FURTHER MEETING OF THE POLICE CONSULTATIVE PANEL

Our police station in Carshalton Road

The Sutton South Ward Police Consultative Panel met on the evening of 10 January 2024. These are open, public meetings all residents can attend. We were addressed by our Ward Constable, Constable Robyn Skivens and her colleague Constable Owen Harding. This meeting was much better attended than the previous meeting, held in October, with 17 residents attending.

During the period from October there had been 4 burglaries in the Ward, a significant drop from the figure of 21 burglaries during the previous quarter reported to the meeting held in October. There had been 10 incidents involving motor vehicles, including 4 thefts of vehicles and 6 thefts from vehicles. Interestingly, for the third quarter running there had been no catalytic converter thefts. The important advice from the police is not to leave anything valuable in your car and be careful to check it is locked when you leave the car. The police always stress the need to report all crime, however trivial.

Constable Skivens commented on the number of “extractions” that occur, when she and Constable Harding are asked to leave Ward duties and assist in activities elsewhere. This reduces attention to Ward matters. Concern was expressed at the meeting on the level of police resources, since the entire Sutton South team consists of Constables Skivens and Harding plus one PCSO.

There was a wide ranging discussion at the meeting, topics including the extent of drug use and dealing in the area, domestic violence, modern slavery, antisemitic incidents and the need to police the synagogue in our Ward, the availability of knives, the number of young people carrying knives, and the important role of our schools. The police commended the work of the Street Pastors who can sometimes get a better reaction from people than a police officer in uniform can. The police thought that insofar as there is a drugs problem locally it is possession and use rather than growing cannabis and/or drug dealing. At some schools locally there are metal detectors at school gates and there is a “knife box” in the car park of M and S in Sutton where people can deposit knives anonymously.

Our police officers were commended for attending the Sutton South Hello Christmas party on their day off.

The next meeting was provisionally arranged for Wednesday 24 April at Devonshire Avenue school.

Louise, Trish and Richard with our Ward police officers at the Sutton South Hello Christmas party

OUR CAMPAIGN OPPOSING THE CLOSURE OF THE TICKET OFFICE AT SUTTON STATION IS SUCCESSFUL

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.

NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR SUTTON: PLANNING APPLICATION IN MULGRAVE ROAD TURNED DOWN

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.

A VISIT TO CITY HALL TO PRESENT SUTTON’S PETITION OPPOSING THE EXTENSION OF ULEZ

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.

TACKLING GRAFFITI IN SUTTON SOUTH WARD

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.

NEW ELECTRIC VEHICLE CHARGING POINTS PLANNED FOR MULGRAVE ROAD

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. 

https://sutton.citizenspace.com/highways-environment-and-planning/ev-survey/

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.

OUR CLIMATE EMERGENCY RESPONSE PLAN

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.

SUCCESS IN OPPOSING BLOTS ON THE LANDSCAPE

Local consultation on planning proposals is vital to maintain standards of build and design, and the street scene

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.

MORE TREES – TO IMPROVE AIR QUALITY AND COMBAT GLOBAL WARMING

Richard with the tree we got planted at White Lodge Close

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.

SCHOOL STREET AT OVERTON GRANGE SCHOOL

Trish and Richard at the school

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.