COUNCIL CHALLENGES BORIS ON TRANSPORT

 

The Mayor of London has been accused of short-changing Sutton after the borough was given the capital’s lowest transport grant. 

Each year, every London borough receives Local Implementation Plan (LIP) funding from Transport for London (TfL) to invest in local projects which support the Mayor’s plan for transport in the capital. For the second year in a row, Sutton has been given the least in London, leaving the council with less money to invest in the transport infrastructure.

frustrated councillors have criticised the Mayor for failing to invest in Sutton, despite the borough’s track record in delivering innovative transport plans.

Cllr Simon Wales, Executive Member for Communities, Transport and Voluntary Sector on Sutton Council, said: “Sutton has a great track record in running innovative and successful transport schemes, but we need money to make them work. The council and members of the local community work together to make sure the transport system keeps getting better and better but the fact remains that we could do even more if we had more funding.

“I’m disappointed that the Mayor and TfL won’t give Sutton the same kind of grant that it awards to other boroughs. This means that some of the improvements that we have planned will have to be cut back, or even shelved completely. We think that Sutton’s residents deserve better, and will continue working hard to carry out transport improvements that the local community wants to see.”

As well as schemes to boost traffic flow and make travel more sustainable, LIP funding is used to make the borough’s roads safer.  Maintenance works are financed through a separate budget, but improvements to reduce the number of road accidents often come out of LIP resources. Transport investment is particularly important in the current economic climate, as good accessibility is one of the factors that help town centres and local shops to thrive.

In Sutton, LIP money has been used to continue the successful initiatives on sustainable transport under the scheme known as Smarter Travel Sutton, which increased cycling by 75 per cent and is now used as example by other councils, after the initial project came to an end.

 

MORE PRESSURE ON BT

A television programme – “The Wright Stuff Extra” – broadcast on 21 July was largely shot in Cedar Road in our Ward and included an interview with Councillor Clifton standing alongside the box outside number 39 that we have asked BT to move.

Richard made the point that when Parliament agreed that BT could put the boxes anywhere without need to abide by planning controls it expected BT to be responsible. The box, placed right outside Mrs Russell’s window, is in the wrong place.

BT declined to appear on the programme but issued a statement again refusing to move the box. This is deplorable.

A post on this site (see archive for May) describes the general problem and a later post (see archive for June) describes earlier action relating to the box.

ROAD MEETING FAILS TO SOLVE CEDAR ROAD BOX PROBLEM

A street meeting attended by local residents was held on the morning of 9 June at the box, pictured above, erected by BT/Openreach outside 39 Cedar Road in South Sutton Ward. While we need these boxes for Broadband, local people have expressed strong feelings about the way this box is erected right outside the resident’s front window.

A post on this website (see archive for May 2011) describes the general problem related to these boxes, but we are aware that BT/Openreach can, due to an Act of Parliament, ignore planning law in erecting the boxes. Sutton Council wrote to them last November with objections to the proposal to erect this box in Cedar Road as it contravenes Department for Transport guidance. BT seemingly ignored the Council’s objection, which they can legally do, though they have maintained that in a discussion with a member of staff of the Council the objection was later withdrawn. These objections related only to comformity with planning guidance and not the wider problem of the impact of the box on the amenity of local residents. Within a 100 yard radius of the box there are four old-style green boxes in appropriate positions that do not cause any problem to residents. Local residents felt that the box could have been erected alongside one of those.

The street meeting was attended by local residents, including the occupant of 39 Cedar Road, Councillor Clifton and Councillor Colin Hall, who deals with these issues on the Executive of Sutton Council and has been in touch with other Councils that have similar problems across London. Jack Hamilton, former chair of Sutton South Neighbourhood Association and a local resident, also attended. 

Two people from BT/Openreach, Giles Ellerton and Adrian Paice, came to the meeting. The argument they put to the local residents was an entirely technical argument that technical problems, related to avoiding digging up pavements where there are high-voltage cables and required distances between cabinets, prevented them from putting the cabinet in any other position.

Local residents were suspicious of the argument put, in that it is a technical argument by the people who have the technical expertise, and consequently no-one present had the expertise necessary to assess its validity. There was also a feeling that if the occupant had had hard standing for a car in front of her house, as the house next door does, this would have prevented BT/Openreach from erecting a cabinet in that position – in which case they would undoubtedly have found some other solution, not just given up.

