Closure of “Just Williams” Toyshop – a watershed moment for Herne Hill?

With thanks to The Dulwich Society and Herne Hill Forum (incl photos):

UPDATE (1st February): There was a protest march from Herne Hill Station to Half Moon Lane on Saturday 30th January attended by about 300 people – see ITV News  and local press including South London Press

It’s good to see the opening of the new “Poisson de Mer” deli in Dulwich Village and the brand new post office at Rumsey pharmacy but in Herne Hill things are less optimistic and many people are concerned about the future of their favourite shops in Herne Hill.  “Just Williams”, the toy shop on Half Moon Lane closed its doors on 24th January after 10 years “due to high rent increases”. The reason given initially was that that the Dulwich Estate, its landlord, had raised the rent level to renew the lease by 70%.
There was a highly critical article on the Herne Hill Forum website and a considerable number of negative comments on other internet forums and Twitter – and an on-line petition asking the DE to reconsider the rent hike has already attracted nearly 2000 signatures.

The Dulwich Estate responded quickly with a factual note which suggested a rather different scenario, refuting the 70% increase claims. On 22nd January in an article in the South London Press, John Major of the Dulwich Estate explained “it is the policy of The Dulwich Estate not to discuss arrangements with its tenants since these are considered to be private.

However, the facts of the situation in relation to the property occupied by Just Williams are that the tenant was offered in October 2014 a new lease from July 2015 with a rent increase equivalent to 5.8% per annum from that fixed for the five-year period from July 2010 to July 2015.

The rent from 2010 to 2015 was £22,000.  The rent for the new lease was £28,400.

The tenant failed to take this up but remained in occupation from July 2015 until January 2016 at an interim rent which reflected the then market level”

Vicky, the owner of “Just Williams” toyshop has robustly countered the Estate arguments online stating that Dulwich Estate representatives failed to respond to her emails and requests for negotiation.

The debate continues but has widened to include other local landlords such as Network Rail.  There will be a protest march on Saturday 30th January from 3.30pm outside Herne Hill station in support of the “Save our Shops” campaign.  The petition can be found here –

It is no secret that the Estate is looking to raise its shop rents on review; there are rumours of large increases in the northern part of Dulwich Village and West Dulwich.   Given the substantial reduction in footfall due to the Herne Hill Flood and the temporary closure of the Crown and Greyhound in the Village, increasing rents would seem counter intuitive.  But then both Dulwich and Herne Hill are attractive and popular areas for families and young professionals, and it is therefore no surprise that there is increasing competition for commercial units.  It is worth remembering too that The Dulwich Estate seeks to manage its endowments in the long term interests of its beneficiaries which include several state schools & almshouses, and its contributions to the Foundation schools help to support bursaries.

There are plans afoot to set up Neighbourhood Forums in both Herne Hill and Dulwich which will give both areas more teeth on planning and community issues.  With the live music campaign at the Half Moon Pub, concerns about the green space at the Judith Kerr Primary School and now with local shops the Herne Hill campaigners are urging The Dulwich Estate to consider the long term impact on the community of the decisions they make.


Bon Velo has joined the fray with an interesting perspective on local commercial rents:



What do you think about the range of independent shops in Herne Hill and Dulwich?  What would you like to see in the area and is the mix right?


Published SB 29/1/2016

Have your say on the Townley Road/East Dulwich Grove junction – Drop in exhibition on Sat 28th Feb at St Barnabas Parish Hall 11am -2pm

Another chance to have your say on the Townley Road/East Dulwich Grove junction – now keeping the right turn out of Townley.

STOP PRESS – Dulwich Councillors have recommended to the Transport Cabinet Member, Cllr Mark Williams, that the Townley Road scheme be approved.  

A drop in session will be held on Saturday 28th February 2015 from 11am – 2pm. This will provide opportunity for local residents and stakeholders to view the plans, and to directly engage with council officers and discuss the proposed changes in detail or get answers to particular points of detail that are not covered here.

The drop in session will be held at:

St Barnabas Parish Hall
23 Dulwich Village
London SE21 7BT 

The responses to the questionnaire will be analysed and taken into account before a final decision is taken on the proposals. The consultation results for both the original consultation and the re-consultation will be reported at the Dulwich Community Council meeting on the 17th March 2015.

Following the Community Council meeting, the final decision on whether to proceed with the scheme will be taken by Cllr Mark Williams, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Planning, and Transport, in April 2015.


Message from Councillor Mark Williams, Southwark Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Planning and Transport about a fresh consultation of the Townley Road junction.

