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.

 APPENDIX

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.

Dulwich Village junction – meeting with Ward Councillors

We met with our Ward Councillors, Margy and Richard (together, ‘Our Councillors’), to discuss the impact of the closure of the Dulwich Village junction and possible further road closures in Phase 2.
 
Summary
 
– Our Councillors explained that the approach is driven by necessity and budgetary pressures at TfL (Transport for London)
 
– a Phase 2 will be implemented in September, subject to similar budgetary constraints; the original decision notice published states that phase 2 will: “consider additional measures on Dulwich Village…”. Margy and Richard made it clear that the toolkit includes planters and cameras, but not a permit system at this stage
 
– Our Councillors are well aware of the issues experienced on Our Streets, and have stated that they are working on coming up with proposals that address them although these proposals are not currently in the public domain
 
– a ‘school street’ on Dulwich Village road is a possible measure; this could mean closing Dulwich Village road to private motor vehicles for weekday periods around school pick-up and drop-off times
 
We have urged our Councillors to take urgent steps – particularly around the junction with East Dulwich Grove, to alleviate traffic build-up in the Village – and not to take actions in Phase 2 which will make matters worse. Our Councillors acknowledged that there is a problem with the phasing of traffic lights at the north end of Dulwich Village which is causing a substantial tailback, particularly in the afternoon peak when southbound traffic coming from Red Post Hill prevents traffic turning from Dulwich Village into East Dulwich Grove. They explained that TfL has been slow to act despite requests. Meanwhile, we have been advised since the meeting that Helen Hayes MP for Dulwich & West Norwood has written to Heidi Alexander (Deputy Mayor of London for Transport) appealing to her to prioritise resolving this problem.
 
Discussions with Our Councillors
 
The junction closure has, in the view of many of our residents, had an immediate and detrimental impact on traffic in Dulwich Village – in particular standing traffic building up behind traffic lights at East Dulwich Grove.Our Councillors explained that TFL was under funding pressure, and was only releasing money for road actions in tranches.  Money is not available for the more sophisticated elements of the ‘Healthy Streets’ plan such as permit-controlled access to roads.  Southwark decided the junction closure was an imperfect but achievable first phase of reducing traffic flows, and issues arising from it could be mitigated as explained in the decision notice using further tranches of TFL spend as it became available.

They felt that it was too early to assess the success or otherwise of the scheme, as there are too many moving parts; the easing of the Covid-19 lockdown, the school holidays, roadworks elsewhere in London are all having an effect, and the so-called ‘modal shifts’ – changes in driver behaviour resulting from the junction closure – may take a while to kick in.

They could not give further details of the proposed ‘Phase 2’  measures due in September but did undertake to discuss them with us before implementation.  They made clear this would not be a ‘consultation’ given the nature of the emergency timetable they are acting under, but they did undertake to ensure that the interests of Our Streets (ie Duwich Village road, College Road and Woodyard Lane) would not be disregarded.

We asked about what tools were available to mitigate traffic flows along Our Streets.  Road closures are not on the table at least in the short term, but ’school street’ type timed closures (for instance of Dulwich Village road at school drop off and pick up times) are a possibility. They mentioned that ‘cameras are not ruled out – though permits are, for now’ – it’s not clear to us what this could mean in practice.

We asked about air quality monitoring, as many of our residents are concerned about air quality given the build-up of standing traffic along Our Streets, and indeed a number of residents have purchased their own air quality monitors.  Our Councillors have promised to update us with the sites at which air quality monitoring is in place and confirmed that Dulwich Hamlet Junior school has a monitor inside the gates. They undertook to get back to us on this. On the topic of DIY air quality monitoring, they expressed reservations about the quality of the data they would provide.

We advocated a couple of ideas which have been raised by our residents to mitigate traffic flows and traffic build-up in the Village:

i) to change the phasing of the lights at East Dulwich Grove, in particular putting in a right turn filter to allow more eastbound traffic from Dulwich Village to filter right onto East Dulwich Grove, and adjusting the lights at Townley Road to allow traffic on East Dulwich Grove to flow better

ii) to look at ways of discouraging through traffic from using College Road; pedestrianising, widening pavements, creating a permanent cycle lane

Our Councillors said that the traffic lights at the junction with East Dulwich Grove were being looked at.  They expressed interest in ideas for College Road.

Finally, we asked how residents can best communicate their views on this junction closure.

They advised to e-mail:
highways@southwark.gov.uk
cc:
richard.livingstone@southwark.gov.uk
Andy.Simmons@southwark.gov.uk
Margy.Newens@southwark.gov.uk
richard.leeming@southwark.gov.uk

It would be helpful if you could copy us on any correspondence as well.

We are looking at how we can convene a General Meeting of the Residents Association (or equivalent) so we can adopt a formal position on this issue, but in the meantime please make your views known to us and to Southwark as above.

Dulwich Village junction closed

The Dulwich Village junction is now closed and it’s possible to start to see the impact, for better or worse.

Southwark have set up a rather nifty way to comment on it via the website https://dulwichvillagestreetspace.commonplace.is/

There, you can see a map of the Village and ‘click on’ various blobs representing comments already made (green for positive comment, red for negative comment) and see what people are saying.  You can ‘agree’ with comments people have made, or you can make your own comment – to do this you need to click the green ‘Have your say’ button in the top right, click where on the map you are commenting about (for instance, on the junction itself) and then make your comments (don’t provide any personal information).

Please do have a browse and ideally, comment – it’s important our views are represented, and I’m assured, by Helen Hayes no less, that this will reach the ears of the powers that be.

In the meantime – it seems inevitable that this closure will be followed by other ‘temporary’ closures, such as Burbage Road, which will likely further displace traffic onto our roads.  We are monitoring the situation and will be putting ideas to you in due course.

