GOLD DUST FOR THE LOCAL ECONOMY: SUBSEA7 MOVE IN TO THEIR NEW HQ

The new building now completed

The new building now completed

The design for the Subsea7 office in Brighton Road

The design for the Subsea7 office in Brighton Road

Over the weekend 15 January Subsea7 have started to move their staff out of the Reed building in the Quadrant and into their attractive new headquarters building in Brighton Road.
By this time next year there will be 750 people working in the building.
The Sutherland House building – now re-named Northumberland House – almost opposite, is being converted to 128 flats, with parking spaces, that are being offered for rent. The first residents were moving in over the same weekend. The shops at the bottom are yet to be occupied. Sainsburys have changed their mind about opening a store there, but it would have been competing with the Tesco opposite.
Money has been spent improving the look of the former Sutherland House

Money has been spent improving the look of the former Sutherland House


Occupation of these two buildings, increasing footfall in the area and business for local shops, restaurants and hotels, will have a positive effect on the local economy. And the Subsea7 project will keep many hundreds of jobs to our area that would otherwise have been in Epsom or Leatherhead, and add several hundred new jobs. Jobs are gold dust for the local economy.
On 24 November we attended the final meeting of the liaison group with Subsea7 and local residents that has monitored the progress of the project to build the new headquarters of Subsea7, here in Sutton.
The company will arrange visits for local residents to see inside the building when it is fully occupied. And discussions continue on a new pedestrian crossing outside the building, crossing Brighton Road, given the massively increased footfall from those who work in the building arriving at Sutton station and walking down Brighton Road.
On 4 September last year the Subsea7 building was “topped out.”
subsea on the roof 1
“Topping out” is a ceremony traditionally held when the building has been built to its full height. Richard and Trish were there on the roof of the building when the final piece of concrete was put in place on 4 September.
The site won the Ivor Goodsite Hoarding Competition 2015!  The site was one of 8 winners out of 48 entries nationally to receive the award which showcased the great artwork used on the hoarding, produced by local schools; Devonshire Primary and Overton Grange Secondary.  The schools produced widely praised artwork on the themes of ‘Under the Sea’ and ‘Subsea 7’.
The picture below is of Trish and Richard with the Devonshire Avenue primary school artwork displayed at the site.
Following consultation with residents on the parking arrangements in the side road separating the site from Raeburn House and Girtin House, now named Berridge Close, the road is now included in the controlled parking zone with parking bays in the road reserved for residents with parking permits.

TWO OF US SMALL

SUTHERLAND HOUSE – NOW NORTHUMBERLAND HOUSE: RESIDENTS MOVE IN

sutherland house

The contrast - what it used to look like and now looks like

The contrast – what it used to look like and now looks like

Residents have started to move in to the the block in the Brighton Road just south of Sutton station that we all knew as Sutherland House but which now has a new name – Northumberland House. Perhaps the owners changed the name as – after it being empty for five years – they want to signal a new beginning for this building. They have spent money on the renovation and certainly improved the way it looks, as the pictures above show.

The apartments in the block, a few hundred yards south of Sutton station and in our Ward, are available to rent. The Acorn Group are in charge of renting out the flats. If anyone is interested in renting they can contact Kimberley Ellen (kimberley.ellen@acorn.ltd.uk or ring her 020 8315 6917). The flats are also advertised on the website Rightmove.

On 14 January Richard visited the block. It has been refurbished to a high standard and it is good to see it occupied. There are 128 flats with parking spaces.

As long ago as December 2015 we met with Council officers and the developer to discuss renovation of the front, to fit in with the Gateway scheme further north. We have sought agreement that the owners fund the renovation of the area in front of the building, to bring it up to the same standard as the area renovated during the “Gateway” project just to the north.  The shops at the bottom are not fully let out and we have hopes that the area just south of the station will include of a mix of good restaurants, shops and maybe a wine bar as the area will have so much  more footfall. We are pleased that the Rose cafe and Sofra are surviving. We look forward to the area in front of the building being renewed and improved in due course and the vacant shops let out. However Sainsburys have pulled out of opening a store at the bottom.

