ONE PLANET SUTTON

dana final

On 15 July Sutton Council debated our on-going commitment to the sustainability agenda and Sutton’s desire to be London’s most sustainable suburb. Sutton is ranked the highest outer London Borough in having the lowest CO2 emissions.

We represent Sutton South Ward, which has only one open space, the Devonshire Avenue Nature Area, an oasis of open space in an area dominated by small blocks of flats, where a study showed half the children live in properties without a garden. We think it commendable that Sutton Council has ensured that this site remains a nature reserve. But a few years ago that meant leaving it as jungle. It was little used, except for anti-social happenings behind the brick walls that still occupied part of the site. Today it remains a nature area, aiding the survival of the rare small blue butterfly (a talisman of Sutton South Ward), but it has benches, paths and a nature trail. We wanted to take the opportunity the motion afforded to pay tribute to Sutton Nature Conservation Volunteers, who maintain the site, and to those who distribute the funds to aid community projects provided by the landfill operator Viridor, whose funding, in 2012, paid for the renovation of the site.

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.”

 

MAJOR COMMUNITY AWARD – AND NEW EXHIBITION – FOR SUTTON SOUTH HELLO!

honeywood event

On 26 March the Sutton South Hello! Thursday afternoon group launched a major exhibition of their work at the Council’s historic museum Honeywood, in Carshalton. The launch was well attended and our picture shows Heather Honour with the Mayor of Sutton, Councillor Arthur Hookway, the Care Minister Norman Lamb MP (who launched the Hello! project on 9 May 2012, see below) and local MP Paul Burstow.

Sutton Community Awards 2015

Sutton Community Awards 2015

On 24 February 2015 Sutton South Hello! received an award in the Sutton Community Awards annual awards ceremony. This was in the “Community Spirit” category for actions that have brought the community together through community events. The photo shows the Hello! team with the certificate. Left to right the Hello! team who came up to collect the award are Colin Iddles (chair of South Sutton Neighbourhood Association), Gerry Benworth (Skill), Fran Wilson (secretary of the Hello! board), Heather Honour (Chair and Founder), Nedal Ali, Councillor Nali Patel.

South Sutton Hello! is the brainchild of our former Liberal Democrat Councillor Heather Honour, an initiative to combat loneliness and isolation. It is supported by major local charities like AgeUK, Citizens’ Advice Bureau, Sutton Mental Health Foundation, and local residents’ Associations such as the South Sutton Neighbourhood Association and the Highfields Residents’ Association. Heather chairs the Board and has been the driving force behind the project.

It was launched at Christchurch, in Christchurch Park, on 9 May 2012 by the Care Minister, Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb, and is intended to be a pilot for similar initiatives elsewhere. There are now similar Hello! clubs elsewhere in Sutton, such as Worcester Park.

hello launch

Sutton South Ward was chosen as, on the basis Campaign to End Social Isolation toolkit, it is a ward where the risk of social isolation is particularly high:

–         the Ward has the highest proportion of over 65’s of any Ward in Sutton

–         the proportion over 85 is double the Sutton and national average

–         there are a large number of people living in sheltered accommodation for the elderly or in single occupancy flats

–         over three quarters of residents live in purpose-built blocks of flats

–         almost half of all households are single person households

–         but a quarter of residents in the Ward say they regularly volunteer in some capacity, so there is a high level of community activism.

The project has drawn together a listing of the various community initiatives in Sutton South, particularly those run by the churches and AgeUK. It has produced newsletters. There are a number of specific activities it has promoted, in particular the Wednesday “Hello Club” at Christchurch and a Thursday club on craft activities. The project has been aided in setting up these activities by SCILL (Sutton Centre for Independent Living and Learning) and AgeUK

AgeUK has assisted with the organisation of chair based exercises. Councillor Nali Patel often attends and forms a link with the Sutton and Surrey Senior Citizens Club, which meets at the Thomas Wall Centre and is in particular a friendship club for Asians living in Sutton. Other activities in the Ward include the “Second Saturday” social club for older people at the Friends’ Meeting House on the second Saturday of each month.

AgeUK say there has been a 106% increase in callers from our Ward to its Information and Advice service since the project started promoting it. The project is seeking volunteers, particularly as befrienders. These are organised by the Sutton Centre for Independent Living and Learning (Skill). There is a phone number 0208 770 4065, or email information@scill.org.uk.

NEW CROSSING IN CEDAR ROAD – COMPLEMENTING THE GATEWAY PROJECT

zebra crossing cedar

After a long campaign initially led by Richard and former Councillor Heather Honour, more lately by Richard and Trish, the new zebra crossing in Cedar Road is there. This project began some years ago when we obtained funding for a survey of traffic speeds in the Ward which identified Cedar Road and Cavendish Road as speeding hot spots. The new traffic islands in Cavendish Road have reduced speeds. People will doubtless think the Cedar Road zebra crossing is part of the Sutton Gateway project, but in fact it is a separate project.

The Gateway project should be completed in the next month and has smartened up the station area.

The project aims to further develop the area around Sutton station, including by:

– 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

– less crowded pavements and bus shelters

–  a new crossing in Brighton Road.

NEW COMMUNITY GARDEN OPENED AT CHRISTCHURCH

christchurch garden

On 24 March Richard attended the opening of the new community garden at Christchurch. This is a remarkable piece of work to turn a scrubby bit of wasteland into something attractive and useful, funded by lottery money, the church and the Council.

