THE BEST RESTAURANT IN A HALF MILE RADIUS OF OUR WARD

On 6 January (Twelfth Night) Richard and his wife Gloria had lunch at “The Clink” restaurant which is in Her Majesty’s Prison High Down, in Banstead. Richard now regards this as the best restaurant within a half mile radius of Sutton South Ward.

Negotiating the website and the security checks to get a booking at this restaurant is a challenge. We tried to go before Christmas but it was full. Today the restaurant, which can seat about 60, was fairly empty. You have to turn up early, bring lots of photo ID, not have a mobile phone on you, and be prepared to pay by cheque. It is a bit of a walk from the reception area to the main gate of the prison, where, accompanied by a warder, you are taken through numerous gates that are opened before you and locked behind you, and across various internal courtyards. When you reach the restaurant it has the ambience of a good central London restaurant, and the food is superb.

The restaurant is run as a training restaurant and the prisoners so trained are helped to find jobs in catering after they leave the high security prison. Richard had a Caesar salad, some duck, and a peach desert. Gloria had soup, some beautifully presented fish, and the peach desert. No alcohol of course. All for a little over £50 for two, with an option to leave a donation for the charity, devoted to the rehabilitation of offenders.

The restaurant can be found, and a booking made, at  this address (click on “at”).

SIDE ENTRANCE TO THE STATION OPEN

best statiion small

 

Here is Councillor Simon Wales, chair of the Sutton Gateway Project Board (on which Richard represents Sutton South), cutting the ribbon to open the side entrance on 26 September.

simon at station

And, below, this is what it used to looks like – shuttered and barricaded.

side entrance

Work is completed and the new side entrance to Sutton station is open. Hooray.

A further meeting of the project board guiding the Sutton Gateway project, a board on which Richard represents Sutton South Ward, heard on 25 September that good progress is being made with the scheme.

The most important news is that the building work on the side entrance is completed enabling the passageway from The Quadrant to be restored and the side entrance to be opened for passenger use. The side entrance is open from 7am to 7pm.The cycle racks next to the newly opened side entrance have been improved.

Work at the front of the station commenced in September and will be completed by March 2015, but with no work over the Christmas period to avoid any inconvenience to shoppers. Some of the work will involve traffic diversions.

The project’s proposals to further develop the area around Sutton station include:

– refitted shop fronts, new paving and newly planted trees to improve the look of the area

– more lighting and CCTV cameras to make the area safer

– extra cycling facilities, with new bike racks and shelters

– a town centre clock

–  a new crossing in Brighton Road

– the opening of the side entrance to Sutton station

– new “legible London” signs

– a re-arrangement of the bus stops to reduce congestion

– an additional crossing for pedestrians outside the station

– re-design of the Cedar Road / Brighton Road junction to improve visibility for motorists

– it is not proposed to move the taxi rank, except that after 6.30 some taxis will be able to park immediately opposite the station, with the bus stop opposite the station moved further down Brighton Road and with some buses stopping in Mulgrave Road

–  there will be “live” bus information in Sutton station, subject to further research by Network Rail

– the timing of the pedestrian crossing at the High Street / Grove Road / Sutton Court Road junction will be amended to give more time to cross

– the number of parking spaces in the station area will be increased

– general improvements in design and to the “public realm” around the station, with more flowers, more colour and better signage.

The changes, including the changes to the bus stops, will be completed by March 2015.

These changes are largely funded by grants the Council has obtained, not local Council tax payers.

The results of the earlier consultation exercise on the Gateway Project indicated general support for the scheme, but we were able to make a number of changes to respond to specific issues raised. In our Ward, a particular concern for the businesses was the need for a loading bay on Regents Parade just south of the station. We successfully lobbied for this to be incorporated into the scheme.

On 27 February Richard and former Ward Councillor Heather Honour organised a breakfast meeting with local businesses in our Ward to take their views on the Sutton Gateway project. Several joined us in the Rose Café in the Brighton Road, which serves excellent scrambled eggs (Richard’s breakfast). This is right in the area that is to be developed so we were able to chat and walk round the area to see the proposed changes.

Public consultation on the emerging proposals ran till 5 March. Consultation was by leaflets in the locality, questionnaires to members of the public, posters, newspaper advertisements, exhibitions, further “stakeholder” meetings and putting information in Sutton station.

Residents and businesses close to the station were consulted, together with the emergency services and other groups with a major interest such as Network Rail, Southern Rail and TfL.

Also of great value will be the “legible London” signs at the station entrance. See the designs at

http://www.tfl.gov.uk/microsites/legible-london/3.aspx

legible london sign

Richard says “As a local man who for twenty years of my life commuted to central London by a route that meant I walked every working day along Wellesley Road and past the shuttered and barricaded side entrance, to enter the station from the front, it has long been an objective of mine to get the side entrance open. Every second counts when you are a commuter.”

WILL THE TRAM COME TO SUTTON ?

tram

Consultation to gauge public views on phase 1 of the proposed Tramlink extension to Sutton indicates overwhelming support.

