The Camberwell Society

Society for those living, working or interested in Camberwell

Land for the people


Dr Miatta Fahnbulleh, chair of the Southwark Land Commission

Southwark Land Commission puts land at the centre of local debate and explores how it can be freed up for the benefit of all. Tom Harvey of the Societys Planning Committee explains

The council has launched the Southwark Land Commission (SLC), the first commission of its kind in London, and only the second in England following Liverpool City Region’s in 2020. This forms part of Southwark’s Council Delivery Plan (2022-26) “Fairer, Greener, Safer”. The SLC will be an advisory body convened to undertake investigations and make recommendations on how more land can be made available for the public good.

Topics of interest include genuinely affordable housing, active travel, food growing, community participation, health and wellbeing, community wealth building and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The members of the SLC are from a diverse group of people with local knowledge and a wide area of expertise. They include architects, economists, urban planners and academics as well as active citizens and a church representative. The chair is Dr Miatta Fahnbulleh, chief executive of the New Economics Foundation and prospective Labour Party candidate for the Camberwell and Peckham constituency.

The SLC will look to work with major landowners in the Borough including the NHS, Transport for London, the Port of London Authority, Dulwich Estate and local faith organisations. A key aim is to exert influence over land in the Borough outside the council’s ownership.

The Commission is being assisted in its delivery by consultants PRD with support from We Made That and PMV Planning.

The programme of work and engagement for the commission has four key elements.

1. Three meetings between members of the Commission between February and April this year

2. One to one engagement of council officers across departments

3. Four area-focused community workshops,including one for Camberwell and Walworth which took place in March 2023

4. A limited number of one to one external stakeholder engagements

There is active discussion to extend the programme with it potentially expanding to further meetings between commission members and additional public engagement.

The recommendations and action plan are intended to be formally proposed to the London Borough of Southwark’s Cabinet sometime in Summer 2023.

The Society looks at all planning applications within the SE5 area. The website has invaluable quick links to all applications

Fire Station “always ready” for new curators


In September 2023 it will be five years since the South London Gallerys Fire Station annexe opened on Peckham Road. Angela Weight pays a visit

The conversion of the old fire station building aimed for flexibility, so that different spaces could be used in various ways according to need. To begin with, the building comprised three exhibition galleries, an archive room, kitchen, artist’s studio, and education facilities, supplementing those available in the main building. As was foreseen, there have indeed been changes of use, most obviously because of the need for storage space.

The gallery has an ongoing artist residency programme, during which an artist occupies a studio in the Fire Station for six months of the year. Initially the studio was on the top floor at the back of the building, but this space is now used for tech storage. The large light-filled space at the front of the building, known as the attic, is currently used on an occasional basis for educational projects.

The artist in residence now uses gallery five on the second floor as a studio. When not in use by this artist, the studio is used by groups such as Southwark Carers or the School of Speculation, an independent design school which aims to increase diversity in art and design education.

The spacious community kitchen opposite gallery five has a small, wood-floored terrace that opens off one corner, its railings entwined with green plants, giving a tantalising glimpse of nature in this packed urban environment. On the first floor, galleries 3 and 4, either side of the lift shaft, remain as exhibition spaces.

Initially, the ground floor room at the back was an archive room, an unsupervised area where people could access local history material on touchscreen computers. But the space was underused. So, the archive is now accessed via touch screen tablets in the entrance hall, where there is also a computer with a digital map of the local area highlighting points of interest. The back room has now been freed up for exhibition use. The SLG’s own archive since 1993 has been digitised and is available on the gallery’s website, as well as on the tablets in the entrance hall.

The long, narrow entrance hall is double height and top lit. On entering the eye is drawn to the glass wall at the end, behind which is another sliver of garden and greenery. The reception desk is here, but the small retail space has been removed to make space for the archive. There is a pleasing absence of polished concrete throughout. The architects retained the original chevron brick floor in the entrance and wood boards in the exhibition rooms.

Interestingly, the Fire Station receives more drop-in visitors than the main gallery. Whether this is because of curiosity about the building itself or because it does not look like a municipal institution is hard to say. In the summer visitors can relax in outside chairs and tables, but in cold weather there is nowhere to encourage people to hang out. Currently, the large, cobbled forecourt is rather bare, apart from the new colourful digital sign. The plan is to install planters, benches, and outdoor lighting to soften the space, while still allowing access for lorries delivering artworks. However, money is needed to pay for these things.

The SLG has always been deeply embedded in its community, whilst presenting high quality international art exhibitions. It is renowned for its extensive and varied educational programme. In a further endorsement of its reputation in this area, from autumn 2023 the Fire Station will be the operating base for New Curators, an ambitious new charitable organisation whose three directors are all highly experienced ex-Tate curators. It is running a paid twelve-month curatorial programme based in London for individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds. This sounds like a timely addition - or perhaps a challenge - to London’s existing university-based, fee-paying curatorial training courses.

The South London Gallery will also present New Curators’ first exhibition in 2024. No doubt the Fire Station will play a significant role in the activities of this exciting new venture.

