The panel is our opportunity for residents to discuss with the police the policing of Sutton South Ward. It met for the first “in person” meeting since 16 June 2019, on Friday 8 October at the hall at Christchurch, in Christchurch Park. There was a good turnout with about 20 residents attending. The police team was led by Constable Robyn Skivens.
The police reported that crime in the area remains low with, in the period since 1 July, just one burglary, 8 thefts of motor vehicles and 14 thefts from motor vehicles. There was a wide-ranging discussion covering issues including how to ensure people report crime, abandoned vehicles, e-scooters (their use other than on private land is unlawful), anti-social drinkers and the successful use by the police of Community Protection Orders. The likely impact on crime from having more people working at home was also noted. It was agreed that, while the Metropolitan police have had a bad press recently and the issues exposed by the Sarah Everard murder are of genuine importance and concern, in Sutton South the performance of our local police officers has been exemplary. The panel will meet again on 28 January.
Several residents of Copse Hill and Dunsfold Court have put to us the point that the parking bay reserved for motorcyclists outside Dunsfold Court is rarely used by motorcyclists, and that those with a motorcycle do not usually have difficulty finding somewhere off the road to park.
Consequently we have explored the suggestion that this be restored as a parking place for other vehicles, alongside the adjacent parking places, and this change will go ahead unless there is significant local objection. Please let us know if you have views on this.
We are aware of pressures on parking spaces in the area, which is one of the reasons we opposed the proposal for a new tower block with relatively few parking spaces at 2 Copse Hill. This proposal, twice turned down by the Council, is again with the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol as an appeal.
We are also aware of a proposal for a further block of flats opposite, on the other side of Brighton Road, which was also deficient in terms of the number of parking spaces. This proposal is not yet the subject of a planning application and we are concerned about policies set out in the recent Government White Paper on planning that would, in some areas, lead to automatic consent to planning applications without a process of neighbourhood consultation. We will keep residents advised of progress.
The outcome means that there is little change to the situation in our Ward.
The main outcome is that changes to the S3 bus that might have affected our area have not been pursued, which means the S3 will still serve Cedar Road and Langley Park Road. Changes to the S4 route that affected our area are not implemented and it will still run to Overton Grange school and along Grange Road. We are pleased with this outcome, which means there will not be any detriment to services in our Ward, and points we put into the letter of representation sent by Sutton Council have been acted on.
Every year Richard has to contact Network Rail to get the foliage that has grown up on the bank of the railway line at Kings Lane cut back. The work has now been done, as these before and after pictures show. The foliage obscures sight lines for motorists about to cross the bridge, so they cannot see if there is a car coming in the other direction, on the single lane bridge. A similar problem concerning sight lines for motorists arises with the cotoneasters at The Triangle where Mayfield Road meets The Ridgway and Farm Road. Richard is arranging to get these lowered in height.
The Sutton South Ward Police Consultative Panel met on 21 July, by Zoom. The statistics presented by the police showed that the Ward remains a low crime area, with one burglary and 37 motor vehicle related crimes (mainly theft from vehicles) in the period commencing in May. We also discussed the work of the police in relation to drugs warrants, but the most interesting discussion we had was about e-scooters. We hope to meet again in person in the autumn.
After a gap of a year and nine months due to the pandemic, a meeting of the Sutton South Ward police consultative panel took place, on 18 March. Before that, it had last met on 16 June 2019, after which some meetings were cancelled and then the pandemic struck. This meeting was by Zoom. We were delighted to learn that nothing much has changed – Sutton South is still a low crime area. Our discussion ranged widely, including garage burglaries, catalytic convertor thefts, speeding, and how to enforce the new 20 mph speeding limit in roads to the east of the Ward.
On the day England qualified for the final of the European football championship, 7 July, Richard attended a meeting of Sutton Council’s Planning Committee, where we approved the proposals of Sutton United for a new stand, floodlights and a grass pitch, following their promotion to the English football league. Well done Sutton! Richard made a speech recollecting that in 2017 the club had, for the first time ever, reached the fifth round of the FA Cup, playing Arsenal at home. He was Mayor of Sutton at that time and attended the match. The facilities at the ground need upgrading, so he was delighted with these proposals for renovation. This puts Sutton on the map. Now that Barnet have dropped out of the football league, Sutton is the only one of the 32 London boroughs that people will regularly hear of, as a borough with a football league club that has the same name.
Every year Sutton Council holds what is referred to as its “Annual Council Meeting” where it elects the Mayor and appoints Councillors to committees. This year it was held on 4 May and held by videoconference. Trish was re-elected Mayor. Richard was relieved of membership of the Audit and Governance Committee but appointed to the Housing, Economy and Business Committee, the Planning Committee, the Greater London Employment Forum (where he is the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Delegation) and the Council and Employees Joint Committee, which he chairs. He will be busy!
