"The current Dulwich and West Norwood constituency is geographically coherent, comprising the distinct communities of East Brixton, Herne Hill, Dulwich, West Norwood, and parts of Tulse Hill, Crystal Palace and Camberwell. The constituency has been largely consistent with small changes since its creation in 1997. The current Dulwich and West Norwood constituency has strong continuity with its two predecessor constituencies of Dulwich and Norwood both of which endured from 1885 until 1997. The current constituency is also within the size parameters of the Boundary Commission’s terms of reference according to the December 2020 electoral register.
The Boundary Commission’s proposals are disastrous for the communities which make up the current Dulwich and West Norwood constituency, cutting across strong, long-held community ties in almost every part of the constituency. Under the proposals, the current constituency would be torn apart, with different parts joining four new constituencies:
- Gipsy Hill and Knight’s Hill wards would become the northernmost wards in a new ‘Norwood’ constituency, the rest of which is the London Borough of Croydon
- Herne Hill and Coldharbour wards would join a new ‘Clapham and Brixton’ constituency
- Thurlow Park ward would join a newly configured ‘Streatham’ constituency
- Dulwich Village, Dulwich Wood, Dulwich Hill and Goose Green wards would join a new ‘Dulwich and Sydenham’ constituency.
These proposals break the strong historic relationship between the London Boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark, evidenced in the creation of a single Lambeth and Southwark Greater London Assembly seat, and the current single Metropolitan Police Basic Command Unit of Lambeth and Southwark. There is also a strong link between Lambeth and Southwark in relation to local NHS services, with King’s College Hospital, a large teaching hospital providing trauma and acute services, specialist services and general medical services, and the Maudsley Hospital providing mental health services, located opposite each other on the Lambeth and Southwark borough boundary road of Denmark Hill.
The relationship between Lambeth and Southwark boroughs is much stronger than the relationship between Southwark and Lewisham, or Lambeth and Croydon as a consequence of public transport links, commuting patterns, shopping habits, access to NHS services and longstanding political geography.
The Boundary Commission’s proposals sever a whole series of neighbourhoods with very strong community ties, which will receive less coherent political representation as a result. Specifically, the proposals create problems for the following neighbourhoods:
Gipsy Hill is a strong community comprising the Lambeth ward of Gipsy Hill and part of the Southwark ward of Dulwich Wood, with Gipsy Hill itself at its core. The strong community ties in this area can be evidenced by the parish boundary of Gipsy Hill which is bordered by Crystal Palace Parade and Church Road in the north and Gipsy Road and Salter’s Hill in the south, crossing the borough boundary.
Community ties are also evidenced in the Friends of Gipsy Hill, a community organisation bringing together local residents from both sides of the borough boundary which has delivered a new community garden on land next to Gipsy Hill Station, established a tradition of public carol singing on Gipsy Hill Station Square at Christmas time, and delivered a summer fete on Long Meadow, a park on the Southwark side of Gipsy Hill. Long Meadow is an important open space which is in the London Borough of Southwark on the borough boundary and enjoyed by residents who live in both the Lambeth and Southwark parts of Gipsy Hill.
A community project, the Open Door Kitchen, based at Christ Church Gipsy Hill, delivers community support services including free meals and a coffee morning at which a range of advice services are available to vulnerable residents on both sides of the Lambeth and Southwark border.
Residents of the Gipsy Hill area typically receive GP services from the Paxton Green Group Practice, which sits in Lambeth, right on the borough boundary with Southwark. There are cross-borough issues affecting the Gipsy Hill area including traffic speeding on Gipsy Hill, poor rail services from Gipsy Hill station, and school catchment and admissions policy issues.
The Boundary Commission proposals would divide Gipsy Hill between two parliamentary constituencies, placing Gipsy Hill ward in a new Norwood seat and Dulwich Wood ward in a new Dulwich and Sydenham seat. It is worth noting that both of these wards also suffer the disadvantage of being on the edge of their respective boroughs. The Gipsy Hill area should remain within a single parliamentary constituency.