In email exchanges after the meeting an offer has been made to the resident of 39 Cedar Road of compensation for particular aspects of the inconvenience she has suffered. However this is very limited and we understand she is not likely to accept it.

Councillor Clifton, whose pressure led to the meeting being set up, comments as follows:

“This meeting has not resolved the problem. I can take some positives from it.

First, BT/Openreach have, under pressure,  now met local residents and explained in much greater detail than we have had before why the box was erected where it is. This makes it possible to seek more information and a technical opinion on whether their argument stands up, something we will do.

Second, alerted by the problem here, I will ask Sutton Council officials to advise me as a local Councillor of the locations of any further boxes to be erected in Sutton South Ward so I can look at the proposed locations. BT/Openreach seem to have been usually quite responsible in assessing locations, which makes it particularly disappointing that they cannot resolve the Cedar Road problem – a particular, and severe, problem.

Finally, the meeting has led to a very limited offer of compensation. That is, however, a matter for those involved to discuss.” 

[ A tense moment during the road meeting, at which there was a frank and open exchange of views between local residents and BT/Openreach staff. Councillor Clifton, on the right, puts a point to Giles Ellerton of BT/Openreach. ]

SUTHERLAND HOUSE “A BLOT ON THE LANDSCAPE”

 

Sutherland House,  at the heart of Sutton South, is a “blot on the landscape” said Councillor Heather Honour addressing the Development Control Committee on Wednesday 2nd March, a view repeated by Councillor Clifton when he spoke to the Committee on 8 June.

There is now a section 106 agreement in place, which we have helped to draw up, so that any developer will be required to make a contribution to the welfare of the local population.  The Development Control Committee considered, on 8 June, minor changes to the conditions attached to the development proposal. We still have no timetable for the development.

Key points we have made are that residents continue to raise concern about the state of Sutherland House and its continuing deterioration now that it is unoccupied.  In addition to the large number of windows that are boarded up, the retail premises, previously occupied by an estate agent, are now also boarded up, adding to the general dilapidation of the area. This presents anyone entering Sutton from the South with an unpleasant and off putting view .

Some residents remain concerned about the proposals that have been agreed.  However, in the interests of the area as a whole, we need development to go forward, to improve the appearance of the building and as an occupied building will mean that the office workers and residents are spending money in local shops and restaurants, making the economy of South Sutton more vibrant. But we must register concern at the current state of the building and have sought to require the owners to improve the external view, e.g. more attractive boards surrounding the building.

In speaking to the Committee on 2 March Heather reminded the Committee of the concerns raised by residents of Grosvenor Court and Forest Dene. Heather said that the current state of the building was a disgrace. Windows were smashed and boarded up.  The doorways were refuges for drinkers and smokers and full of litter.  The space below the iron railings on Cedar Road was a rubbish tip and a health hazard containing unsightly and unhealthy waste from fast food outlets.   And the building had been host to a cannabis factory, or even a plantation given the huge amount of the weed grown there.

Although unable to revisit the details of the planning application, Councillor Honour  pointed out that the car parking, consisting of 62 bays was inadequete for the proposed 96 flats and 70 bedroomed hotel.  There were already serious parking issues at nearby Sutton Court and this would only exacerbate the situation. 

Road safety was already an issue at the junction of Cedar Road and Brighton Road and many of the residents  at Forest Dene feared to cross the road there.  The proposed entry to the lower cark park would worsen the situation and Councillor Honour advocated using Wellesley Road for the entry to the car park.

She also drew attention to the fact that the original planning application had said that the hotel would be commissioned from Hilton Hotels on behalf of the Hampton brand.  The latest information was that  the hotel was likely to be either the  Premier Inn or Travelodge chain.  Would their branding conflict with the approved design of the hotel?

Highlighting the fact that most of Sutton South was now a mixture of private flats and social housing and that there was insufficient open space in the area, she said that 50 per cent of children did not have access to a garden and she asked that under the new Community Infrastructure Levy the developer be asked to improve the Devonshire Nature Area and contribute to more open space for the surrounding community.