Dulwich Village junction closure – update

For those who didn’t yet hear, Southwark Council has approved the closure of Calton Avenue at the junction with Dulwich Village, effectively closing the junction.  It’s not clear exactly when this will happen physically – 25 June has been mooted – but it will surely be in the coming weeks.

We understand this is a ‘temporary’ 18 month measure, though our assumption is that once in place, it will be hard to reverse.

Our concern as a Committee, which we have expressed to Southwark’s councillors and officials, is that this central element of the ‘Healthy Streets’ scheme is being implemented under the emergency Covid-19 powers, but with none of the mitigations that were set out in the Healthy Streets plans that would have relieved our streets from at least some of the displaced traffic -such as the Northbound permit restrictions on Dulwich Village.

Our Councillors have indicated that they are aware of this issue, and that there will be a ‘second phase’, though it is not clear what money there will be to spend on the second phase.

Our view is – as an RA we are likely to all have different views on whether the junction should remain closed or not under these circumstances; for those who support the closure, there are groups such as Clean Air for Dulwich, while for those against, there is OneDulwich.

However, as an RA we should be united in wanting to discourage through traffic from using our streets – and there is a window to put ideas to Southwark and to have them implemented in the ’second phase’.

We have started working on ideas – we are looking to convene a group on this topic.  If anyone has their own ideas and/or is interested in participating in this group please let us know – it’s not an easy one so we need all the inspiration we can get!

Broadband Issues Update

This is an update on the broadband issues over half of our members kindly let me know about.  I appreciate many have satisfactory service but forgive me for writing to you all.  With so many working from home, and planning on continuing to do so at least part of the working week in the future, a better broadband speed is so important.
During lockdown, BT advertising tips on how to work from home have been on the radio.  However, they do not listen to private individual complaints about the dreadful service.  They are completely ignoring pleas to give our part of SE21  a decent broadband speed we could actually use for zoom meetings and skype, instead of buffering or, in one reported comment, a commission lost because the broadband went down.  It is Openreach you have to talk to once a form requesting faster broadband  is filled in, but there is no way to actually speak to anyone.
On 30 May I had a quite long exchange with the “helpers” on the BT and Openreach twitter accounts.  It is annoying that on the SE21 7BJ  Ofcom broadband coverage map,  brown shading is surrounded by acres of green.  That is the few houses in SE21 versus everywhere else in the area.  You can see this yourself by looking at this:
https://checker.ofcom.org.uk/broadband-coverage and typing in your postcode.  The twitter helpers could not explain why the cabinet dealing with our service has not been upgraded.  Everywhere else in the district has been,  according to an Openreach engineer who helped me with my loss of service, by Facetime and me doing the work.  There were early discussions with Openreach about this area but they seem to have not reached any conclusions.  The difficulty in getting any real advice about our actual cabinet being upgraded is nigh impossible.
The suggestion we might contribute towards the cost via a community fibre partnership has been ignored.  Can I draw your attention to the following:
Being told there are no plans at present to supply our small area with faster broadband and basically finding out areas in the north of the Borough need it more  (see below) is extremely frustrating – everyone needs it!!!  A friend in Turney Road, .3 of a mile or .4 kms walking between our homes, even less as the crow flies, has a BT download speed of 76 mbps and mine at the time we spoke was .91.
Most importantly, many of us are paying between £25 and £60 a month for a broadband service which is not adequate.
Because businesses are not part of the RA, I am unable to be sure what service they use – Virgin Media, Sky, BT or other, however I am pretty certain they do not have good speeds in many of them, as they are in part of the brown shading.
Apparently Southwark Officers have been having conversations with Openreach about rolling out a service to the borough.  Openreach is going to treat Southwark as a priority, but only in the Bermondsey and Rotherhithe areas, with a density of population larger than ours.  Our councillor Richard Leemimg, wrote to tell me that (in Rotherhithe and Bermondsey) ” the existing broadband does not meet the government’s minimum standard of ‘decent’ broadband (around 11 Mbps)” in that area.  (Would that many of our members of the RA could reach that speed.)   It sounds as if New Cross will  be next to get an improved service.  In fact if the Ofcom broadband coverage map is studied I would feel our area is equally in need – although there may of course be an argument for older Rotherhithe district broadband improvement.  All the new developments following the river bend seem to have plenty of speed options that we do not in our little broadband desert.  I would urge you to look at the map and scroll round to look at broadband speed availability in Brixton, West Dulwich, West Norwood, Norbury, Streatham, Stockwell, Brockley, Nunhead, East Dulwich, Sydenham, Gipsy Hill and Streatham.  Then compare our small area that for some reason the Openreach powers that be want to ignore.
Richard also goes on to say “However in order to concentrate the minds of the various providers the council is going to launch a ‘heat map’ asking people to register their connectivity issues. This will be similar to the transport maps we have been using in response to the COVID-19 transport issues in recent weeks and will be live by the end of July. This will enable us to demonstrate demand to the various broadband providers so they can make more informed investment decisions.”  When you are invited to take part in this, please do so as it will help our case for improvement.
One of the many engineers who came to sort out my service told me that we should report the local issue to Ofcom.  The following is the link:
Councillor Leeming is copied in, and I would like to thank him for his help.  Sue Badman of the Dulwich Society is also copied in.
I attach the survey conclusions.  There is a bit of shorthand but if you have trouble following it just email me.  The only facts missing are the comments which are in the main pretty disgusted with the service we receive.  I am happy to take this forward and try to have constructive talks about registering our interest in a partnership, but would please ask you to let me know if you would wish to join – the application has to be more specific than a few people saying maybe to me.
Bridget