West Norwood Town Centre
West Norwood is a large town centre, with a coherent geographic form centred on the spine of Norwood Road, which divides at the striking historic landmark of St Luke’s Church, Waterloo Church, becoming Norwood High Street and Knight’s Hill. The town centre and its residential hinterland comprises the wards of Thurlow Park, Knight’s Hill and part of Gipsy Hill ward.
Evidence of the strong community ties in West Norwood can be demonstrated by the popular community event West Norwood Feast which takes place every month between April and December. West Norwood Feast is a community market which also includes free activities for families and community competitions. The market takes place at sites throughout the town centre in all three of the wards.
Community ties in West Norwood are also evidenced in the Business Improvement District, called Station 2 Station because it spans the area including both Tulse Hill and West Norwood stations on both sides of Norwood Road, Norwood High Street and Knight’s Hill. Community ties are also evident in the use of leisure facilities – the West Norwood Health and Leisure Centre is in Knight’s Hill ward but used by local residents from across the three wards, the West Norwood Library and Picturehouse Cinema are in the same building, in Gipsy Hill ward, but used by residents from all three wards.
There is also a strong network of voluntary sector organisations in West Norwood supporting local people, including L’Arche, Southside Rehabilitation Association, the Aspire Centre, Emmaus Lambeth and Norwood Foodbank and Centre 70, based across all three wards but working to support residents from a wider area.
Community ties can also be evidenced in two recent campaigns in the West Norwood area. Royal Mail announced in 2017 their intention to close the SE27 delivery office on Windsor Grove in Gipsy Hill ward. The SE27 postcode area sits across all three of the wards of Gipsy Hill, Thurlow Park and Knight’s Hill and the delivery office is a vital amenity for local residents and businesses. The campaign drew support from across the West Norwood area, with a large public protest and hundreds of people signing petitions. Royal Mail were persuaded to change their mind based on the strength of this opposition.
Very recently, a planning application for a large metal recycling facility on Windsor Grove, which would have seen more than 60 heavy goods vehicles a day travelling on roads in all three of the West Norwood wards attracted more than 5,000 objections to Lambeth Council, despite lockdown restrictions hundreds of people attended a protest on Windsor Grove, and ultimately the Council’s planning committee was persuaded to refuse the application. These issues have both been raised with me in correspondence and on the doorstep in Gipsy Hill ward, Thurlow Park ward and Knight’s Hill ward.
Community ties in the West Norwood area can also be evidenced in a number of extremely active local community groups, Norwood Forum, Norwood Action Group and the Norwood Planning Assembly, which is currently preparing a new Neighbourhood Plan under the Localism Act for the whole of the West Norwood area. These organisations have grave concerns about the consequence of splitting West Norwood between two parliamentary constituencies with far weaker community ties.
Gipsy Hill and Knight’s Hill ward have no significant community ties with the Croydon parts of the proposed new Norwood constituency. These areas are largely suburban residential in character, and they are separated from West Norwood by the Great North Wood ridge, creating a significant geographical barrier. Similarly, Thurlow Park has weak community ties with Streatham – there is no direct bus route between Thurlow Park and Streatham, and the residential community has much stronger connections with West Dulwich and Brixton.
West Norwood town centre should be represented by a single parliamentary constituency.
West Dulwich is a vibrant neighbourhood centre with a diverse range of independent shops and services located at the junction of Croxted Road/South Croxted Road/Park Hall Road and on Rosendale Road between the junctions with Park Hall Road and Eastmearn Road. The businesses in this area are represented by Love West Dulwich which organises special events for the local community and to promote local businesses several times a year.
As the local MP, I have played a significant cross-borough coordination role in West Dulwich. For example, the significant increase in business rates in 2017 had a devastating impact on the financial health of many of the local businesses in West Dulwich. The local councils, Lambeth and Southwark, applied their small business rates relief differently, leading to a great deal of confusion about what support businesses on either side of the borough boundary were entitled to. I held a number of meetings with the businesses and sought to ensure that they had access to accurate information to enable them to apply for support.
West Dulwich station is located in Dulwich Wood ward in Southwark but sits right on the borough boundary with Thurlow Park ward in Lambeth. When train operator Southeastern consulted on a timetable which would have seen the number of trains stopping at West Dulwich station dramatically reduced, the local MP was able to make representations on behalf of both Lambeth and Southwark passengers, which ultimately led to the planned changes being dropped.
