The new "disabled" car bay outside Fiske Court

As active Councillors, we are continually taking up problems brought to us by local residents. It gives a warm feeling if we can solve the problem.

Two recent examples illustrate the range of issues we deal with. A disabled resident at Fiske Court in Cavendish Road has had the problem that she parks her mobility car, which she depends on to get around, in the “disabled” parking bay outside Fiske Court. This is right under a lime tree and the sap means the car gets very dirty. She is unable to wash the car herself due to her disability and has to get it washed frequently, which is expensive in terms of time and money. We have now got the bay moved so it is no longer under the lime tree.

The other example is more problematic. We were alerted by residents to problems with the waste bins at Grosvenor Court in the Brighton Road. This is not the first time there have been such problems. Grosvenor Court is a large block of mansion flats above a row of shops and restaurants in Regent Parade. A set of waste bins at the back of Regent Parade are used by both the businesses and by residents. However, the businesses have their own bins for trade waste. There have been instances when the trade waste has wound up in the bins meant for residents and the volume has meant there has been a dreadful problem of overflowing rubbish.

The most recent problem seemed to arise from one of the businesses in Regent Parade putting its trade waste in bins that were not for this waste. We arranged for the Council’s enforcement team to make an inspection and they concluded that due to the failure of previous attempts to encourage the owner to manage his waste in a responsible manner they would issue a Fixed Penalty Notice. We hope that this will be enough to prevent this issue from re-occurring in the future. Everyone is sorry that things reached this point, but it seemed that the problem would not go away unless it became clear that action would be taken, and it important people know that as active local Councillors we will prompt the Council to take action to protect the interests of residents when problems like this occur.


The Triangle

Richard has intervened with Council officers to sort out a potential road safety problem at the triangle in the middle of the road where Mayfield Road meets The Ridgway. The opportunity was taken, at the same time, to confirm with residents whether they want any changes made to the layout of this attractive local feature.

The small triangle of land at this road junction is planted with cotoneaster bushes and three flowering cherry trees. It is understood that up to about the mid-1980’s the area was grassed, though with the trees, and it was planted with cotoneaster bushes at the initiative of local residents. It is believed that there was an understanding that the residents would maintain the bushes, but the bushes have always been maintained by the Council.

Correspondence between residents about the maintenance of the cotoneaster bushes led Richard to convene a meeting at the triangle on 9 August 2012, attended by Bill Bailey, the Council officer in charge of the maintenance of hedges, and several local residents.

Mr. Bailey explained that the Council treated the cotoneaster bushes as a slow-growing hedge and cut them twice a year, normally in July and September. The difficulty arose with the first cut, as advice from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds was not to cut any hedges till August, and by then it is likely that the cotoneaster bushes will have grown to a height that means they are interfering with the visibility of drivers. Drivers coming from Mayfield Road have difficulty seeing cars coming down The Ridgway, from the left, as they are obscured by the bushes. In recent years the cut had been scheduled for July but he had usually been alerted by a local resident to a developing safety problem and had immediately arranged for the bushes to be trimmed, ahead of their position in the schedule. The Council would be happy to adopt any solution that was acceptable to the residents.

In discussion the following points were made:

– it seemed unlikely that birds would nest in these bushes, and residents did not believe that this was a real likelihood. Mr. Bailey said that the contractors would always check in any case, and he had no problem about arranging that the first cut would be earlier

– options such as paving the edge of the area or reverting to grass had been proposed but were unpopular with residents, who generally liked the layout of the triangle as it is

– an option would be to cut back the cotoneasters at the corners or along the part of the triangle fronting The Ridgway, but these solutions too would be unpopular

– the problem could be avoided by scheduling an earlier cut, with the additional safeguard that any resident who felt a problem was arising before the first cut could contact the Council or a local Councillor (three LibDem Councillors live in The Ridgway), and the Council would arrange an immediate inspection and cut (if necessary). This was agreed to be the best solution.

Mr. Bailey has now written to the Council’s contractors instructing that next year the first cut will be in June. This will eliminate the potential road safety problem but without making more radical changes to the triangle that residents do not want.

Richard said “There was a potential road safety issue here and I was pleased I was able to sort it out. It was good to take the opportunity to take views on the layout of what is an attractive feature of the area. I am glad we are not going to change it but can at the same time deal with the problem these bushes can cause.”


Sutton Council has launched a consultation on proposals to change Council tax payment requirements and entitlement to Council tax benefit. This results from changes proposed by the Government to “localise” Council tax benefit payments.