The proposed route consulted on would involve a branch to the current Tramlink route after it has left Wimbledon and got as far as Morden Road. The branch to Sutton would leave the current Wimbledon to West Croydon Tramlink route at that point, proceed via St. Helier Avenue to the Rosehill roundabout, then to Angel Hill and on to Sutton, where it will go round the gyratory. There will be a loop from the Rosehill roundabout to St. Helier hospital.

Full details can be found at  www.suttonmertontramlink.co.uk or by clicking on this link.

If agreed and built, phase 1 may be followed by phase 2, an extension to the re-developed Sutton hospital site in Belmont. This is as yet far into the future. We remain hopeful that funding will be found for phase 1.

RICHARD SETS OUT HIS VISION AS CHAIR OF THE PLANNING COMMITTEE

richard-councillor-002

On 11 July Richard took the helm as chair of the Council’s Planning Committee (formerly the Development Control Committee) by chairing the first meeting of the Committee following the election and his appointment as chair.

A lively meeting dealt with some important planning applications, including one for the re-development of Times Square in the Sutton shopping centre.

Richard commenced by thanking his predecessor, former Councillor John Leach.

Richard introduced his first meeting by setting out his view of the vision and mission of the committee, saying that the work of our committee is massively important and our mission is:

– to achieve the vision for Sutton in our plans and ensure that acceptable standards are observed in all developments within the Borough.

He said “The business of the committee is to consider certain categories of planning applications, particularly those that are significant to the development of Sutton and those that are disputed.

The way the planning system works is that Sutton Council adopts and publicises planning policies, setting out its overall plans for the Borough and standards on such matters as design, environmental impact and the impact on local amenities.

These policies are discussed and adopted by the Housing, Economy and Business Committee (HEB).

Our committee is concerned with the implementation of those policies – in the actuality of the proposals for new developments in Sutton, in the planning applications that come before us and thus what is actually built.

In considering planning applications we will not grant them where there is clearly a conflict with our planning policies. A decision not to grant an application is of course subject to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.

But the work of our committee is massively important – to achieving the vision for Sutton in our plans and in ensuring that acceptable standards are observed in all developments within the Borough.”

 

NEW BENCHES AND REPAIRED BENCHES

bech in brighton rd straightened

Residents have suggested places in the Ward where an additional street bench would be useful, particularly for people struggling home with heavy shopping.

We have agreed a number of locations in the Ward for additional benches, including in Cavendish Road, Cedar Road, Worcester Road and Grange Vale. In addition a number of the existing benches that are now in a somewhat dilapidated state will be repaired and cleaned. This includes the bench pictured here in Brighton Road, which has slats missing.

OPENING THE SIDE ENTRANCE TO SUTTON STATION

side entrance

Ever since we were elected in2010 we have been pursuing an objective to get the side entrance to Sutton station opened as a second entrance.

There are several reasons for this, and it is a particular passion for Richard who for over 20 years of his life commuted from his home in The Ridgway to central London for work, running (as he was usually late for his train) past the shuttered and barricaded side entrance to the station to enter by the front, then in the evening shuffling (as the station is officially classified as overcrowded) to get out the front, when he could have left by the side. There are many residents of our Ward who commute to central London for work and approach the station from the Wellesley Road direction, so have the same experience every working day as Richard had. But opening the side entrance will also make The Quadrant and the bike rack more accessible.

Today, 25 July, is likely to be seen as the day we were able to be sure the side entrance will open next year.

Today there was the first meeting of the Sutton Gateway project board, of which Richard is a member. There were discussions involving the Council, Network Rail and Transport for London. It was confirmed that the firm intention, now, is to open the side entrance. The project is more complex than simply putting a row of entrance gates where the shutter closing the side entrance is currently situated. There will be some re-building of the side entrance, a canopy, gates and the very steep flight of stairs (too steep to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act) will be replaced by a flight at right angles to the current flight of stairs, at a more gradual gradient.

Richard said “This is exciting news for Sutton South residents. The campaign we started in 2010 has succeeded.”

R and H at side entrance

RICHARD CALLS FOR NEW CONTROLS ON PAYDAY LOANS

Richard is calling for new controls on payday loan companies.

Figures released as part of Sutton Council’s “Economy Watch – Economic Indicators” report show an alarming rise in debt enquiries from Sutton residents to the Citizens Advice Bureau. Richard said, in a letter to residents, “I am increasingly concerned that people are turning to these companies without looking into the real costs of borrowing money, which in some cases that I have investigated are well over 1000% APR.”

This was among the principal conclusions he drew when he spoke to the Council’s Housing, Economy and Business Committee about the latest data on Sutton’s economic performance. He pointed out that, amongst the generally positive data on economic development in Sutton, enquiries to Sutton’s Citizens Advice Bureau were up by about 5% in the last quarter with debt enquiries increasing by 8.8%. There has to be a fear that recent welfare cuts will make the position worse.  

In a letter to residents he called for consideration to be given to establishing by law some upper limit on the interest rate that can be charged on loans. 