Belair Park is an important, popular local amenity located in Southwark very close to West Dulwich station, but used by West Dulwich residents from Lambeth and Southwark alike.
The current proposals divide West Dulwich into three different parliamentary constituencies which will significantly weaken the representation provided to this neighbourhood, already divided by the borough boundary.
West Dulwich town centre should be represented by a single parliamentary constituency to ensure that this highly valued neighbourhood centre has strong, coherent representation to support its local businesses at a very challenging time.
Herne Hill is a strong, historic town centre and residential neighbourhood on the north, east and south sides of Brockwell Park, including shops on Half Moon Lane, Railton Road/Station Square, Norwood Road and Dulwich Road.
The Herne Hill neighbourhood includes, within Lambeth, the southern part of Railton Road and the ‘poets’ corner’ streets which run between Railton Road and Dulwich Road, the area to the north east of Brockwell Park as far as Ruskin Park, the northern parts of Rosendale Road and Croxted Road, the Rosendale Estate (also known as the Peabody Estate) and the streets immediately to the south of Brockwell Park, including Brockwell Park and Trinity Rise; and within Southwark, Half Moon Lane and the residential streets off it and the distinctive ‘Homes for Heroes’ Sunray Estate.
Herne Hill is severed by the borough boundary between Lambeth and Southwark which runs along Croxted Road, Norwood Road and Herne Hill itself. Public transport services are provided via Herne Hill station, which is in Lambeth, and connecting bus stops, which straddle both sides of the borough boundary. Herne Hill is also served by the number 3 bus route which travels along the borough boundary from Gipsy Hill, through West Dulwich to Herne Hill and on to central London.
The unified identity of Herne Hill across the borough boundary is evidenced in a recent project, the Remembering Herne Hill 1914-1918 project, funded by Herne Hill Forum, which engaged local school children in researching the stories of everyone who lived in Herne Hill (on both sides of the Lambeth-Southwark border) who lost their lives in World War I. It is also evidenced in two important, successful campaigns to save local amenities – the Herne Hill Velodrome (in Southwark) and Brockwell Lido (in Lambeth), which attracted strong engagement from across the whole of Herne Hill and in which my predecessor, Tessa Jowell played a vital convening role.
The Herne Hill Society has made strong arguments in its submission to the Boundary Commission, that representation in a single parliamentary constituency is a profound part of Herne Hill’s identity, binding together the areas of Herne Hill on each side of the borough boundary. There are also very many practical issues on which being represented by a single MP makes a huge difference. These include:
- Events in Brockwell Park: Brockwell Park is the jewel in the crown of Herne Hill. The park is in Lambeth, but large events in Brockwell Park which take place every year can have an impact for residents across the whole of Herne Hill which is split between Lambeth and Southwark. The topography of Brockwell Park, which has a significant downward slope towards Norwood Road and Herne Hill itself, mean that noise issues arising from events are often experienced just as acutely by Southwark residents than they are by Lambeth residents, and the borough boundary along Norwood Road means that the additional waste generated by large events often ends up on the Southwark side of Norwood Road.
The local MP has in the past been able to request and organise consultation meetings in relation to events in Brockwell Park for both Lambeth and Southwark residents, and secure additional resources for waste collections from Lambeth’s events team on the Southwark part of Norwood Road and Half Moon Lane, and ensure that Southwark residents are aware of the hotline number to call should they experience problems during an event.
- Herne Hill flood: In 2013, a catastrophic Thames Water burst devastated the centre of Herne Hill, flooding homes and businesses on both sides of the borough boundary. The local MP, my predecessor Tessa Jowell, played a key role in the process of securing consistent representation in the compensation process for residents and businesses on both Lambeth and Southwark sides of the boundary, which took several years to conclude.
- Traffic issues on Croxted Road: Croxted Road is a boundary road between Lambeth and Southwark currently experiencing high levels of traffic congestion following the introduction of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods by both boroughs in the area immediately surrounding it. As the local MP, I am currently convening a working group officers and councillors from Lambeth and Southwark and Transport for London to explore potential solutions to this issue. I am aware that the Croxted Road Residents’ Association have made vigorous representations to the Boundary Commission on the importance of Croxted Road being represented by a single MP.