The Government’s proposals provide opportunities but present major problems. They enable Sutton to adopt its own scheme of entitlement to Council tax benefit (paid to those in hardship to help them make Council tax payments) but since the funding provided by the Government has been cut to 90% of the previous level the scheme Sutton will be required to adopt is bound to be less generous than the current scheme.

You can see the full proposals by clicking on this link.

The one positive aspect is that it will enable Sutton, subject to consultation, to remove incentives for people to keep properties empty, by removing discounts that enable people with empty homes and second homes to pay less council tax. 

While the new scheme for paying Council tax benefit is less generous, the Council has sought to protect the elderly, the disabled and those with small children. This is in accordance with our principled belief, as Liberal Democrats, in fairness and helping the disadvantaged.

Richard, as vice-chair of the Housing, Economy and Business Committee, is closely involved in this work. He says “no-one wants to introduce a less generous scheme for payment of Council tax benefit, but Government decisions force us to do this. The one ray of light in these proposals is that we can put pressure on people who are keeping properties they own empty to get them back into the housing market. When properties are in short supply we cannot afford to have homes remaining empty.”


While we are concerned about safety at the Hillcroome Road / Kings Lane single track railway bridge, we have some concerns about proposals to change the layout of the Kings Lane bridge currently being put to our local committee by Sutton’s traffic engineers.

As your local Councillors, we have had discussions with traffic engineers about whether some simple steps could be taken to improve the safety of pedestrians and cars at the Kings Lane bridge adjacent to Hillcroome Road, at the far north east of Sutton South Ward.

The single lane road with no pavement means pedestrians have to walk in the road. Drivers have poor visibility as to whether a car is coming the other way and are frequently uncertain as to when to advance. The picture above illustrates the problem, as the lady with a buggy and a toddler hurries to get across the bridge while a car waits at the far side for her to get out of the way. 

Some major restructuring such as putting in a separate pedestrian bridge is unaffordable and would be disproportionate. We have considered whether more minor improvements would help, such as mirrors, steps to improve visibility, better or different signage, building out the pavement at the Hillcroome Road end to alter the alignment of vehicles as they approach, etc. The changes we championed to the layout of the road passing under the bridge at Grange Vale (reported in a post elsewhere on this site, “Action to improve safety at the Grange Vale bridge”, see archive for February 2012) have shown that it is possible to make improvements through some simple steps.

We are interested in the views of local people on what is feasible or useful and would like you to contact us if you have a view.

The proposal to change the layout at the Hillcroome Road end to “straighten up” cars approaching from that end is worth considering but would probably have little impact on the risk. We favour more public consultation on possible proposals,


Garden waste collections re-start from Monday 16 April 2012 and run until Friday 14 December 2012. Each household can put out, free of charge:

*  two Council authorised 120 litre reusable sacks, or

*  three 70 litre jute sacks (additional single use 70 litre biodegradable sacks can be purchased for £1 per sack).

Just put out the sacks on the day of your normal re-cycling collection, starting Tuesday 24 April in our Ward. 


There is a more general re-organisation of waste collection services taking place at this time. It will not alter waste collection arrangements in our Ward in that bins will still be collected on Tuesdays across almost all of the Ward, but the time of bin collections might change in some roads. The collection in Westmoreland Drive is on Wednesday.


We have written to the National Trust to thank them for the unwitting help they gave us when we pursued our objective of installing a small piece of children’s play equipment in the Devonshire Avenue Nature Area (DANA), so the area is better used. The inspiration for the wooden play equipment came from the NT installation at Box Hill. Our letter explains all and reads as follows: 

“Dear National Trust.
In a world of grant applications and “evidencing” everything, we thought you would find the following useful.
The children’s natural play area in Box Hill has been imitated.
We now have similar play equipment in the Devonshire Avenue Nature Area (DANA) in the London Borough of Sutton.
This tiny, one acre reserve is surrounded by blocks of flats.  The nearest playground for children is over a mile away.  But the nature area is home to the very rare small blue butterfly.  There was an inevitable conflict between the conservationists, who wanted no “nasty modern looking stuff that looks like it has come from Disney land” and local families desperate for somewhere to take their children.
We were able to show that the National Trust have achieved that balance at Box Hill.  Using your play area as inspiration we were able to work with the locals and the conservationists to achieve a happy compromise.
The result, we hope is a much improved Nature Area, where more children come to play and the precious small blue butterfly is still protected.  But most important of all, we now have a chance to educate the visitors about the importance of nature conservation and what to look for in their area.
Thank you for your inspiration.
Cllr Mary Burstow       (Sutton Play Champion)
Cllr Heather Honour  
Cllr Richard Clifton   (Sutton South Ward Councillors)”


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Heather visited the Viridor Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) in Lakeland near Sough yesterday, 29th February, with Councillor Mary Burstow.

