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.


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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

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:


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.”



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.


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.


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.


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Here is Councillor Simon Wales, chair of the Sutton Gateway Project Board (on which Richard represents Sutton South), cutting the ribbon to open the side entrance on 26 September.

simon at station

And, below, this is what it used to looks like – shuttered and barricaded.

side entrance

Work is completed and the new side entrance to Sutton station is open. Hooray.

A further meeting of the project board guiding the Sutton Gateway project, a board on which Richard represents Sutton South Ward, heard on 25 September that good progress is being made with the scheme.

The most important news is that the building work on the side entrance is completed enabling the passageway from The Quadrant to be restored and the side entrance to be opened for passenger use. The side entrance is open from 7am to 7pm.The cycle racks next to the newly opened side entrance have been improved.

Work at the front of the station commenced in September and will be completed by March 2015, but with no work over the Christmas period to avoid any inconvenience to shoppers. Some of the work will involve traffic diversions.

The project’s proposals to further develop the area around Sutton station include:

– 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

–  a new crossing in Brighton Road

– the opening of the side entrance to Sutton station

– new “legible London” signs

– a re-arrangement of the bus stops to reduce congestion

– an additional crossing for pedestrians outside the station

– re-design of the Cedar Road / Brighton Road junction to improve visibility for motorists

– it is not proposed to move the taxi rank, except that after 6.30 some taxis will be able to park immediately opposite the station, with the bus stop opposite the station moved further down Brighton Road and with some buses stopping in Mulgrave Road

–  there will be “live” bus information in Sutton station, subject to further research by Network Rail

– the timing of the pedestrian crossing at the High Street / Grove Road / Sutton Court Road junction will be amended to give more time to cross

– the number of parking spaces in the station area will be increased

– general improvements in design and to the “public realm” around the station, with more flowers, more colour and better signage.

The changes, including the changes to the bus stops, will be completed by March 2015.

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.

On 27 February Richard and former Ward Councillor Heather Honour organised a breakfast meeting with local businesses in our Ward to take their views on the Sutton Gateway project. Several joined us in the Rose Café in the Brighton Road, which serves excellent scrambled eggs (Richard’s breakfast). This is right in the area that is to be developed so we were able to chat and walk round the area to see the proposed changes.

Public consultation on the emerging proposals ran till 5 March. Consultation was by leaflets in the locality, questionnaires to members of the public, posters, newspaper advertisements, exhibitions, further “stakeholder” meetings and putting information in Sutton station.

Residents and businesses close to the station were consulted, together with the emergency services and other groups with a major interest such as Network Rail, Southern Rail and TfL.

Also of great value will be the “legible London” signs at the station entrance. See the designs at

legible london sign

Richard says “As a local man who for twenty years of my life commuted to central London by a route that meant I walked every working day along Wellesley Road and past the shuttered and barricaded side entrance, to enter the station from the front, it has long been an objective of mine to get the side entrance open. Every second counts when you are a commuter.”



Work will be carried out between 24 October to 11 November to clean the gulleys in roads in our Ward. This is essential work to avoid flooding.

The work will require temporary  waiting restrictions – ‘no waiting’ – and loading restrictions – ‘no loading / unloading’ – in those roads or lengths of roads where cleaning is taking place on the day of the cleaning.  Advance notice will be given to residents three days before the restrictions are due to apply.  The restrictions will be removed as soon as the works are completed.  The works will take place between 7am and 2pm on Mondays to Fridays.

The work will require the temporary  suspension of any disabled persons parking places,  permit parking place,  shared use permit/pay and display parking place,  loading place or any other free parking place in those roads or lengths of roads that are adjacent to a drainage gulley, on the days cleaning is taking place.

The days the work will take place are:

24/10/2014 Abbottsleigh Close, Audely Place, Carmborne Road and Stanley Road (between Worcester Roadand Ventnor Road).

27/10/2014 Blackbush Close, Effingham Close, Grange Road (Overton Road to Worcester Road), Grange Vale, Tapestry Close. Upton Dene, Ventnor Road and Westmorland Drive.

28/10/2014 Bonchurch Close, Brighton Road, ( Devonshire Avenue to Mulgrave Road), Devonshire Avenue, Devonshire Road Sutton (Langley Park Road to Devonshire Avenue).

29/10/2014 Christchurch Park, Milestone Close, Walnut Mews and White Lodge Close

30/10/2014 Albion Road, Downside Road. Farm Close Sutton, Farm Road, and The Ridgeway.

31/10/2014 Ambleside Gardens, Cavendish Road, Prior Avenue and Upland Road

10/11/2014 Cedar Road, Chalgrove Road, Eaton Road, Langley Park Road, (Chalgrove Road to Railway Bridge), Mitre Close.

11/11/2014 Cedar Gardens, Cumnor Road, Hillcroome Road, Mayfield Road, Rutherford Close and Wellesley Road.

12/11/2014 Coniston Gardens, Copse Hill, Eastleigh Close, Ferndown Close, Kayemoor Road, Leslie Gardens, Summers Close, Willis Avenue and Worcester Road (Overton Road to Mulgrave Road).



On 11 July Richard took the helm as chair of the Council’s Planning Committee (formerly the Development Control Committee) by chairing the first meeting of the Committee following the election and his appointment as chair.

A lively meeting dealt with some important planning applications, including one for the re-development of Times Square in the Sutton shopping centre.

Richard commenced by thanking his predecessor, former Councillor John Leach.

Richard introduced his first meeting by setting out his view of the vision and mission of the committee, saying that the work of our committee is massively important and our mission is:

– to achieve the vision for Sutton in our plans and ensure that acceptable standards are observed in all developments within the Borough.

He said “The business of the committee is to consider certain categories of planning applications, particularly those that are significant to the development of Sutton and those that are disputed.

The way the planning system works is that Sutton Council adopts and publicises planning policies, setting out its overall plans for the Borough and standards on such matters as design, environmental impact and the impact on local amenities.

These policies are discussed and adopted by the Housing, Economy and Business Committee (HEB).

Our committee is concerned with the implementation of those policies – in the actuality of the proposals for new developments in Sutton, in the planning applications that come before us and thus what is actually built.

In considering planning applications we will not grant them where there is clearly a conflict with our planning policies. A decision not to grant an application is of course subject to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.

But the work of our committee is massively important – to achieving the vision for Sutton in our plans and in ensuring that acceptable standards are observed in all developments within the Borough.”




Trish and Richard are taking on a range of new responsibilities, following their election.

Trish will be a member of the Council’s important Housing, Economy and Business Committee. She will be a member of the Licensing Committee, having had experience in matters relating to licensing. She will also be a member of the Appeals Committee and of the Merton and Sutton Joint Cemetery Board.

Richard will be chair of the Council’s Planning Committee (formerly Development Control Committee) and continue as chair of the Health and Safety Committee. As a former chair of the Board of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work he cannot escape that task. He will also sit on the Strategy and Resources Committee and the Standards Committee. He will also sit on the Council’s joint committee with recognised trade unions and have other responsibilities on joint committees of London Councils. His wife Gloria sometimes reminds him that he is supposed to be retired.