On Thursday 19 April we attended the Sutton South, Cheam and Belmont Local Committee, at Overton Grange school. Amongst other things we:

– sought re-assurance from the police about police resources in Sutton, given the evidence that police resources are stretched that Richard heard at the Licensing Committee hearing he attended on 28 March (see post below “Late Night Noise Danger Averted”)

– obtained agreement to litter bins being provided at locations suggested to us by residents, including Grange Road and Upland Road

– established the way forward on the Eastleigh Close parking scheme, and the Bonchurch Close yellow lining (removal thereof) scheme

– heard a presentation on the new bin collection scheme. We noted that local authorities have suffered 26% cuts in Government funding of running costs, in real terms, and 29% of capital programmes since 2010, and Sutton Council has done well to keep the Council tax frozen for three years while avoiding draconian cuts like closing libraries. The new bin collection scheme will save £500 000. There may be a few rough edges, to be ironed out in the next few weeks, but it is a worthwhile scheme

– noted further proposals for the expansion of primary schools, including The Avenue, which some of our residents send their children to. We noted that the expansion of Devonshire Avenue school had been successfully completed with no adverse consequences, and the school did well in its OFTED inspection. We noted that the percentage of children born in the Borough entering State primary schools had risen from below 84% in 2007/8 to almost 94% in  2010/11, due to the recession coupled with the high quality of Sutton’s State primary schools leading to parents turning their back on private education. This is what has caused the need to expand primary schools.


At the Council meeting on Monday 5 March, Sutton’s Liberal Democrat Council passed a budget that, for the thrid year in a row, froze Council tax at its current level.

This has been achieved despite major cuts in Government support, designed to achieve the objective of reducing the public spending deficit.

Unlike many other Councils, including some close nearby, Sutton has achieved this without closing libraries or leisure centres, and while protecting essential public services such as street cleaning and adult social services. As Liberal Democrats, we have a particular concern to protect the disadvantaged, and take particular pleasure in having protected the most vulnerable groups.


We have written to the National Trust to thank them for the unwitting help they gave us when we pursued our objective of installing a small piece of children’s play equipment in the Devonshire Avenue Nature Area (DANA), so the area is better used. The inspiration for the wooden play equipment came from the NT installation at Box Hill. Our letter explains all and reads as follows: 

“Dear National Trust.
In a world of grant applications and “evidencing” everything, we thought you would find the following useful.
The children’s natural play area in Box Hill has been imitated.
We now have similar play equipment in the Devonshire Avenue Nature Area (DANA) in the London Borough of Sutton.
This tiny, one acre reserve is surrounded by blocks of flats.  The nearest playground for children is over a mile away.  But the nature area is home to the very rare small blue butterfly.  There was an inevitable conflict between the conservationists, who wanted no “nasty modern looking stuff that looks like it has come from Disney land” and local families desperate for somewhere to take their children.
We were able to show that the National Trust have achieved that balance at Box Hill.  Using your play area as inspiration we were able to work with the locals and the conservationists to achieve a happy compromise.
The result, we hope is a much improved Nature Area, where more children come to play and the precious small blue butterfly is still protected.  But most important of all, we now have a chance to educate the visitors about the importance of nature conservation and what to look for in their area.
Thank you for your inspiration.
Cllr Mary Burstow       (Sutton Play Champion)
Cllr Heather Honour  
Cllr Richard Clifton   (Sutton South Ward Councillors)”


Richard organised a meeting with residents in Blackbush Close on 25 January, attended by Councillors and Council officials. Residents want to increase parking in Blackbush Close, as there is a shortage of parking spaces for those living in the blocks in Bonchurch Close and Blackbush Close. It was agreed that proposals to remove yellow lines on one side of the road over a part of Blackbush Close will be actively examined. An alternative would be to extend the parking controls in the adjacent Controlled Parking Zone to the road. Richard will get back to residents as this proposal progresses.

We are grateful to residents of Westmoreland Drive who contacted us following our letter to residents on the subject of proposals for yellow lines controlling parking in the road. Last September The Council consulted residents on proposals for yellow lines in Westmoreland Drive, responding to concerns about access for emergency vehicles following a fire in which a resident died. The clear majority view of residents was that the initial proposals were not acceptable due to the reduction in parking spaces.  

As local Councillors, we discussed with Council officers how to meet the wishes of residents. A reduced proposal is to free up one side of the road by removing all the proposed yellow lines on the left hand side as you walk from Ventnor Road down Westmoreland Drive but retaining those on the right. This should maintain access but meet concerns about the number of parking spaces available to residents, by reducing the restrictions on parking.

The Fire Service have been consulted, to be sure they will be able to gain access in an emergency when the reduced scheme is implemented. This scheme appears acceptable to a majority of residents and if it meets the concerns for emergency access it will in due course be implemented.

