ACTION ON PORNOGRAPHY

TESCO BOTH 2

Trish is continuing her campaign to seek action on the allegations that pornographic films have been shot at locations in the Borough. She has recently been interviewed by both BBC radio and BBC television about these allegations, that pornographic films have been shot at public locations in the Borough, including one close to her home. Trish rightly said she was outraged by this, as it was an act of indecency in public, and children or other members of the public might observe it. The police should take action if they encounter such behaviour and seek additional powers if more powers are needed.

There is, of course, no evidence that this type of filming of obscene acts is any more prevalent in Sutton than elsewhere, as no-one is collecting data, but one has to have a concern about the people taking part in such filming (are these trafficked women?) and the possibility that such public acts of indecency might be observed by people, who will of course be horrified. And we all deplore pornography.

Trish being filmed by the BBC cameraman

Trish being filmed by the BBC cameraman

GETTING YOUR FIRST CHOICE OF SECONDARY SCHOOL

Overton Grange school

Overton Grange school

Every borough in London is struggling to keep place with the increasing demand for school places. Sutton has done well to cope with the increased demand for primary school places. The bulge is now working its way through to secondary schools. Hence the need for Overton Grange school (the only secondary school in our Ward) to expand, and the need for a new school.

Sutton is doing well. It has the third-highest first-preference rate for secondary school places in London, with almost 80 per cent of local families receiving their first choice of school for their child – well above the London average of 68.52 per cent.

Sutton has once again achieved one of the best rates overall, with the percentage of families receiving one of their top-three preferences increasing to 94.5 per cent – up 1.5 per cent from 2015 and almost six percentage points above the London average of 88.64 per cent.

Parents in the borough have been told which secondary schools have made offers of places for their children for the September 2016 intake.

In September, these children will start at our secondary schools, officially ranked as being among the best in England for teaching and exam results. In 2015, the proportion of Sutton students scoring 5 or more A* to C grades including English and Maths was 76.9 per cent, well above the 2014 national average of 53.4 per cent. Across the borough, 83.5 per cent of pupils achieved five or more GCSEs.

Almost two-thirds (65.1 per cent) of students across the borough achieved the highest A-Level A*, A and B grades in 2015 and the percentage of Sutton students achieving an A-Level pass grade (A* to E) increased to 99.7 per cent from 98.5 per cent in 2014. This was well above the UK average.

 

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.

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.

SOME NEW RESPONSIBILITIES FOR RICHARD AND TRISH

best statiion small

The “annual” Council meeting on 18 May, at which the new Mayor was elected, marked the start of the new year for the Council, with new appointments to the Council’s committees.

Trish remains a member of the important Housing, Economy and Business Committee, and is a member, as is Richard, of the sub-group that is re-writing the local plan for Sutton. This is vital work.

Richard remains chair of the Planning Committee but has taken on new responsibilities as Lead Member on Human Resources. As such, he now chairs both of the Council committees that act as a channel of liaison with recognised trade unions, the Council and Employees Joint Committee and the Joint Health and Safety Committee. He also represents the Council on the Greater London Employment Forum and the Greater London Provincial Council.

Richard is also a member of the Strategy and Resources Committee and the Standards Committee. Gloria (Richard’s wife) sometimes reminds him he is supposed to be retired.

Both Richard and Trish are members of the South Sutton, Cheam and Belmont Local Committee.

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.”

 

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.

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.