As local Councillors, we responded to the consultation exercise on the closure of ticket offices in local train stations. The closure of the ticket office at Sutton station, which is in our Ward, was threatened. We responded to the consultation opposing this move.
We drew attention to instances where family members were able to get a cheaper deal on tickets than they could have got buying tickets over the internet by getting the advice of the staff at the ticket office. Having staffed ticket offices is essential to giving people advice on travel. People need advice on travel when they arrive at the station. Having these staff wandering around the station means you will not find them when you arrive at the station. There are particular difficulties for those who are partially sighted or disabled.
The consultation was, after an outcry over the limited nature of the consultation proposals, extended to 1 September. The decision has now been taken not to proceed with the closure plan but we will monitor the situation as effective closure of the ticket office by stealth, in particular the progreesive reduction of the hours of opening, is entirely possible.
The Sutton South Ward Police Consultative Panel met on the evening of 11 October. These are open, public meetings all residents can attend. We were addressed by our Ward Constable, Constable Robyn Skivens. Her colleague Constable Owen Harding often attends but was involved in work for his University course. Constable Skivens set out the crime statistics from 1 July this year to the present. This meeting was much less well attended than the previous meeting, held on 19 July at the Friends’ Meeting House in Cedar Road. Prior to this, meetings were held at Christchurch in Christchurch Park, but this is now unavailable.
Given the level of public interest in crime it is disappointing that these meetings are not better attended and there was discussion of how to increase attendance. A provisional date of Wednesday January 10 was agreed for the next meeting, venue to be determined, and it was agreed that approaches would be made to Ward-based churches, residents’ groups and schools to see if attendance could be increased.
During the period from 1 July there had been 21 burglaries in the Ward. This included 9 residential burglaries, 5 burglaries of garages, 2 of building sites in the Ward and 4 burglaries of commercial premises – including a vape shop and a barbers. These are investigated by a specific Sutton borough burglary team. CCTV evidence including evidence from doorbell cameras is useful to the team. There had been 25 incidents involving motor vehicles, including 9 thefts of vehicles, 7 thefts from vehicles and 4 thefts of number plates. Interestingly, there had been no catalytic converter thefts. The important advice is not to leave anything valuable in your car and be careful to check it is locked when you leave the car. One resident at the meeting said he had accidently left the car unlocked one evening and money had been stolen from the car. There was one parcel theft, one robbery, one offence involving possession of an offensive weapon and four incidents classified as violence against women and girls, including stalking. These offences are a London-wide priority for the Met at this time. The police always stress the need to report all crime, however trivial.
Constable Skivens commented on the number of “extractions” when she and Constable Harding are asked to leave Ward duties and assist in activities elsewhere. This reduces attention to Ward matters. Recently this has included hospital guarding and re-assurance patrols in Wallington following the murder on the Roundshaw estate. There is still a vacancy for a PCSO in the Ward team.
A further meeting was arranged for 10 January, at Overton Grange school.
The localised information given at the meeting usefully supplemented some more general information given at the local committee meeting the previous week. This gave an annual figure for crime in Sutton South Ward for the year ending 31 July 2023, compared to data for the previous year. The figures showed there were 507 offences (total notified crime) in the Ward, a drop of 8.3 % on the previous year. Crime had fallen in every category except robbery, which was thought to be some incidents near Sutton station and arguments between teenage schoolchildren. The data also confirmed that Sutton is a low-crime borough and our Ward a low- crime area within Sutton. Sutton is one of the five safest boroughs in London with figures 21% lower than the national crime rate and 31% lower than London as a whole.
The owner of Chelsea Court, 54 Mulgrave Road has had planning permission to extend the building – in effect adding two extra floors to the block of flats – refused by Sutton Council. This was the latest in a series of applications in our Ward where owners of blocks of flats have sought to extend the building upwards.