We have been critical of the developers as they used a route to bypass normal planning permission requirements, but at last the building will be occupied. The year 2017 will be a good one for the area with the occupation of the Subsea7 building and Sutherland House, bringing people into the area who will spend money in local shops and restaurants, which will give the whole area an uplift.

The area has in the past suffered from a group of “all day drinkers” who walk the streets drinking alcohol from cans. However, one of Richard’s first acts when elected in 2010 was to get the “no drinking” zone extended from Sutton town centre into Sutton South Ward. This makes it unlawful to drink alcohol in public in the area if a police officer asks you to stop.

Richard and Trish held a surgery at Sutherland House to advise residents

Richard and Trish held a surgery at Sutherland House to advise residents

PROGRESS ON TRAFFIC AND PARKING SCHEMES IN THE WARD

 

The extended yellow lines at the bottom of Downside Road

The extended yellow lines at the bottom of Downside Road

There is further progress on the traffic and parking schemes under consideration for the Ward to report following the meeting of the South Sutton, Cheam and Belmont Local Committee held on 8 September 2016 and the discussion at the Environment and Neighbourhoods Committee on 15 September of a global strategy for parking. To ensure a consistent approach throughout the Borough, all local schemes will be drawn into a central strategy and progressed on the basis of an assessment of priorities.

An ambitious scheme for the introduction of a 20mph scheme across most of the area of Sutton South Ward west of the Sutton to Belmont railway line has now been included in the “Local Implementation Plan” prepared by Transport for London. This was the subject of proposals put to the local committee in 2015. However, it is on the “reserve list” which means that implementation in the near future is most unlikely.

A parking scheme for the newly-named Berridge Close is agreed, implementation to coincide with the opening of the adjacent Subsea7 building, as this will lead to more intensive use of the road by those working in the building and accessing the underground car park. Obstructive parking in Berridge Close could lead to problems when the building is occupied, so needs to be avoided. It is proposed that the road will be included in the controlled parking zone with four parking bays in the road, reserved for residents with parking permits. Completion of the building is unlikely before December.

Traffic and parking schemes were the subject of a session at the December 2015 meeting of the South Sutton, Cheam and Belmont Local Committee, when residents noted down parking and traffic problems. A list of the proposals raised by residents was reported back to the local committee meeting on 10 March.

In relation to our own area, the proposals fell into three main categories.

First, concerns about intensive and sometimes obstructive parking in Mayfield Road and roads nearby (The Ridgway, Chalgrove Road, Upland Road).

Second, concerns about visibility at the Farm Road / The Ridgway junction.

Third, a set of other concerns, mostly about speeding at various locations.

This listing will form the agenda for further work by the traffic department within a wider cross-Borough study, which is centrally managed by the Council. A number of minor, initial proposals were agreed on 10 March, including to restrict parking at the Prior Avenue / Banstead Road junction due to visibility issues.

The question of a parking control scheme in Mayfield Road and the surrounding area was the subject of a consultation exercise by local Councillors last year which showed support in Mayfield Road but not adjacent roads. On 10 March the local committee agreed to devote some of its public realm funds to fund the traffic department to “kick start” a study of potential for parking controls in this area. A discussion between traffic engineers and Ward Councillors to consider this study was held on 8 June in Mayfield Road. The traffic engineers will design a parking control scheme for consultation. The precise parameters of this scheme and the consultation have yet to be finalised. Consultation with residents is due to begin in January 2017.

Some residents of Audley Place have commented to us that there is difficulty when driving out of Audley Place in seeing vehicles coming down Camborne Road, if cars are parked close to the corner. We raised this issue with traffic engineers and the Council is proposing a small extension of the yellow lines on each side at the exit from Audley Place. We think this will do the trick in terms of making it easier, and safer, to drive out into Camborne Road.

Residents of Tapestry Close have complained to us about obstructive parking in the Close. We raised this issue with traffic engineers and a scheme of yellow lining was proposed. Further consultation with residents, required by law, found some residents objecting and this scheme is currently on hold.