Our latest information is that the development is not likely to follow the current planning permission but will be a much more limited development, reflecting the current economic circumstamces.

UGLY COMPUTER BOXES – IS THERE ONE NEAR YOU ?

Residents have contacted us about the ugly computer boxes erected in our Ward, such as the one shown below. While there are many of these green computer boxes on our street corners, a new generation of much larger and more obtrusive boxes is now being installed.

A post elsewhere on this site deals with a specific problem of the box in Cedar Road.

We need these boxes to improve broadband speeds. But Openreach (a subsidiary of BT), who install them, do not need planning permission or to take any notice of the aesthetic and amenity aspects of the erection of the boxes. This is by Act of Parliament and the local Council is helpless.

We are collecting information. Is there a box near you ? Is it sensibly sited ? Let us know.

This box, in Cedar Road, is badly sited, right outside someone’s front window. A post elsewhere on this site deals with this particular problem.

You can see how this is right in front of the house.

This one in Cornwall Road (not in our Ward) has been placed in front of the house and right in the attractive hedgerow lovingly cultivated by the residents. It could as easily have been a few feet away round the corner and giving no offence.

Research by Councillor Clifton has shown that these are not isolated incidents and across London there is increasing concern at the lack of consultation and the poor decisions involved in siting these boxes. Further afield, there are examples of local campaigns in places as far apart as Brighton (see the Brighton Argus, 26 May) and Dundee (the Dundee Courier, April 14).

Openreach have “Permitted Development Rights” and, according to the Council’s Planning Department, “Permitted Development Rights” exist provided that the ground or base area does not exceed 1.5 square metres (with only a height restriction of being no more than 15 metres off the ground – if unattached to a building). This is set out under the Electronic Communications Code (Conditions and Restrictions) Regulations 2003 and Part 24 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development)(Amendment)(England) Order 2001. The only check by the Council is that there is no impediment such as buried cables and, if not, the Council has no power to stop the development.

Councillor Clifton said “Parliament, in granting these powers to bypass planning law, would have expected the company to behave responsibly in considering the impact on local residents.”

Openreach have disclosed to Councillor Clifton the full list of criteria used when siting boxes. This is printed below.

Councillor Clifton has told them that the criteria are defective in that nothing is said about not erecting boxes immediately outside a resident’s front door or window, and nothing is said about aesthetic considerations or fitting in to the streetscene and local ambience.

The criteria are:

“General Considerations

The following points serve as planning considerations when selecting a suitable location for the DSLAM cabinet.

  • The ideal position of the DSLAM cabinet is within 2m of Copper cabinet. Please ensure that there is 1m clearance either side of the DSLAM.
  • The maximum cable length from DSLAM cabinet to PCP is normally 50m (needed to maintain PCP CAL value).
  • The position of, and access to the DSLAM cabinet must accommodate installation by crane from a truck. It must also be feasible to make maintenance visits for an engineer (e.g. to check batteries), or change cards.
  • Situate in a safe and non-obstructive manner for the public, engineers and contractors.
  • Avoid kerbside locations if possible – reducing a traffic hazard.
  • Avoid places where restrictive waiting or working restrictions may apply.
  • Avoid causing obstruction or restricting road and pavement users’ line of sight.
  • Avoid locating where the cabinet can be used as an intermediate stepping-stone to someone wishing to climb over a high wall/fence.
  • Consider how to minimise the risk due to other services (e.g. overhead obstructions).
  • Proximity to schools, elderly, disabled and other vulnerable groups where a lifting operation would incur additional risk. .
  • Consider obstruction to maintenance of gardens and buildings, such as hedge cutting, fence preserving, etc. Please allow 100mm from cabinet to wall.
  • Safe dig prints and the use of Locator 9B can be used to avoid positioning of the cabinet above other services.
  • Health and Safety Guide (47) is a useful document
  • Where proposed DSLAM cabinets are located in flood plain areas, try to mitigate the risk of flooding where possible. The level of risk can be found on the Environment Agency website. Local, County councils and other utilities can be a useful source of info.
  • You need to take account of noise emissions and allow for this in quiet residential premises (aim for greater distances from bedrooms). Avoid locations where noise could reverberate or be directed towards premises (such as alleyways). Discuss individual cases if this cannot be achieved with the policy team. “