From: Williams, Mark <>
To: Williams, Mark <>
Sent: Wed, 18 Feb 2015 15:26
Subject: Townley Road Junction Scheme – Re-consultation

Dear Stakeholder

In December we consulted the local community on our proposals for improvements to the East Dulwich Grove/Townley Road/Greendale junction which were focussed on improving conditions for cyclists and pedestrians.  Our design included a proposal to ban the right turn from Townley Road into East Dulwich Grove to which there was considerable opposition.

We understand that the community needs to  support our proposals and therefore we have revised the  design to preserve all existing turning movements at the junction, including the right turn from Townley Road, whilst still greatly improving safety for cyclists and pedestrians.  There is some loss of capacity compared to the existing situation but the junction will continue to operate within acceptable levels of saturation.  This design is attached to this email and will be delivered to properties in the local area imminently.

Townley – Reconsultation Consultation Drawing

The key elements of the design are:

  • Removal of existing staggered pedestrian crossings with the implementation of shorter, single movement facilities.
  • Introduction of a diagonal pedestrian crossing to link footways adjacent to both schools and cater for an existing pedestrian desire line.
  • All pedestrian facilities to operate at the same time to reduce waiting time for pedestrians and improve the efficiency of the junction.
  • Cycle pre-signal on Townley Road and Green Dale to allow cycles to enter the junction and undertake turning movements before general traffic.
  • New signalised cycle gates on both Townley Road and Green Dale where cyclists are held on a red signal whilst general traffic movements operate. This removes the risk of both left hook and right hook collisions. (Please note that more confident cyclists will still be allowed to use the general traffic lane to traverse the junction from either Townley Road or Green Dale).
  • Semi-segregated cycle lane and advanced cycle waiting area on East Dulwich Grove (westbound) to allow cyclists to bypass waiting vehicles and gain priority at the junction.
  • Footway buildouts to reduce crossing distances for pedestrians and to visually improve the streetscape.
  • New two stage right turn facilities for cyclists to assist right turning movements into either Townley Road or Green Dale from East Dulwich Grove.
  • A new semi-segregated cycle lane is proposed on Townley Road to allow cyclists to safely pass queuing traffic and access the cycle facilities at the junction.
  • A new segregated cycle lane is proposed linking Calton Avenue with Townley Road to allow cyclists to bypass the Calton Avenue / Townley Road junction.
  • All existing turning movements at the junction are retained, including for coaches.

We very much want to hear from as many people as possible and therefore I would urge you to respond to the consultation either via our website or the paper leaflet that has been delivered to nearby properties.  The consultation runs until Friday 13 March.  Please do forward this email as you see fit.  The website also holds more background information for anyone that is interested.
We will be holding a ‘drop in’ Q&A session on Saturday 28 February from 11am – 2pm. The venue for this is still to be confirmed but venue details will be posted on the website as soon as possible.  This will give anyone interested the opportunity to view the plans in greater detail and discuss any issues or questions they may have face to face with council officers.

Given the funding constraints and the need to avoid the risk of losing external grant funding and the risk in delaying any further action at this junction for a further year, we are now consulting on this amended scheme.  When the public consultation is finished, the proposals will be the subject of a further report to Dulwich Community Council on 17 March.  After this meeting, the final decision on whether to implement the proposal will be made publicly by me in April.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Mark Williams

Councillor Mark Williams
Labour Member for Brunswick Park Ward
Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Planning & Transport

London Borough of Southwark
160 Tooley Street
London, SE1 2TZ
0207 5257730 / 07985 629095 / @markwilliams84

Come dine with me – at ‘The Clink’

Hilary Natzler on a birthday celebration behind bars

HMP Brixton — not the obvious choice of venue for lunch to celebrate a birthday but, as it transpired, a good one. The third of The Clink training restaurants had just opened up the road.

I walked hesitantly to meet the others, puzzling over the possible ways of engaging with our waiter. The usual, “where do you come from?”, sometimes triggered by heavily accented English, seemed unlikely. “How did you end up in here?” seemed merely prurient. Besides, what if it involved poisoning? An uncomfortable thought at lunchtime and sure to set the taste buds jangling. Better not to know. Best to stay in the here and now. Husband David teases me that when confronted with a menu I frequently talk through possibilities with a waiter. My natural mode would be to ask for advice. With a more assured tread, I hastened towards our rendezvous.

Security was tight, but the mood kept light by the delightful receptionist who took charge of all the guests and ushered us into the restaurant. A calm space in neutral colours, it offers elegance and simplicity. Sure, there are bars on the windows, but they are painted white and consist of a pattern of rounded oblongs linked together, and are visually attractive. The restaurant itself is divided into a series of interconnecting rooms with half a dozen tables in each, giving a sense of intimacy and privacy.