Several schemes consulted on some time ago have now been implemented, including yellow lining at the bottom of Downside Road to deal with obstructive parking (see photo above) and switching some “pay and display” bays to “dual use” so residents with parking permits can use them, in Grange Road and Langley Park Road.

COUNCIL OPPOSES THREATENED CLOSURE OF SUTTON STATION TICKET OFFICE

R and T at station small

Southern have been consulting on certain changes to Sutton station that will involve the closure of the ticket office. The details are on their website at

www.southernrailway.com/your-journey/station-information/changes-to-the-opening-hours-of-ticket-offices

Richard and Trish have helped draft the response from the Council, opposing this change. The following is an extract from the lengthy and considered Council response.

“The Council strongly objects to the proposed closure of Sutton ticket office. Sutton is the 6 th busiest station on the Southern network and 7th busiest in south London, having almost 7 million passenger entries and exits per annum. The Council has major growth plans for Sutton, a Metropolitan town centre, in terms of housing and employment, which will result in a significant increase in station usage over the next decade. The Council has also recently completed the Station Gateway scheme at Sutton, which made some significant improvements to area outside the station, as well as opening the side entrance. The ticket office at Sutton is well used most of the time and there is often a queue. We consider that the ticket office at Sutton should remain open during the peak times at least, and this should include the busy periods at weekends when there are a considerable number of leisure and infrequent passengers who do not have smartcards and may need advice or help. Outside peak times sufficient staff should be available on the concourse to sell tickets and assist passengers with the machines. As the station concourse in front of the ticket barriers at Sutton is quite small and congested we would suggest having a station host desk or podium in the existing ticket hall with a formal queuing system as for the ticket office. Many stations in your “Model 3″ outside London have much lower usage than Sutton yet are to retain their ticket office, and we consider it is important that this major London Metropolitan town centre should retain a ticket office facility.”

We have reproduced below some of the key points made by Southern, taken from their website. Most residents use the train service from Sutton station from time to time and those we have discussed this issue with support our view that this is a proposal we should object to.

CHANGES AT SUTTON STATION

Southern point out that the majority of customers use ticket machines rather than the ticket office. They propose to establish a “station hosting point” with the staff available on the concourse, able to sell the full range of tickets from first to last train. They propose to move staff onto the concourse as ‘Station Hosts’

The website states that Station Hosts will be:

  • visible and available from first service until the last, which is longer than current ticket office hours
  • trained in customer service
  • able to sell tickets and provide information using a new handheld device
  • helping passengers use the ticket machines

Sutton station will have a Host on duty at specified times, Monday to Friday 5.25 to 23.00, Saturday 6.25 to 23.00, Sunday 7.00 to 23.00, these being in excess of the current ticket office hours as the ticket office closes at 9pm. The Host will provide assistance with ticket purchases, information provision and assisted travel. The Host will have a hand held ticketing system that will enable them to provide tickets that are not available from the self-service machines.

The Ticket Office will close. The primary point for purchasing tickets on the station will be from the self-service machines or from the Station Host. In the event that a ticket type is not available through these machines then the Host will have access to a ticket office machine within the concourse area to enable those ticket types to be issued.

Southern State “At some of our stations we know that our ticket offices sell fewer than 12 tickets per hour and the vast majority of customers don’t use the ticket offices on a daily basis. At these stations, we want our staff to become more available for all users of the station and ensure there is a visible presence on our station concourses where they can help customers with all of their queries, provide information, offer assistance and have the ability to sell tickets when needed.

At some of our busier stations, we want to relocate the ticket selling equipment to a station hosting point so the staff are available on the concourse, able to sell the full range of tickets but for longer times than today.

We believe that this will provide an improved customer experience, with all the affected stations being staffed from the very first to last train, 7 days a week. Facilities such as waiting rooms will be open for longer and Station Hosts will be available answering customer queries, providing advice and assisting with ticket purchases.”

 

A NEW LOCAL PLAN FOR SUTTON

devonshire google

On 18 February Richard and Trish attended the launch event for the consultation exercise on the new local plan for Sutton, held in the Europa Gallery in Sutton’s central library. They were both members of the small task group that drafted the main document being consulted on.