The picture shows left to right our MP Paul Burstow, the Mayor, the Reverend Justine Middlemiss (of the Christchurch team Ministry), the Bishop of Croydon and the Reverend Mark Pullinger (the vicar of Christchurch) at the opening. The Bishop blessed the garden.

KEEPING SUTTON CLEAN AND TIDY

The bags of rubbish collected by the Highfields Residents' Association

The bags of rubbish collected by the Highfields Residents’ Association

Sutton Council issued a call to local people to get involved in the country’s first ever Community Clear Up Day on Saturday 21 March.

Richard joined with other residents organised by his local residents’ association, the Highfields Residents’ Association, to help clear his local neighbourhood of litter. Richard is a former chair of the Association.

The Council supported volunteer groups willing to help clear their local area, by providing litter picking tools, rubbish sacks and gloves.

As well as being an awful blight on the green borough of Sutton, litter costs the council up to £4m a year to clean up.  That is the equivalent of running a library service for a year; repairing 100,000 potholes, providing 210 residential care places for the elderly; or building half a primary school.

The Council successfully campaigned against litter last year – hiring two new enforcement officers to issue penalties to those who litter in Sutton; installing 300 new bins; and even displaying 11 tonnes of rubbish on the high street, to demonstrate a year’s worth of litter.

But there is still work to be done to keep Sutton clean and save the taxpayer money.

GOOD NEWS FOR SUTTON’S THEATRES

pond and memorial straight

The show will go on for both of Sutton’s theatres which are set to be taken over a new theatre company to herald an exciting new era for the two venues.

The Sutton Theatres Trust will take over the running of the Charles Cryer Studio Theatre in Carshalton and the Secombe Theatre in Sutton.

Sutton Council began a review of its cultural services in August, through its Sutton’s Future campaign, which involves the pubic in helping to reshape Council services in order to make £40m of savings to its annual budget by 2019 due to unprecedented Government cuts.

The Council promised to consult users and try to find arts groups who could take over the ownership and management of the two theatres with no cost to the Council.

Through a series of meetings and workshops with potential bidders and 1,262 responses to an online and telephone survey, we have found the right candidate to take the theatres over and keep them open.

Sutton Theatres Trust, a company limited by guarantee, will lease both theatres for a 10-year period after being chosen from two bids on the basis of artistic and community value, financial stability and sustainability, governance and track record.

OVER 14 000 RESIDENTS SIGN UP TO GREEN GARDEN WASTE SCHEME

quadrant bins

10,000 people needed to sign up by the 15th February 2015 to make the proposed service viable. By the middle of January over 8 000 residents had signed up and by the due date it was over 12 000. We are there!

Now, those who have signed up need to make sure they make the necessary payment, and you can do this via the Sutton website. 

 

Stopping the free service will save the Council £736,000 a year, a contribution to the £40 million needed as a result of Government cuts.

Sutton Council will begin charging for Green Garden Waste Collection from July 2015.

Residents had until 15th February 2015 to sign up for the service. They can still sign up and make the required payment, either online by visiting

www.sutton.gov.uk/ggw

or by returning the form received in the post to the Council.

A 240 litre bin will be charged at £59 annually with an early bird discount rate of £49 offered to people who signed up before the 15th February 2015. That’s cheaper than neighbouring boroughs of Kingston (£71), Merton (£65) and Richmond (£60). This decision was taken by the Environment and Neighbourhood’s Committee after almost 2,000 people had their say on the future of the service. The consultation was part of the Council’s “Sutton’s Future” campaign which encourages residents to help the Council achieve £40m of savings from its annual budget by 2019. The savings are being forced by unprecedented government reductions to funding and growing demand for Council services.

Residents were given the option of the current free service becoming a charged for service, or being stopped completely. The paid for service will start on 1 July, 2015. The Borough-wide consultation included a telephone survey representative of the Borough, an online survey on the Sutton’s Future website and three ‘Have Your Say’ events where residents could give their views in person and ask questions. In the telephone survey, 79% of those surveyed had a garden and 74% of these used the current service. Out of the 1,002 people surveyed, 32% were in favour of charging for the service and 42% supported it being stopped. In the online survey, out of the 892 people that took part, 69% favoured the chargeable service and 60% said they intended to subscribe, while 11% said they supported the service stopping. In the three ‘Have Your Say’ events, the preferred option among the 92 attendees was to charge for the service.

STREET TREE PRUNING PROGRAMME ABOUT TO BEGIN

Residents often ask treeResidents often ask us about the street trees in their road.

There are over a thousand street trees in the Ward, and they are an important contribution to the pleasant, green, suburban character of Sutton which we all cherish. Unfortunately at this time of year they drop a lot of leaves, and these are being progressively cleared up. Trees are selectively pruned on a four year cycle. A survey of the trees in Sutton South Ward has recently been completed by trained arborculturalists and a programme of tree pruning and felling will be completed in the Ward between the end of December 2014 and March 2015. The arborculturalists have carried out a full health and condition survey and the pruning recommended is to remove or minimise the potential for the trees to cause harm to people or property. Unfortunately the programme will involve the loss of a few trees, nineteen in all. We are only taking down trees which are dead, or dying, or diseased, and dangerous.

Our contractor City Suburban Tree Surgeons will begin the work shortly and expect it will be completed by the end of March 2015. If a tree near you is felled and, after it is felled, you would like the Council to consider a replacement, let us know. The tree planting budget is, like all Council budgets, under some pressure. Residents and residents’ organisation sometimes fund planting and this is always possible.