 Richard said “I have said my piece, at Sutton Council meetings, about the problem of loan sharks and “payday” loans, and I cannot see why it is impossible to have a maximum figure for the interest charged on these loans (it can be well over 1000% APR) imposed in law.”

As long ago as 9 May 2011 Richard made a speech to a Sutton Council meeting calling for an end to illegal loan sharking, drawing attention to loan offers he had found on the Internet where the APR was over 1000%.

His comments come in the same week that Newcastle United hit the headlines over the sponsorship of their football kit by a “Payday Loans” company and evidence was published of an increase in this type of lending. He was commenting on a paper “Economy Watch – Economic Indicators Report” presented to the Council’s Housing, Economy and Business Committee, of which he is vice-chair. The latest data are mostly encouraging on economic trends in Sutton, showing Sutton is surviving the recession well.

 

HOW IS SUTTON SURVIVING THE RECESSION?

Richard helping to open the Metrobank in Sutton

Richard helping to open the Metrobank in Sutton

The latest data continue to show that Sutton is surviving the recession well.

They show that average house prices in Sutton (as measured by the average price of houses in Sutton sold in any particular month) were up almost 1% in February of this year compared to the previous month, and stood at 4.2% above the figure for a year previously. The cost of the average house sold in February, the latest month for which reliable data are available, was £255 000. This bullishness in the housing market is generally taken as an indicator of confidence in the local economy. 

Positive indicators include:

The economic activity rate of working age adults in Sutton, at 81%, continues to be well above the average for London, which is 76%. Sutton residents continue to find work, and the percentage has increased (by 0.5%) in the last year. Many residents commute to central London for work, and it is unsurprising that the average pay of employees working in Sutton (£519 a week) is less than that in central London.

This finding, that Sutton residents continue to find work, is supported by the decline in numbers claiming Job Seekers Allowance, down by 7% in March compared to the figure for a year previously.

That said, the number of people who have been collecting JSA for over a year has risen in the last year, suggesting that those who have become distanced from the labour market are finding it more difficult to get work. Richard says this mirrors what he finds, as a local Councillor, in his casework, with people made redundant in their 50’s often finding it hard to get back into work.

This suggests that the Council’s “Opportunity Sutton” programme is an important priority. Jobs are gold dust and the prosperity of the Borough depends on people finding and staying in work.

New business start ups were at a record level in Sutton in 2012, with 863 new companies formed.

The number of local companies going into administration was down in the most recent quarter (January to March) and down on figures for a year previously.

The data that comes to the Housing, Economy and Business Committee usually shows a mixed picture, but the latest data are mostly encouraging. One negative that concerns us is that enquiries to Sutton’s Citizens’ Advice Bureau were up by about 5% in the last quarter, with debt advice enquiries increasing by 8.8%. Richard has said his piece, at Sutton Council meetings, about the problem of “payday” loans and we cannot see why it is impossible to have a maximum figure for the interest charged on these loans (it can be over 1000% APR) imposed in law. Richard’s comments are included in a separate post on this site on this subject.

This information is analysed by Richard in his role as vice-chair of the Council’s Housing, Economy and Business Committee, which has oversight of economic development matters and the “Opportunity Sutton” programme. This is currently generating projects involving over £90 million worth of investment in Sutton, including the “Sutton Gateway” project to develop and improve the area from Sutton Court to the station. We hope this will include improving and opening up the side entrance to Sutton station, better shops and restaurants, new jobs from office development, more housing as Sutherland House is developed, the relocation of the recycling bins at The Quadrant and a general tidying up of the area.

CANNABIS, DOGS, SPEEDING, DRINKING, ATTEMPTED BURGLARIES – BUT SUTTON SOUTH REMAINS A LOW CRIME AREA

police station

Heather and Richard attended the Sutton South Ward police panel on 12 June. There was discussion of current crime trends, including recent burglaries and attempted burglaries in Mayfield Road.

While the police were unable to give a reason for these incidents they commented that sometimes there is a “clustering” of crime in an area for a short period for no obvious reason, but it would be unusual for it to persist as a problem. They have moved quickly to re-assure residents and have knocked on doors in Mayfield Road, and left a feedback form where there was no-one in. If you have any observations you want to make to the local police you can contact them on ztsnt-suttonsouth@met.police.uk

Also, nine local residents attended their recent street briefing.

While no-one can ever be complacent and we must all maintain our vigilance, it remains the case that this Ward is a low crime area, indeed one of the safest areas in south London. Burglary, along with theft from motor vehicles, remains a police priority for the area, but the most common form of burglary in our area is theft from garages, and residential (house) burglaries are mercifully rare.

The meeting also discussed future action on speeding, a dog seizure in Cumnor Road, a cannabis factory in Westmoreland Drive and the success of the extension of the “No Drinking Zone” to our Ward.

We also discussed the introduction of the “London Policing Model” on 24 June. While the implications are not all positive, these changes are not going to damage the excellent service we generally get from our local police.

 Next street briefing: 12 July outside Lavender Court in Cavendish Road.