The consultation encompasses three documents:

  • The local plan “Issues and Preferred Options” document, to which Trish and Richard contributed, which revises the Sutton local plan last adopted in 2012
  • The draft Masterplan for Sutton Town Centre
  • The draft Masterplan for the London Cancer Hub, the area previously known as the Sutton hospital site, where the proposals include expansion of the world-renowned Institute of Cancer Research and a proposed new secondary school to cater for the expansion in the number of children in Sutton seeking secondary school places.

The plan aims to preserve the green, suburban feel of Sutton which our residents so like, with our many street trees, while meeting the aspiration to have enough homes in Sutton for our children to grow up here. In planning for new homes, there will be an emphasis on preserving the more suburban areas of the borough, and insisting on good quality design.

The plan takes account of the need to meet the increasing number of children the Borough has to find school places for, while not compromising on the excellent standard of Sutton schools. The plan looks at transport links, and preserves the route of the proposed Tramlink, for which we are seeking funding. The plan is being consulted on and we hope many residents will respond. Following the consultation, further documents will be prepared later in the year, and there will be further consultation. The weblink address to respond to the consultation is

www.sutton.gov.uk/sutton2031

SCHOOL PLACES FOR LOCAL CHILDREN ASSURED

overton bulbs

Sutton Council’s Planning Committee, which Richard chairs, has agreed expansion plans for Overton Grange school, the only secondary school in Sutton South Ward.

Sutton Council, like every London Borough, has been pursuing a strategy to cope with the increased demand for school places. Having successfully coped with a surge in demand for primary school places, the bulge is now moving through to secondary schools. The Council continues to work on its proposals for at least one new secondary school in Sutton, while almost all of the existing secondary schools – including Overton Grange – are submitting plans to expand the number of places.

Overton Grange school is the only secondary school in our Ward and, while it takes students from all over Sutton, many local parents send their children there. Like many Sutton schools, it is planning to expand its intake to meet the additional demand for secondary school places in the Borough due to rising numbers of children. Currently the school takes in 210 students each year and it plans to expand the school by increasing its intake by a class of 30 each year from autumn 2016.

The school, which has “Academy” status so it is not under the control of the local authority, staged an exhibition of its building plans on 22 April, at the school. A new teaching block is proposed, and the school is taking the opportunity of the building work to expand its canteen, which is not large enough for the current size of the school.

At the time of the last local elections, last May, scare stories were put round that the school planned to expand into Overton Park. This is not the case.

Richard said, after the Planning Committee decision ” The rising number of children reaching secondary school age means that expansion of our schools is necessary, alongside the proposals for new schools, and I am pleased the Council is taking effective action to avert any crisis in school places. I am pleased there is no intention to expand into the park, a story that had no foundation and was a political scare story.”

Overton Grange plans to expand its intake by 30 pupils per year, a one form intake, from the autumn of 2016. The Planning Committee considered a report on an application for the erection of a part ground, part first, part second floor extension, to provide five additional classrooms with ancillary accommodation, three single storey extensions to provide additional canteen, kitchen and storage facilities, together with roof canopy to the main front entrance, a detached store, with soft and hard landscaping.

Overton Grange is a popular local school and this extension will continue to ensure there are sufficient places locally for children reaching secondary school age, so this is good news for the many parents in the area who have young children. Secondary school provision in the area will be further enhanced by the decision to build the first of the new secondary schools we need on the nearby Sutton hospital site.

“GATEWAY” PROJECT COMES IN ON BUDGET

The old side entrance - shuttered and barricaded

The old side entrance – shuttered and barricaded

The New Entrance - open all day every day

The New Entrance

The £1.2 million Sutton Gateway project – largely financed by Transport for London – has come in £8 000 within budget, a remarkable degree of accuracy.

The main success for Sutton South Ward residents, in particular those who commute to central London, is the opening of the side entrance to Sutton station. The side entrance is now open from 6am to 11pm seven days a week. The cycle racks next to the side entrance have been improved and the number of racks doubled.