As local Councillors, we were concerned about these proposals. While there is a need for more accommodation, the changes to the building would in our view make it look incongruous, not good enough for Sutton. The block is an attractive architect-designed building (see photo), one of the more attractive blocks in Mulgrave Road, and the proposed changes would destroy the symmetry of the building. The Planning Department at Sutton Council agreed with our objections. The changes would also have involved building work that would greatly disturb the current residents of the block.
The owners used a mechanism called “prior approval” when submitting their planning application. This mechanism, in our view, was introduced by the Government to undermine the planning system. As a result, we could take the application to the Council’s Planning Committee, which Richard chairs, for decision by Councillors. We may still not be able to stop these changes taking place given the powers of the remote Planning Inspectorate based in Bristol to over-ride local decisions.
We always seek to ensure in such cases that a number of conditions are stipulated in any planning permission, if one is ever granted, to try to protect the peace and quiet of the building during construction work. These include that access to the roof should be via an external hoist with all materials for work on the roof transported to the roof by an external hoist and not brought up via the well of the building. The interior of the building should not be a storage area or building site. There should be a construction management plan to minimize disruption to existing residents and ensure there are controls on dust and noise, and on hours of work. The contractors should join the Considerate Contractors’ Scheme. There should be a liaison officer that residents can contact if they observe poor behaviour. If scaffolding is erected outside residents’ windows it should only be erected when needed and removed as soon as it is not needed.
We have successfully opposed this development but wait to see if the developer will appeal to the Planning Inspectorate against the decision of the Council.
Louise, Richard and Trish travelled to City Hall, the HQ of London Mayor Sadiq Khan, on 30 June to join other Sutton Liberal Democrat Councillors in presenting a petition to the Mayor. The petition, signed by over 10 000 Sutton residents, expressed our opposition to the extension of the ULEZ zone to outer London boroughs. Our views on why we opposed the extension of ULEZ can be found in posts further down this site.
Despite our opposition, ULEZ has now been extended by the London Mayor to outer London.
This picture shows Louise and Trish cleaning off the graffiti we found in the area outside Northumberland House in Brighton Road. We want residents to report to us instances of graffiti, which is one of the scourges of our times, worldwide. In general, the Council has a good record in cleaning off graffiti quickly. A difficulty is when the graffiti is on private property and the owners of the property have responsibility.
Here is an example of graffiti we got cleaned off, on the bridge at Kings Lane.
In support of our policies to combat global warming and reduce carbon emissions, the programme to fit electric vehicle charging points in lampposts in our Ward continues. A further consultation exercise is about to take place on the installation of two new electric vehicle charging points in Mulgrave Road, close to the junction with Worcester Road. A preliminary consultation found majority support but few residents responded.
There are now charging points at the following locations:
Opposite 49 The Ridgway
Opposite 26 Langley Park Road
Opposite Foxley Court in Christchurch Park
Opposite 10 Cumnor Road
In Cedar Gardens
Opposite Grange Court, Grange Road
Opposite Thomas House, Grange Road
Opposite 13 Stanley Road
Opposite Fairford Court, Stanley Road
We want to draw attention to the Sutton Citizen space survey where residents should log their suggestions for EV charge points.
The photo shows the first vehicle that used the first charging point in the Ward, in The Ridgway. Given the policy to ultimately phase out petrol driven vehicles, a big and continuing expansion will be needed.
Sutton Council is working with Siemens to install Ubitricity lamp column electric vehicle charging points. Ubitricity lamp column charging points are compact and fit into the door of a lamp column. The aim of lamp column charging is to give residents the ability to easily charge electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles on the street where they live, especially if they do not have off-street parking or are unable to install their own home charging point. Installing residential charging points is important because a key barrier to people switching to electric vehicles is the concern around where they will be able to charge their vehicle.
Not all lamp columns are suitable for lamp column charging points. The lamp columns need to be “electrically suitable”, be positioned near the kerb and have enough internal space to fit the charging point. They need to be sensibly located so that a vehicle could safely park and charge next to the lamp column. The lamp columns also need to be made of metal, not concrete.