We were introduced to our waiter, Michael, who settled us into comfortably upholstered chairs and brought a jug of water with the menus. Wow! Masterchef, look lively! It all sounded delicious. So what was Michael’s favourite dish? A moment’s reflection, an open smile, the reply: stone bass — new to me — on a bed of samphire, drizzled with melted butter and dill, with roasted cherry tomatoes and sweet potato fondant. The conversation followed its natural course: and what is stone bass? Similar to sea bass but a different fish. Perfect, I’d have that, as did two of my companions. An order placed from the interesting array of soft drinks and we settled down to catch up with each other’s news.

Before long and after a relaxing interval, Michael presented us with our dishes with quiet pride. The fish did not disappoint: perfectly cooked, the flakes were moist and melted in the mouth, the plateful a colourful contrast of textures and flavours. Debbie had chosen duck breast, Asian style, in ginger, soy and lime dressing complemented with a coriander risotto. It was a perfect blush pink and so tender that the classy black plastic cutlery sliced through it like a meat cleaver. We all polished off everything, relishing each mouthful.

Time for dessert. Like the starters that we had reluctantly eschewed, they were varied and imaginative, but we had to pass on these too. Louise had, you see, pre-ordered a birthday cake from a list of six that were offered. Michael had been well briefed and asked whether he should bring it. Yes, please and, we joshed, we hope you’ll sing Happy Birthday when you do! He laughed, perhaps slightly nervously at being vocally challenged, as he returned with the candle lit cake together with choral reinforcement from the kitchen and restaurant. Lucy beamed with delight, as did the chorus, before she made a wish and blew out the candles.

While being so ably served, we had learned from Michael that prisoners training in The Clink work towards gaining NVQ qualifications in food preparation and front of house service. He preferred waiting to working in the kitchen because he liked being with people. This was clear from his eagerness to take us on a tour of the kitchens. First, slipping into tour guide mode, he explained with almost proprietorial pride how The Clink had been fashioned from the Round House, formerly the Governor’s residence. It was so shaped to give the Governor a 360 deg view of what was going on. Now that Brixton is a category C establishment, the Governor lives out.

As we entered the kitchens we were greeted with an impromptu rendering of Happy Birthday, as chefs downed tools and gathered round, quickly asking for the name of the birthday girl. Had she liked the cake? It was the first one he had ever made. Almost as good as what her mother would have made had she still been alive, she declared. Were we sisters? What had we eaten? Had we enjoyed it? How long did we think the chef had been in cooking? A week and a half. Unbelievable. Congratulations on a great job. Their support of each other and pride in each other were palpable. Their pleasure in our pleasure and appreciation of work well done was almost heartbreaking. We’d be enjoying a drink later on? Sure we would. How they wished they could too. Come and see us again, they would make us something special, they invited, as we took our leave.

We all felt elated by the warmth of reception and the joy created in all and by all involved in the celebration. I remembered my mother’s wise words that children all start out in life wanting to please, to be good, and that it is up to everyone to keep them on that path. Recognition, appreciation, encouragement: all nurturing essentials. What, I wondered, had been the experience of these affable folk that had led them to stray? I bowed my head in quick prayer of gratitude for the good and gracious influences on my early life and for the safekeeping of the folks we’d met who had been less fortunate but were seizing this opportunity for a new start.

In 2011, The Clink charity was presented with the CATEY Award for Best Education and Training Programme. The reoffending rate within the first year of release of Clink graduates in 2011 was 12.5% compared with a national reoffending rate of 46.9%.The official statistics for 2012 have not yet been released, but unverified figures currently show the reoffending rate for Clink graduates to be less than 10%. While on the scheme prisoners receive a salary (minus the statutory 40% deduction from their net pay which goes towards victim support charities) to enable them to support their dependants or save money for their release. Upon release the charity helps graduates find employment within the hospitality industry and mentors them weekly for 6-12 months to help them reintegrate back into society and not reoffend.

For more information and to make a booking go to   or telephone 020 7147 6724

Great to see Herne Hill back in business

It’s good to see many bright lights in the Herne Hill shops and here is the latest update (many thanks to Herne Hill Society and others).