The project further developed the area around Sutton station with:

– 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

– the town centre clock

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

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

– after 6.30 some taxis can park immediately opposite the station, with the bus stop previously opposite the station moved further down Brighton Road to ease congestion of buses at peak times

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

– the number of parking spaces in the station area has been increased

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

– new “legible London” signs based on this design, still to be installed.

legible london sign

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.

The improvements attributable to the Gateway project are complemented by the installation of the new zebra crossing in Cedar Road, which was not part of the project.

TACKLING SPEEDING IN THE ROADS OF SUTTON SOUTH

20mph on lampost sign
Since we were elected as Councillors for Sutton South Ward we have been concerned about speeding in the Ward. Following the speeding survey conducted in 2011 new traffic islands in Cavendish Road have had an impact on the speed of vehicles using the road. The new zebra crossing with the re-distribution of parking bays along the road – so there is more parking along the road, which generally does slow the speed of traffic – in Cedar Road (between Brighton Road and Langley Park Road) has had some impact on speeds there.
We have also sought to deal with the specific problem of the speed of vehicles approaching the right turn from The Ridgway into Chalgrove Road with better signage on the road and lamp-posts as your approach the bend.
A longer term proposal now under consideration concerns the area of the Ward west of Brighton Road. If fully implemented this would introduce a 20 mile per hour limit in the area east of Overton Road (including Overton Road) as far as the Sutton to Belmont railway line, so including these parts of Worcester Road, Grange Road, Camborne Road and Stanley Road. There would be signage to indicate the speed limit and some raised junctions, and road humps, where roads crossed. This follows a speeding survey indicating some vehicles travel too fast along these roads. There would, of course, be extensive consultation with residents before such a proposal was implemented and, given current funding restrictions and other priorities, action to consult on this proposal – which is a proposal for Transport for London funding – is not likely in the near future.
We would welcome any reactions, particularly from residents who live in the area.
We have also floated, in the same list of bids to Transport for London, consultation of residents on the inclusion of Christchurch Park in the Sutton South 20mph speed limit area.

SLOW DOWN IN THE RIDGWAY

bend

At the south end of The Ridgway, in our Ward, there is a sharp right hand bend into Chalgrove Road. Richard has lived in The Ridgway for 26 years and Trish lived in the road for a while before moving to Langley Park Road, also in the Ward. Richard comments that the bend has not, over the years, generally caused a problem, but twice in the last 14 months motorists have failed to make the turn and crashed through the fence of 1 Chalgrove Road.

Richard has got two signs put up on lamp posts in The Ridgway, as you approach the turn and a “slow” marking in the road. Let us hope there are no further incidents.

slow in road

SUTHERLAND HOUSE: POSITIVE NEWS AT LAST

sutherland house

At last some positive news on what is happening to Sutherland House, the empty building just south of the railway station in Brighton Road on  the corner with Cedar Road.

This building has been empty far too long but we now have confirmation from the owners, Criterion Capital, that the work is well under way to renovate the building. The renovation will convert the building to 128 luxury flats with car parking spaces, one per flat.
They expect the work to be finished by March 2016. They will be appointing local estate agents to act for them to offer the flats for rent. We are a little surprised that they are to be offered for rent rather than sale, but given the location close to the station there will be no shortage of demand. We doubt if they will be actively marketing the flats until the work is sufficiently progressed for them to have a show flat for people to look at, but they say the work will be to a high standard.
We have been critical of the developers as they used a route to bypass normal planning permission requirements, but at last work is under way and we have a date by which the building will be occupied. The year 2016 will be a good one for the area with the occupation of the Subsea7 building and Sutherland House, bringing people into the area who will spend money in local shops and restaurants, which will give the whole area an uplift.