Blackbush Close: where residents would like more parking to be available. The proposal is to remove the yellow line on the left but make the yellow line on the right a double yellow line for part of the road, a little beyond where this photo was taken. Alternatively, bring the road within the Controlled Parking Zone.


Every two years Sutton Council has commissioned the polling organisation MORI to undertake an independent in-depth research survey into the attitudes of people who live in Sutton, to help us understand what people like and dislike, and thus improve services.

The full results will appear soon on the Council’s website (www.sutton.gov.uk) but we have seen a digest of the results and would welcome any feedback from local residents on your reactions.

The results that particularly struck us are:

* Sutton residents have a high level of satisfaction with Sutton as a place to live, 91% being satisfied (11 points higher than the national average), with the proportion “very satisfied” increasing from 25% to 36% since the last survey in 2009. This is in line with recent surveys that concluded that Sutton is the best place in London to bring up children, taking account of factors such as our good schools, good transport links and low crime rate

* the issues that most concern residents in Sutton are parking, dog fouling and speeding traffic, these scoring above issues such as litter, vandalism and graffiti. There is sharply increasing concern about dog fouling, which reflects our experience in terms of issues residents raise with us as Councillors. Parking is also an issue of concern though these concerns take different forms – in roads like Eastleigh Close and Bonchurch Close it concerns difficulty in finding a parking space nearby for one’s own car, in some other roads it is a concern about commuter parking in the road. In Sutton South Ward, there is definately a concern about litter, but vandalism and graffiti are less of a problem locally

* almost three in four (73%) are satisfied with the services of Sutton Council, higher than the national figure. There appears to be a strongly positive attitude to services such as parks and open spaces, street lighting, street cleaning, refuse collection and playgrounds, less strongly positive (though still positive) attitudes to pavement and road maintenance, and to parking services

* a concern emerges from the survey about how well Sutton Council keeps people informed     

* although Sutton is a low crime area compared to other parts of London and 96% of residents feel safe walking outside in their neighbourhood alone during the day, this proportion drops to 62% after dark, and residents are increasingly concerned about anti-social behaviour and burglary or theft

* a quarter of Sutton’s residents volunteer regularly and 81% think Sutton is an area where people from different backgrounds get on well together.

It should be noted is that, overall, people feel less well-off than when the survey was last undertaken two years ago, with 45% saying their personal financial circumstances have got worse in the last year, as the recession has bitten.

We are interested in the views of local people on these issues and would welcome it if readers of this article want to give us their opinion.

Matters that clearly require attention include:

– there is a finding that people are less satisfied than one might expect with the information received from the Council. How can we improve on this ?

– dog fouling has got worse. The problem is a small minority of dog owners. Most are very responsible. Is there any solution ?

A further study of our local area (covering three Wards – Sutton South, Belmont and Cheam) will be available shortly. The sample size is too small to give results just for Sutton South Ward.



Sutton is famous for its avenues of street trees, and our Ward has many fine examples.

There are over 21 00 street trees in Sutton and their maintenance is sometimes a headache. While we all love the trees, they drop leaves and sap, block light and disturb pavements and front gardens with their roots. A balance has to be struck in keeping their height down, since heavy pollarding of lime trees (for example) leads to them developing many more branches that grow back quickly with larger leaves. Tree pruning policy is governed by a British Standard, and needs to take account of the shaping of the tree. Changes to the Standard in the 1980’s led to some changes in tree pruning policy involving less severe pruning.

In 2011 an exercise was carried out to deal with basal growth and low level branches. A more severe pruning programme occurs on a four yearly basis. Richard and Heather were able to get the programme changed so that the pruning programme began in the Ward in November 2011. It is due to conclude by February 2012. It has involved identifying any trees that are diseased and 16 have been taken out. The locations are noted and replacement trees will be provided in due course, but there is a waiting list. The rest are subject to the pruning programme.

Before the programme began Richard met Ben Morris, the Council’s Chief arborculturalist, in Sutton South Ward, to discuss the programme. They called on a number of residents who have particular issues with street trees.

Richard comments “We all love the trees and Sutton is rightly regarded as a green and pleasant Borough. I was pleased we were able to get the pruning programme brought forward. Inevitably the decisions taken by the arborculturalists leave some people complaining that trees near them should be pruned harder or less hard, and in a few locations trees that twere declining or diseased have been lost. But overall this is a programme to maintain the trees that are such an attractive aspect of South Sutton Ward.”

We appreciate the trees in The Ridgway, which have been severely lopped.


At the New Year some residents complained to me of flooding under the Grange Vale bridge. Cycling across to the bridge, I found the heavy and quick leaf fall this autumn had led to a mulch of leaves blocking the drains. While there are over 20 000 street trees in Sutton, so the annual leaf fall stretches the cleaning teams, Grange Vale is also affected by fall from trees owned by Network Rail, on the railway line. I dealt with the problem by myself clearing away the leaf debris. I have asked the response team to give priority to Grange Vale during the leaf fall next year.