New Shop Design of Tales of Half Moon
New Shop Design of Tales on Half Moon



  • Mimosa Deli
  • Pizza Express – Has refurbished and expanded into the side shop.
  • McMillan Williams solicitors
  • Shah Kazemi accountants
  • Sainsbury’s
  • Intersport
  • Brockwell Park Pharmacy
  • Duo Dance
  • Fringe Hair Salon
  • BurnetWare estate agents
  • Just Williams Toys
  • Kindred Bakery
  • Tales on Moon Lane
  • Illusioneer
  • Fourways Pharmacy
  • Herne Hill Service Centre
  • Pedders estate agents – both branches
  • Oxfam Bookshop and Main shop
  • Half Moon Dental Practice
  • Mary Russell – Newsagents
  • Bon Velo
  • Artemidorus
  • RJ Mitchell’s Electricals
  • Londis
  • Lombok


  • Merry-Go-Round children’s clothes – no firm news on reopening
  • Organic Beauty  – closed, operating from Railton Road branch
  • Half Moon pub – will not reopen until Spring 2014 at earliest
  • Café Provencal – reopening in 2014, no date yet
  • Oliver Burn – in progress – operating from Clapham
  • Number 22  – expects April 2014 opening.  Operating catering service (Casa).

Published (SB 2 Feb 2014 (previous versions 16 Jan 2014, 13 Nov 2013, 17 Nov 2013, 2 Dec 2013, 14 Dec 2013))

Victory for Herne Hill Baker – Traffic Wardens banned from issuing tickets outside Half Moon Lane shops

Kindred Bakery
                                                                                                  Kindred Bakery

Victory for Herne Hill Baker as Southwark traffic wardens have been banned from issuing tickets outside a parade of flood-hit shops in Half Moon Lane,  Baker Anthony Kindred took to Twitter to complain it was making business even worse.

Herne Hill was left under a metre of water on August 7 after a pipe burst, causing £4 million of damage and forcing more than 30 businesses  to close.  Just nine have fully reopened and traders estimate footfall in the area is down by 25 per cent.  More at ….

Anthony said parking enforcement officers were driving customers away, as well as stopping builders repairing the shops.

He tweeted: “Why does Southwark council send traffic wardens to half moon lane all day.  We’re trying to recover from flooding.”

Later he added: “Traffic warden patrolling Half Moon Lane from 8.30 gonna [sic] be a busy day not, thank you Southwark”, and “another day of parking gestapo, and guess what no customers after 12 o’clock”.

Southwark Council saw the tweets and agreed not to issue any more fines in the bays until further notice.

Anthony told “The Evening Standard” “I was surprised — I was getting ready to have a right old row, but they agreed to help.”

Southwark councillor Robin Crookshank Hilton told The Standard it was a good result.  “The traders need to be allowed to get on with the renovations.”

(Published 12 Oct 2013. Picture: S Badman)

Half Moon Lane – latest on business reopening post Herne Hill Flood

The flood of Wed 6 August was disastrous for Herne Hill, affecting 35 businesses and two residents. Here is the latest news:


McMillan Williams solicitors – open

Shah Kazemi accountants – open, access from Carver Road

Sainsbury’s – open

Intersport – open

Duo Dance – open

Fringe Hair Salon – open

BurnetWare estate agents – open

Kindred Bakery – open

Saz restaurant – open

Herne Hill Service Centre – open

STILL CLOSED (with known possible re-opening dates)

Pizza Express – still closed

RJ Mitchells Electricals – still closed

Half Moon Dental Practice – offering an emergency service via Haynes Dental

Brockwell Pharmacy – open for dispensing, shop later.

Oliver Burn estate agents – operating from Clapham Office

Oxfam main shop and bookshop –  still closed, expecting to open in November.  Books at Herne Hill Market

Lombok  – still closed

Illusioneer – still closed, lost irreplaceable items in the basement

Mary Russell Newsagents  – still closed

Merry-Go-Round   – still closed

Tales on Moon Lane – December. Stall at Herne Hill Market.

Bon Velo – workshop open; shop reopening Nov/Dec

Artemidorus  – possibly Dec

Half Moon pub – will not reopen until 2014

Londis  – still closed, December

Fourways Pharmacy  – still closed, promise update in early October

Pedders estate agents  – still closed, operating from other offices

Mimosa deli  – still closed, early December

Café Provencal – Jan/Feb 2014

Organic Beauty – still closed.

Number 22  – still closed, operating catering service and at Herne Hill Market. Restaurant – poss Dec/Jan

Just Williams toys – still closed, operating from East Dulwich branch.  reopening 21st Oct.

Support the Herne Hill Music Festival 11th -19th October 2013

Herne Hill Music Festival – 11th – 19th October 2013

There’s a fantastic programme spanning jazz, classical, folk and lighter music in venues across Herne Hill.

Features of this year’s Festival include nights of blues and of folk music, two family concerts, a Choral Evensong, a composition competition, and a concluding cafe-style concert of Eighteenth-century music with dancing from the period.

Show your support for Herne Hill!

Details are