Their aim was to observe at first hand the operation of an ERF similar to that proposed on land currently used as the Beddington landfill site.  This is particularly important given their roles as Vice Chair and Chair of Sutton’s Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee.

For  more information on future plans for the Beddington site visit:    http://www.slwp.org.uk/


Sutton Council has now completed the first stage of the programme we have been spearheading for improvements to the Devonshire Avenue Nature Area.

We have taken forward this programme with Council officers, closely involving the South Sutton Neighbourhood Association. We have promoted the case for the installation of a small piece of play equipment, shown above, suitable for children aged up to 7, to enable better use to be made of the area while not removing its central purpose as a nature area, home to the rare small blue butterfly. A further programme is underway to tidy the area and lay out paths. The nature area is the only open space in our Ward. It is in a part of our Ward where many children live in small flats without access to a garden, as a study conducted by Devonshire Avenue school has shown. We are pleased with the progress of this project and see it as a significant achievement.

Trees were planted on 26th March at 10 am with children from Devonshire School (plus Heather and Richard) taking part.

Further steps include the following:

* the back wall was removed at the beginning of January and the area levelled. The contractor has put a

formal path through the woodland.

• The area will be reseeded. This needs temporary fencing.

• A nature nature trail will be installed.

• Mary from the Council’s biodiversity team is working on the signs, to guide the nature trail.

• There will be a number of carefully positioned benches installed

• There will be another nature trail for children when the weather is warmer. The last was hugely

popular and we have found that children who took part in last June’s Nature Trail are still fascinated

by butterflies. 


Every two years Sutton Council has commissioned the polling organisation MORI to undertake an independent in-depth research survey into the attitudes of people who live in Sutton, to help us understand what people like and dislike, and thus improve services.

The full results will appear soon on the Council’s website (www.sutton.gov.uk) but we have seen a digest of the results and would welcome any feedback from local residents on your reactions.

The results that particularly struck us are:

* Sutton residents have a high level of satisfaction with Sutton as a place to live, 91% being satisfied (11 points higher than the national average), with the proportion “very satisfied” increasing from 25% to 36% since the last survey in 2009. This is in line with recent surveys that concluded that Sutton is the best place in London to bring up children, taking account of factors such as our good schools, good transport links and low crime rate

* the issues that most concern residents in Sutton are parking, dog fouling and speeding traffic, these scoring above issues such as litter, vandalism and graffiti. There is sharply increasing concern about dog fouling, which reflects our experience in terms of issues residents raise with us as Councillors. Parking is also an issue of concern though these concerns take different forms – in roads like Eastleigh Close and Bonchurch Close it concerns difficulty in finding a parking space nearby for one’s own car, in some other roads it is a concern about commuter parking in the road. In Sutton South Ward, there is definately a concern about litter, but vandalism and graffiti are less of a problem locally

* almost three in four (73%) are satisfied with the services of Sutton Council, higher than the national figure. There appears to be a strongly positive attitude to services such as parks and open spaces, street lighting, street cleaning, refuse collection and playgrounds, less strongly positive (though still positive) attitudes to pavement and road maintenance, and to parking services

* a concern emerges from the survey about how well Sutton Council keeps people informed     

* although Sutton is a low crime area compared to other parts of London and 96% of residents feel safe walking outside in their neighbourhood alone during the day, this proportion drops to 62% after dark, and residents are increasingly concerned about anti-social behaviour and burglary or theft

* a quarter of Sutton’s residents volunteer regularly and 81% think Sutton is an area where people from different backgrounds get on well together.

It should be noted is that, overall, people feel less well-off than when the survey was last undertaken two years ago, with 45% saying their personal financial circumstances have got worse in the last year, as the recession has bitten.

We are interested in the views of local people on these issues and would welcome it if readers of this article want to give us their opinion.

Matters that clearly require attention include:

– there is a finding that people are less satisfied than one might expect with the information received from the Council. How can we improve on this ?

– dog fouling has got worse. The problem is a small minority of dog owners. Most are very responsible. Is there any solution ?

A further study of our local area (covering three Wards – Sutton South, Belmont and Cheam) will be available shortly. The sample size is too small to give results just for Sutton South Ward.