Also, just after Christmas, residents in Cavendish Road reported the dumping of rubbish all round the bin adjacent to Fiske Court. I cycled over to look at the problem. I cleared the rubbish back into the bin but more was dumped the following day. I have got tyhe response team to slightly move the bin and, for the time being, check it daily.

A resident of Leslie Gardens, a cul-de-sac off Worcester Road, approached me concerning the problems experienced during the snow last winter, as there is no grit bin near the road and a slight incline at the entrance turns it into an ice rink. After discussion with Council officials, I obtained a new grit bin which has been placed in the road. This adds to the large number of grit bins placed at locations throughout the Ward by the Council over the last two years. Other bins, such as the ones in Hillcroome Road and in Downside Road, were placed at our specific request after discussion with residents.

These are not isolated successes. We have achieved many. For example, see below the litter bin obtained, following an approach from a resident, which we got placed at a strategic point in Cedar Road (said by a resident to be at about the point someone walking back from the station with a takeway snack would finish it and drop litter). Also the tree we got planted in Copse Hill (which replaced a tree demolished by a car in a road traffic accident).

The rubbish bin in Cedar Road

The tree in Copse Hill

 Let us know of other strategic locations in the Ward where something is needed.



Sutton has been rated the best place in London to bring up children. 

An analysis of factors including crime rates, earnings, house prices and access to good schools revealed the London borough as the top location in the capital for young families to set up home.
It was the only place in London to make the top 20 of best places to live in England and Wales, according to the study compiled by children’s savings provider Family Investments.

Researchers looked at more than 60 indicators – both positive and negative – in 2,400 postcode areas in England and Wales to draw up the list of “family-friendly hotspots”.

Sutton, which has over 1,500 acres of parks and open spaces, topped the London list ahead of Redbridge and Teddington.

The average value of a two-bedroom property in Sutton was found to be £190,582, higher than the £167,659 national average, but “affordable” by London standards – enabling families to get on the housing ladder.

The schools in the borough are some of the highest achieving in the UK, with Sutton’s primaries recently achieving the third highest SATS results in the country. 

Sutton is also the borough with the highest percentage of employed residents in the capital. According to the Office for National Statistics, 78 per cent of Sutton’s working-age population has a job.

Quantity and quality of early years care, along with access to green spaces and parks, local leisure centres, museums and theatres, were also considered.

These are really interesting results and show how Sutton is a good place to live.

As local Councillors, we are delighted but not surprised our Borough has topped the league. We’ve got some of the best schools in the UK , it’s a very safe area and we’re one of the greenest parts of London – and there’s a real community here which makes it a great place to live and grow up. 


The research was conducted by Calnea Analytics in July for the Family Friendly Hotspots Report.

Top of the England and Wales list was Devon village, Winkleigh, closely followed by South Petherton in Somerset , and Galgate in Lancashire . Sutton was 20th in the England and Wales list.

London top 10

1 Sutton

2 Redbridge

3 Teddington

4 Hutton

5 East Sheen

6 Banstead

7 Bushey

8 Havering

9 Rickmansworth

10 Buckhurst Hill

To see the report, go to: www.familyinvestments.co.uk/hotspots



People often ask us, as local Councillors, how Sutton is faring during the recession. We all see evidence of the difficult times the economy as a whole is going through, including empty retail outlets.

You might therefore be interested in the analysis below, taken from figures presented to the meeting held on 12 September of the Council’s Economic Development Advisory Group, of which Richard is member.

The figures show that Sutton has a vibrant local economy which is surviving the recession well. Data for the quarter to June 2011 show:

   Sutton has the highest economic activity rate of any Borough in London . There are 106,500 economically active residents in the Borough, with an economic activity rate of 82.3% compared to 74.8% for London as a whole

   The number of long-term unemployed in Sutton is falling, with the figures for June down 15% on the previous year

   The volume of house sales and the number of planning applications (both important indicators of activity) have been rising, in the case of house sales by over 20% on the previous year’s figures. House prices have however fallen, by 2.8% on the figures for this time last year

   The number of businesses going into administration has decreased. Business failures are of course compensated for by new local business start-ups and established companies moving into the area, on which data is less reliable

   The percentage of vacant properties in the borough has decreased.

The conclusion is that Sutton is weathering the recession well. People in Sutton find it easier to find work than is the case elsewhere, and Sutton is an attractive centre for inward investment that brings development and jobs. It thus remains a growing and successful London Borough and, despite the current economic climate, is one of the most attractive places to live in the country, with good transport links to central London and beyond, plenty of green space, good leisure facilities and some of the best performing schools in the country.

Transport links are of course vitally important to our attractiveness to investors.  They also are important to the people of Sutton, many of whom commute to central London. For this reason, the threat to terminate the Capital Connect (Thameslink) services at Blackfriars, so they do not run further north of the river, is something we are personally committed to fighting. You can find a link to a petition on this issue on this website if you scroll down the posts to find “Protect Commuter Services From Sutton”.