The Boundary Commission’s proposal would see Herne Hill divided between three parliamentary constituencies, fragmenting the representation of a strong, coherent community with a clear single identity and a series of complex issues. Herne Hill should be represented by a single Parliamentary constituency.
It is proposed that the four Dulwich wards of Dulwich Wood, Dulwich Village, Dulwich Hill and Goose Green be combined into a new Dulwich and Sydenham constituency the remainder of which is in Sydenham. Residents of the four Dulwich wards do not have a natural affinity with the Sydenham area, which is physically located on the other side of the Sydenham Hill ridge (one of the highest points in London) and a string of large sports fields.
Public transport links mainly flow north-south in this area, and links in terms of education catchment areas and shopping habits are very weak. Residents of Dulwich have strong transport, retail and educational links to Lordship Lane in East Dulwich, to Dulwich Village, West Dulwich and to a lesser extent to Peckham town centre, but there are no natural links to Sydenham.
I am aware that the Dulwich Society has made a strong representation to the Boundary Commission highlighting the lack of links between Dulwich and Sydenham, and the strong working relationships that it has as a long-established amenity society, with the Herne Hill Society and community organisations in West Dulwich and West Norwood.
Coldharbour ward is one of the most deprived wards in the whole country, with exceptionally high levels of need and a very large number of difficult issues to be addressed in the ward. The highest levels of casework for both myself as the local MP and the local councillors come from Coldharbour. I strongly believe that the ward is not well served by frequently being swapped between constituencies.
Coldharbour was primarily in Vauxhall constituency prior to 2010, and I believe that consideration should be given to affording Coldharbour ward more consistency of representation by retaining it within Dulwich and West Norwood. It has taken me considerable time to build knowledge and relationships within the ward, precisely because of the complexity and multiple challenges facing the area, and I know that this was the same for Tessa Jowell from 2010-2015 and for Kate Hoey when she represented much of the ward prior to 2010.
Coldharbour has strong connections with the southern parts of Herne Hill ward, particularly the ‘poets’ corner’ streets which run between Railton Road and Dulwich Road, and Brockwell Park which is a hugely important amenity for Brixton residents and the location of the annual Lambeth Country Show which has been one of the most important fixtures in the calendar for the communities in Brixton, Tulse Hill and West Norwood since 1974.
There are strong reasons to retain Coldharbour ward and Herne Hill ward in the same parliamentary constituency.
Conclusion and counterproposals
There is therefore a strong argument for retaining the constituency within its current boundaries. The predominance of strong, cohesive communities which cross the Lambeth-Southwark borough boundary mean that the communities of Dulwich and West Norwood are better represented together than they are in any other configuration. However, accepting that changes to boundaries elsewhere in south London will almost inevitably have a knock-on effect across the wider south London area, the counterproposal submitted by the Labour Party is a huge improvement on the Boundary Commission’s proposal in the continuity and coherence it provides for Dulwich and West Norwood’s communities.
The Labour Party’s counterproposal retains a Dulwich and West Norwood constituency comprising the Lambeth wards of Coldharbour, Herne Hill, Knight’s Hill, Gipsy Hill and Thurlow Park as at present, and the Southwark wards of Dulwich Village, Dulwich Wood and Champion Hill (similar to the previous South Camberwell ward which was in Dulwich and West Norwood constituency prior to the 2010 boundary changes).
The Labour Party’s counterproposal meets the Boundary Commission’s objectives in terms of the number of electors in each constituency in south London, respects the sub-regional divisions the Boundary Commission has proposed and minimises the number of split wards, keeping them at the number currently contained within the Boundary Commission’s proposal.
My strong preference is that the Dulwich and West Norwood constituency is retained in full, however, if changes that are required elsewhere in south London mean that some changes to the boundary of Dulwich and West Norwood constituency cannot be avoided, I urge the Boundary Commission to adopt the Labour Party’s counterproposal which would ensure that the majority of strong, long-held community ties are respected and supported in the area’s parliamentary representation."