto Burbage Road – so it seems highly likely that additional restrictions would soon follow.

This will all of course be amplified by the school traffic as schools open up in September, with schoolchildren actively discouraged from using public transport due to Covid-19.The combined effect will likely be to displace large amounts of traffic around the area.

Such moves if implemented would also start to unacceptably undermine the ability of our residents to get about by car, given that any restrictions will not have access permits.  We all agree that folks should walk or cycle or take a bus where possible, but sometimes it is not possible, due to rain, wind, a load to carry or indeed where the traveller is not mobile.  A resident on Dulwich Village who needed to get home by car from the south during the restriction periods would face a lengthy detour via the A205/ Lordship Lane/ East Dulwich Grove with all routes clogged with traffic jams caused by the closures, as would residents on College Road and Woodyard Lane who needed to travel north.

Why is this happening?

We don’t doubt the good faith and intentions of our Ward Councillors, who have been as open as they can be about Southwark’s plans and have listened at length to our concerns.

However we fear that they and Southwark are engaged in wishful thinking about ‘traffic evaporation’; in the absence of a London-wide scheme to reduce traffic, such as road pricing, and with a limited budget, they seem prepared to take whatever local steps they can to make driving inconvenient, even if this can only be done by creating traffic jams and diversions.  Specifically, we suspect that they hope that the initial Village junction closure will lead to calls for more road closures (in this they would likely be correct), and that much in the manner of CPZ’s, road closures will rapidly spread across the area as each small community reacts to the displacement caused by their neighbours actions.  Ultimately, all through traffic would be funnelled down the remaining open roads and residents will struggle to access their own homes by car.

As to the various pressure groups, we feel they are simply misguided.  Their intentions, as signalled by their names, seem benign, but so far their schemes have only been detrimental to children living on Dulwich Village or who will in due course be travelling to school on that road.

We feel that Southwark are pursuing a fundamentally unjust approach to the issue of traffic in the Dulwich area.