The argument over the future of Sutherland House was the subject of a letter from Richard published by The Guardian (the national paper, not the Sutton Guardian) on 5 February. Here is the text:

“Sir

Congratulations to The Guardian for exposing the loss of affordable housing that has resulted from the Government’s successive changes to planning law.
The latest changes are in a series that have progressively created major loopholes to excuse developers from providing affordable housing. Just south of Sutton station, in south London, there is an office building, empty for some years, which the developers propose to convert to 128 luxury flats. The day before Sutton Council’s Planning Committee was to approve the scheme, which included a significant number of affordable homes, the developers withdrew the scheme. They had spotted the advantages to them if they followed a newly-created route called “prior approval” that has now forced the Council to accept the application with zero affordable homes included.
On one calculation, our Borough may have lost up to 500 affordable homes due to that legislation. The latest changes you highlight are further steps on a path that is seriously undermining the efforts of local authorities to help those in dire need of better housing.
Councillor Richard Clifton, Chair of Planning Committee, London Borough of Sutton”

At the meeting of Sutton Council on 19 January Richard criticised the owners of Sutherland House for their “inertia” in relation to the re-development of the empty building.

Richard joined with Sutton Councillor Hanna Zuchowska in pointing out that the owners withdrew an application for planning permission that included an element of affordable housing before exploiting recent changes in planning law to get permission for conversion of the building to 128 luxury flats with no affordable housing element. But still, although the building has been empty for five years, they do not get on with the re-development.

Speaking after the meeting Richard said “The building is still empty and a blot on the landscape. The development of the Subsea7 building, bringing 800 office jobs to the area, and the improvements associated with the Sutton Gateway project, are giving a lift to the area just south of Sutton station. We need the developers to get on with the renovation of Sutherland House.”

The full text of Richard’s speech, seconding a motion on affordable housing, is as follows:

“In seconding this motion, I would like to draw attention to the opening sentence, which speaks of the widening gap between the rich and the poor.

I find it astonishing that in my own lifetime the wealth gap between rich and poor has not just failed to diminish but has actually widened.

The figures are so astounding one hardly believes them – that the top 80 (eight zero) wealthiest individuals in the world own more than half the world’s wealth, that is they own as much as half the population of the planet.

And in our own country about 30 billionaires own half the wealth of the nation.

And the implications of this inequality are not just a matter of concern for social policy.

A fascinating study published by the OECD last December showed that countries with a smaller and narrowing gap between rich and poor experienced higher rates of economic growth, and if the gap between rich and poor had not widened in Britain from the 1980’s the UK economy would in fact be 20% larger.

George Osborne ought to reflect on the reasons for this. If you increase the earnings of the poor they will spend it, creating income, jobs and wealth for others, but if you increase the earnings of the rich they may save much of it. He ought to remember this when he plans yet further raids on the welfare budget, on financial support to the very poorest in society, rather than asking the wealthy to contribute more.

It is a finding that demonstrates that the so-called “trickledown” economics so beloved of leaders on the right of the political spectrum – and that included Margaret Thatcher – whereby largesse afforded to the very rich trickled down to help the very poor, was in fact a recipe for lower growth and thus a lower increase in living standards for all.

We need concerted policy action to deal with this, and tax rates on the highest earners, property taxes, the minimum wage, and welfare support to the very poor, are all important aspects. But we all know that action and support for those in need can be best targeted if undertaken at a local level.

Here in Sutton, we will continue to do what we can to build a fairer and more equal society, something of particular importance to us as Liberal Democrats, even if what we can do is sometimes at the most basic level, such as dealing with concerns about food and housing.

And the fact that we have Food Banks, here in Britain, in one of the more affluent countries in the world, makes my point about inequality more eloquently than any of my words can do.

On housing, we can be proud of our record in Sutton.

As Councillor McCoy told us, the Council is promoting affordable housing, something that is vital when I find that in my own Ward changes to planning law mean that a block like Sutherland House can become 128 luxury flats with no affordable housing requirement atall. If and when the developers finally get on with it, and I deplore their inertia.

And the Council is dealing with homelessness: I was heartened by the serious and concerned tone of the debate at Planning Committee on the proposal to provide short-term accommodation for homeless families in Benhill Road. It was the Committee at its best. This was on an evening – 17 December 2014 – when no less than 76 (seven six) Sutton families were homeless and in bed and breakfast accommodation, often miles from Sutton.

Mr. Mayor, we must continue our efforts as a Council to care for the most needy of our residents, while having a concern – as citizens – to promote policies, at every level, that will increase economic growth but distribute the rewards more fairly.

I am pleased to second the motion.”