Planning issues have always been a major concern in Sutton South Ward, with numerous examples of poor quality developments we have seen off but others where local democracy has been overturned by the decisions of the remote Planning Inspectorate based in Bristol. The Queen’s Speech on 11 May, setting out the legislative plans of the Government, included proposals we hoped had been dropped to run a coach and horses through the local democracy elements of the planning system. Richard has denounced these as a charter for developers to make massive profits building slum housing, while ignoring and side-lining the views of the local community.
The proposals would mean that in certain areas developers would get automatic consent to planning applications without there being any process of consultation with local people.
These proposals are not new. At the meeting of Sutton Council on 23 November last year – the first Council meeting chaired by Trish as our Mayor – Council passed a motion expressing concern at the threat to democratic decision taking from the proposals the Government had set out to change the planning system.
Councillors noted that the proposals would lead to automatic approval of many developments with the voice and opinions of local people removed from the planning system. They noted that requirements for new developments to include affordable housing would be severely eroded and the housing target for new building in Sutton increased from 427 units to 1122 units. This latter figure is impossible to achieve without massive increases in the density of housing, undermining the pleasant, green, suburban feel of Sutton. The Government claims, falsely, that the planning system is an impediment to development, but we have to suspect that what this is really about is the right of developers to ignore local opinion when it gets in the way of what is profitable.
As local Councillors, we have always been active in looking at planning applications in our Ward and opposing those not good enough to meet our high standards in Sutton. In the recent past we have been active on proposals in Brighton Road, The Ridgway, Upland Road and Hillcroome Road. Some proposals that we thought objectionable have been turned down, including putting two stories on the top of Northumberland House. If you scan down the posts on this website you will find numerous examples of planning applications where we have joined with local residents to get improvements or oppose what developers are proposing.
The proposals of the Government are a major threat. These proposals to “reform” planning law are likely to, in many cases, remove the requirements for local consultation on planning proposals and act as a developers’ charter. We want to retain a system that, while it has defects, lets local people have a democratic say on what is built locally. It is too important a right for us to lose.
We are going to refurbish the small piece of play equipment in the Devonshire Avenue Nature Area, which has become very tatty over the ten years since it was installed. Here is Richard’s grandson, Ciaran, enjoying playing on the installation. You can see how tatty it has become.
The refurbishment of the play area will see the removal and recycling of this damaged timber play equipment, comprising of over two hundred sleepers in various sizes. It will see the installation of new sleepers, wooden kickboards and “play bark safety surfacing” surrounding the play area. This will encourage children to stay active and provide an invaluable communal focal point in keeping with the natural materials of the Devonshire Avenue Nature Area.
The “memorial” bench that has been placed in the nature area, incorporating commemorative images remembering those who died in war, is a moving addition to the area. Here is Trish at the new bench.
The nature area is the only open space in our Ward and, particularly as many families live in flats with no access to a garden for children to play in, the nature area is an important amenity. The nature area has, during lockdown, like most parkland, been much more extensively visited than is normal. This has led to some erosion of its value as a nature area. We would greatly welcome the ideas of residents for improving it.
While the Devonshire Avenue Nature Area is the only open space in our Ward, our residents make good use of Overton Park at the western end of the Ward and Warren Park at the eastern end. On 30 April Richard met with Council officers and other Councillors in Warren Park to discuss the vandalisation of the picket fence protecting the nature area in the park. We are anxious to preserve this chalk grassland nature site, which at certain times of year has a wonderful show of cowslips, ox-eye daisies and other wild plants, which will be lost if the area is trampled. Again, we would welcome views on how Warren Park might be improved.
Dealing with parking problems and speeding vehicles has always been a problem. The Council has now concluded, for our Ward, the long-running consultation on parking and has introduced new measures on speeding. While the Council has, on legal advice, amended or withdrawn the six month trial low traffic neighbourhood schemes funded by Transport for London, we have studied resident reaction to these trial schemes and retained the aspects that were popular.
We have retained the 20 miles per hour speed limit area in the east of the Ward that was originally introduced as part of these schemes. Consultation with residents showed this was popular and we are discussing action to achieve more enforcement of the limits. The speed limit area covers Mayfield Road and the roads in the Ward to the east of it. This is the area where, following lengthy consultation, a new parking control area was introduced last November. This has cleared parking from these roads which has encouraged speeding, thus justifying the new controls on speeding. The Council’s consultation exercise on parking reached a successful conclusion last year with the Sutton South Permit Parking Area now introduced. An earlier proposal was thrown out by residents but this proposal achieved majority support, generally by overwhelming majorities, in the roads consulted. We regard this as evidence of the success of the approach of the Council, with successive rounds of careful consultation. The parking permit area will be subject to a review this summer. Do contact us if there are aspects of the scheme you want reviewed.