An “earth mat”, a small metal grid, is also installed in the footway next to the lamp column. This is to make the charging point “electrically safe” if there is a fault. There are signs to indicate that the lamp column has a charging point fitted, though this sign will not prevent non-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles from parking next to the lamp column.
This is a major advance in our drive to promote electric vehicles and combat global warming.
Sutton Council has declared that there is a climate emergency and at the Council meeting on 16 January we adopted a progress report entitled “Environment Strategy and Climate Emergency: Progress Report and Update.” In his speech on this important report Richard pointed out that far from being some vague affirmation of worthy sentiments the report was packed full of detailed, positive actions we had taken and could be proud of. He listed some of them
– ten new school streets
– 120 dockless ebikes (although we came quite late to the concept of ebike schemes compared to many London boroughs)
– double the number of new trees planted than our target
– seven parks received the green flag award for their biodiversity management with butterfly banks in the parks
– almost 7 000 teaching sessions on biodiversity, mostly to school age children
– the work of the Sutton Nature Conservation Volunteers, the Community Environment Champions Network, the Green Enterprise partnership
– the Healthy Homes Advice and Support Service, providing assessment of homes for energy efficiency
– promoting green spaces, energy efficiency and electric vehicles through our planning policies and decisions
– LED street lighting and electric vehicle charging points in street lamps
– promoting re-cycling of waste
– the promotion of initiatives to support locations where items can be repaired and re-used
– action to deal with extreme weather events
– promoting the cycling network and cycle maintenance and safety workshops
– travel plans for our own staff to promote cycling and walking, and switching our own vehicles to electric.
The list goes on and on.
This is an important programme based on positive, practical steps we are taking to protect the environment.
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.
As Liberal Democrats, we think that an effective planning system based on local consultation is essential to maintaining the quality of development in our Ward. The system has been undermined by the Government, by extension of “permitted development” rights and by new provisions that make it possible to add two storeys to the top of a block of flats by going through truncated planning approval arrangements.
There has been a growing trend for developers to try to add extra storeys to the tops of blocks of flats. We have recently seen off three such proposals in our Ward, where the proposal would have made the building look incongruous and the building work would have been a nightmare for the current residents. The first of these was a block in Mulgrave Road, which failed to meet our standards of design – not good enough for Sutton. The second was in Grange Road – Magnolia Court. The third in Brighton Road – Northumberland House.
We need more housing, but not by agreeing to buildings that will be blots on the landscape for the next fifty years.
We have a manifesto commitment to plant more trees, to improve air quality, combat global warming and promote the green, suburban feel of Sutton. We will be planting new trees in the next few months in Downside Road, Upland Road, Willis Avenue and Prior Avenue.
We were delighted when, in accordance with the commitment to plant more trees to combat global warming, two new trees were planted in early 2021 in The Ridgway. The story concerning the tree outside number 23 is interesting. Many years ago there was a tree pit here and a tree. The tree died. Contractors tarmaced over the tree pit. The tarmac would periodically sag. Richard suggested restoring the tree pit and planting a tree. This was done. The photo was taken during the brief fall of snow on 24 January 2021.
Students returning to school at the start of the 2020 autumn term at Overton Grange enjoyed a quieter and safer atmosphere due to the introduction of a “school street” at the gates in Stanley Road at the time students arrived and left for the school day. This involved the closure of the part of Stanley Road adjacent to the school for a short period in the morning and afternoon, when the school day starts and ends.
The objectives of school streets are:
1) To improve safety around the school at start and finish time
2) To improve air quality for children outside their school gates (small people are particularly vulnerable to emissions from cars)
3) To create a more welcoming atmosphere around the school, where children can walk in the road and parents can feel more relaxed.
The scheme was a six month trial funded by Transport for London, who set the parameters of the scheme. The scheme was withdrawn in advance of the conclusion of the six month trial following a legal challenge to the lawfulness of such schemes, but by then it was proposed to withdraw the scheme. This related to difficulties experienced in enforcing the traffic controls, which at successful “school street” schemes involved the participation of the school and parents.