Developer gets go ahead to turn Butterfly Walk into Camberwell Lanes


Now that planning permission has been confirmed by the GLA and Southwark Peter Cooke takes stock

To remind readers of the main elements of the development

(also see CQ 203, 205 and 212):

• redevelop the shopping centre which is largely single storey to

six floors with flats above,

• existing retail tenants will remain although the planning officer in his report acknowledges that there will be ‘short term disruption’ to them,

• 101-bedroom hotel and a cinema with two screens for 80 people.

• shopping mall’s roof will be removed, and the mall will become wider with tree planting and a spur off to Orpheus Street.

• two carparks facing onto Daneville Road will be built over and the redevelopment will rise to seven storeys above the ground floor.

• overall, the development will provide 145 new homes of which 51 (36%) are described as affordable.

The GLA and Southwark require that the new housing be car free, apart from disabled parking. GLA consider this reduction of 80% in the existing provision will lead to traffic reduction and healthy streets in line with Vision Zero. Policies have changed from the proposal 30 years ago to build a second level of carparking in the car park.

The GLA report said that the ‘design will make a positive contribution to the street scene, landscaping, and greenery and will improve the appearance of the area.’

Approval requires development to start by 7 March 2026. The applicant does not intend to carry out the development and aims to sell to another developer. Development will commence on the Denmark Hill frontage, then the part occupied by the supermarket and the smaller carpark, and finally the larger carpark at the south-eastern corner.

The planning approval of June 2021 was expected to be ratified in the legal agreement by 28 January 2022. Since then, the new Southwark Plan for 2019-2036 has been issued, which reiterates the policy from 2017, that the ‘south and east sides should be lower rise’. But this is now the highest part of the development at eight floors. So, the Council have confirmed a proposal which is contrary to their own policies.

It is also based on a seemingly inaccurate official statement made to the Planning Committee

Redeveloping Love Walk care home


Richard Donnell, Chair of Grove Lane Area Residents Association urges locals to give their views on this major site

The site at 10 Love Walk, SE5 has been delivering care to local residents since 1912 when a home for ‘invalid women workers’ was established. The present building was developed in the 1960s with a further wing constructed in 1975. Today, the property operates as a residential care home for adults living with physical disabilities and provides 23 bedrooms operated by Mission Care.

The building is becoming obsolete, and a planning application has recently been lodged for the total redevelopment of the site - see Southwark planning reference 23/AP/0330. The proposal is for a much bigger building, rising to 4 storeys or 23 metres high and almost tripling the number of bedrooms to 63, on what is a small, infill site.

Southwark needs more care beds, and the community supports the need to replace the current building with something that delivers 1) a high-quality environment for future residents, and 2) a building which enhances the character of the local area. Sadly, the current proposals do not deliver on either of these counts.

Love Walk and the surrounding areas are low rise and with special historical character. The sheer scale of the proposed scheme creates a number of adverse impacts which go against many of Southwark’s own policies - see the Grove Lane Area Residents Association (GLARA) objection. Other public comments on the application also question the layout and design of the scheme and the quality of experience this will deliver for future residents.

A planning decision is due in June. Public comments are still welcomed. There are already over 120 comments, the vast majority of which object to the current plans and ask for a total redesign. We would encourage the local community to comment and provide your views on this major site in Camberwell. Contact us on

Doing the Lambeth walks


Want to immerse yourself in local history? Alison Rae suggests becoming a Lambeth tour guide

During lockdown I discovered Herne Hill and Brixton. And found a working windmill, a walled secret garden, amazing murals, commemorations of the uprising of 1981 and more. Ashamed that I knew so little of an area so ridiculously close I signed up to a Lambeth tour guiding course. It enabled me to develop my public speaking, immerse myself in local history, hear about future developments and receive an accreditation.

Lambeth guides started two years ago and is the only such organisation south of the river. Tutors really know their stuff. They gave presentations on local industries, pleasure and leisure, public art, local government, housing, and health provision – the NHS is one of our largest employers.

Classes run from September to June at Morley College, an easy bus ride from Camberwell. The fun Saturday morning training walks include Streatham to the south, Clapham to the west and Lambeth and Kennington to the north. SE5 is represented with project work about Denmark Hill, a walking circuit around Myatt’s Fields and a focus on music hall and performers who lived around Coldharbour Lane. We were grateful to the staff at Lambeth Archives for a special evening opening, just before they relocated from Minet Library, their Knatchbull Road base for 133 years to a new purpose-built archive building at 18 Brixton Hill.

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The Camberwell Society was formed in 1970 and is the recognised amenity society for those living, working or interested in Camberwell.

The Society’s objectives, as defined by our constitution, are: to stimulate public interest in Camberwell, to promote high standards of planning and architecture in Camberwell, and to secure the preservation, protection, development and improvement of features of historic or public interest in Camberwell.

We are a charity and raise money for local charities. In the past we have raised money for Southside Rehabilitation Association, St Giles Trust, Cambridge House, the CamberwellCommunity Choir, the HollingtonYouth Centre and the Camberwell Arts Festival