Southwark Green Party has submitted an objection to the planning application to build a new stadium on Metropolitan Open Land on Green Dale. This Site of Importance for Nature Conservation is in East Dulwich, roughly between the large branch of Sainsbury's on busy Dog Kennel Hill and the pedestrian and cycle-path between Champion Hill and Dulwich that's also - very confusingly - known as Green Dale.
Part of Green Dale. Photo: Friends of Dog Kennel Hill Woo
We support Dulwich Hamlet Football Club as a pillar of the local community, and celebrate its special character as inclusive and socially progressive. But we are not convinced that this plan is any more sustainable for the club than previous ones, and would rather see investment in the clubhouse, bar and sports centre to help support the club.
Where will the local footballers and fans of the future go for a kickabout, when the proposed Multi Use Games Area is just 5% of the size of the existing free access astroturf pitches?
Local resident and Green Party member Eleanor Margolies has written about the value of Green Dale for local residents here and the Friends of Dog Kennel Hill wood have written a thorough account of the many reasons for objecting to this proposal here.
We were proud to give German MEP Terry Reintke a badge celebrating the long friendship between Dulwich Hamlet and the German club Altona 93, on her visit to Peckham this summer.
We gave Southwark Council the following key reasons for our objection:
1. Undermining protection of Metropolitan Open Land
The loss of Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) has become a worrying trend in recent years. The Council for Protection of Rural England's 2014 Green Belt Review notes the large volumes of open space that have been lost in London since 2009, with MOL accounting for the largest proportion of this.
Open spaces in general and MOL in particular contribute significantly to the physical and mental health of residents of Southwark and of London. The MOL designation, as you will be aware, is is intended to protect areas of landscape, recreation, nature conservation and scientific interest which are strategically important. Green Dale was designated as MOL for good reason, and twice previously developers have been refused permission to build on Green Dale fields. The intention to protect it should be upheld. The coherence of policy should thus be maintained, along with the integrity of protected designations.
This is a point that we have made before in previous applications (March 2017) relating to this site, so it's disappointing to see a further application that seeks to overturn this principle. We hope the council will not entertain such backwards steps.
2. Loss of community and social benefit
The current use of the site adjoining Green Dale for Dulwich Hamlet Football Ground and the open astroturf pitch is part of an arrangement to compensate the local community for the loss of open space when the Sainsbury's supermarket was built. Again the recognition of this social contract needs to be respected rather than overridden by any new development, lest Southwark becomes a borough where the needs and amenities of local communities are constantly eroded.
The borough of Southwark has one of the highest levels of adult and child obesity in London, with more than 40% of children overweight and obese when they leave primary school, compared to 33% nationally. Nearby facilities for informal sports have been taken away (e.g. for building new blocks on the East Dulwich Estate) making the public 'turn up and play' pitches on Green Dale more essential than ever.
The proposed Multi Use Games Area MUGA is 5% of the size of the current astro turf pitch. This reduction in publicly accessible sports facilities goes against policies 2.1 'Enhancement of community facilities' of the Southwark Plan 2007, Strategic policies 4 'Places for learning, enjoyment and healthy lifestyles' and 11 'Open spaces and wildlife' of the Core Strategy 2011, and Policy 3.19 'Sports facilities' of the London Plan 2016."
3. Unique character of Green Dale scrubland
The London Wildlife Trust views Green Dale's area of unspoilt scrub and grassland as unique in inner South London. Southwark Council have designated it a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation. At a point where the benefits of re-wilding parts of our environment are increasingly being recognised across London and around the world, the developers' proposals threaten to take Green Dale in the opposite direction. Southwark could lose a unique area that supports - according to ecological assessments - foraging birds, bats and small mammals including hedgehogs. The developers' 'investment' risks turning this into a sanitised identikit space of the kind already spread across the borough.
High numbers of Southwark residents live in flats with no access to garden space. Green Dale is adjoined by two large council estates (circa 1,500 flats in blocks) and provides a crucial opportunity for local children to experience the natural world through professionally led bird- and bat-watching walks, supervised conservation work and independent exploration.
4. Further policy conflict
We note that Southwark councillors unanimously declared a climate emergency in March this year, with the aim of making borough carbon neutral by 2030. Doing away with protection of MOL and green spaces would undermine efforts to meet that target.
5. Compensatory benefits are questionable
We support the growth and prosperity of Dulwich Hamlet Football Club. However, we do not see clear evidence that the new larger stadium would be more sustainable for them than the current one. We do not want to see the club bite off more than it can chew by taking on new overheads that it may not be able to afford in the long term.
Friends of Green Dale The site includes reports on the wildlife and trees on Green Dale