Letters to the editor: 16 June 2016

(16 June, 2016)

This week we have letters on the Camberwell Cemeteries, Dulwich Hamlet, and reaction to housing schemes in railway arches

Dulwich Hamlet won’t survive without current development proposal

I refer to the letter from Jonathan Hunt (Southwark News 26th May) and cannot let his comments pass, particularly as I can see that they were indirectly aimed at me.

Firstly, these are my personal opinions and not necessarily the view of Dulwich Hamlet FC, the Dulwich Hamlet Supporters’ Trust, the club’s owners or the Dulwich Hamlet Football Committee.

In terms of Jonathan’s recollection of events in 1999, it is correct to say that the officials at the time predicted the death of Dulwich Hamlet FC without a new stadium and there can be no doubt that with a 20,000 capacity stadium deemed unfit to hold more than 500 fans then that would have been a reality. However, what the club got at the end of that process was a stadium not fit for future purpose and with numerous faults from day one.

In terms of the Homebase development, I believe that I can be quoted as saying that without it then Dulwich Hamlet FC would die; I wasn’t wrong. Without Hadley’s involvement, the club would have very quickly closed, as it was unable to pay its bills at the time that they acquired the site. There were a number of meetings with the Supporters’ Trust at the time from which it was clear the club was unable to pay essential utility bills; in fact, I am sure Jonathan was in those meetings in his role with the Dulwich Hamlet Supporters’ Trust. For that reason, I find it strange that he feels that the imminent demise of the club was overstated. In addition, Jonathan’s previous role with the Trust will have made him aware that Hadley have expressed every intention to return the club to its supporters debt-free following any development and so there will be no need for the club to be “waiting for another White Knight with dark dreams of huge profits”.

As I stated previously, the club’s location will always be attractive to property developers and, if it happens, the next party may not have the club’s interests at heart. Without the development, it is likely that there will continue to be a need for “White Knights with dark dreams” to fund the club going forward. This proposed development gives “a wholly different form of ownership”; namely the supporters of the club in a structure that would not allow any individual to own (and asset strip) the Club.

I also feel it important to add here that the proposals are not to develop on Green Dale, but rather are to ONLY redevelop on the existing all weather pitch and boundary enclosure. The FOGD group are, unfortunately, misinterpreting this point for their own crusade. Further, there are many examples of sporting developments on MOL, including Saracens Rugby Club (Allianz Park) and Kent County Cricket Club (The County Ground), and these are much-loved, community assets!

I would be very happy to go forward in “a much-improved Champion Hill stadium” if that were possible on the current site; but, to be frank, it isn’t. To make the stadium fit for purpose (and any business model viable) there would need to be many hundreds of thousands spent just to stand still. I would venture that to make the stadium better it would require the following just for starters: installation of a 3G pitch, new floodlights, terracing to be put in on 3 sides, cover on at least 2 sides, a complete refurbishment of the main stand with all new seating, and maybe even the main stand to be demolished and a new stand and bar facilities built. I am open to suggestions as to where the funds to do that would come from, but suspect that if they did it would come from a “White Knight” just like the others that have previously owned the club and saddled it with debt.

Liam Hickey, by email.


Not the first time rail arches eyed for homes

It was most interesting to see that some tenants of railway arches in the borough were planning to convert them into homes and that the council were taking steps to stop this from happening (News, June 9th).

It would not be the first time that the arches had been used for this purpose as the London and Greenwich Railway, the first railway in London, had planned to make use of many arches in this way, in particular to re-house the occupants of homes which were demolished to make way for its approach and terminus at London Bridge. In fact the first few arches to be let in 1834, two years before the railway was opened, were used for a pub, the Halfway House situated on Rotherhithe New Road and this stayed open until the early 1960s. The last remains of this can still be seen in ’Jarrow Road’, although these may disappear very soon as re-development works now seem to be taking place along this section of viaduct. To return to the houses, the railway company did in fact built three house in the viaduct close to Deptford Station and these were quite innovative, having gas lighting, heating and cooking facilities provided by the company’s own gas works. The gas being a by-product of the conversion of coal into coke, as the earliest locomotives were all coke-fired.

Incidentally the top of the railway viaduct was also gas-lit all the way from London Bridge to Greenwich for around a year as the ‘well to do’ used it for joy riding until the novelty wore off. It must have been quite an impressive site crossing the mostly open fields of Bermondsey and Rotherhithe and between the small towns of Deptford and Greenwich. The houses however were not a success, as the original tracks were laid on stone blocks rather than wooden sleepers which caused considerable noise and vibration and very little provision had been for drainage from the track-bed, so rain water gradually filtered through to the interior of the arches. However, at least one tenant lingered on for some considerable time resisting all efforts to move him, as apparently he was deaf and could not hear the noise.

Although Railtrack’s property company have used many innovative techniques to modernise the railway arches in the recent past, including using plastic sheeting to divert away leaking water, I do not think that they have completely removed the dampness found within them and although they might be satisfactory for business uses, I do think that they would ever be healthy enough for residential accommodation unless they installed a completely sealed waterproof lining, but then, there is still the problem of the noise and vibration.

Ray Blanchard, Clifton Crescent, Peckham.


Why are graves being sold off as ‘new’ plots?

To many, burial over the dead is abhorrent, either for religious or personal reasons.

What look like ‘new’ burial plots along Woodvale in Camberwell Old Cemetery are in fact over the graves of tens of thousands of Southwark’s poor. But Southwark is refusing to tell people.

Cllr Ian Wingfield, who led the Heygate Estate sell-off, is now Cabinet Member responsible for Southwark’s cemeteries, selling off the graves of thousands of dead poor as ‘new’ private graves. Southwark’s social cleansing programme doesn’t stop at the living.

Last week, we wrote to Cllr Wingfield to demand Southwark’s website publish that these ‘new’ burial plots are in fact over the dead.

Cllr Wingfield ignored the request. He said it was ‘up to Funeral Directors’ to inform families and, if families happen to ask cemetery staff, they are told it is ‘reclaimed’ land.

But Funeral Directors have a financial vested interest. And ‘reclaimed’ land can mean anything.

We are appalled by Cllr Wingfield’s contempt for people’s religious and personal needs.

Why is Southwark Council refusing to tell people what they are up to? Because they know many wouldn’t buy the plots.

But this is not just a local issue. The multi-billion pound burial industry wants to mound over and even dig up the dead in all UK cemeteries for profit. Southwark is a national test case.

But Southwark’s cemetery strategy is fatally flawed. Their destruction of woods, graves, memorials, nature and history must stop.

Please let people know that ‘new’ burial plots being sold in Camberwell Cemetery are over the dead.

Blanche Cameron, Chair of the Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries, the Save Southwark Woods campaign




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