On 30 November Richard and Trish sat as members of the Council’s Planning Committee, with Richard chairing the meeting, to consider the fate of the B and Q site in central Sutton. This is just outside our Ward. B and Q plan to close the store next June. Richard commented that, though he is no do-it-yourself fanatic, he regretted the closure of the store, but B and Q say it no longer makes them money and they have decided to close.
It is inevitable that the site will be developed as housing. There is no demand for new office space (more people work at home) or new shops (more people shop using the internet) but there is a housing crisis. On the day of the discussion 970 Sutton families were homeless and living in bed and breakfast accommodation, at the expense of the Council and thus our Council tax payers. More homes are desperately needed. The philosophy in the Sutton local plan is to meet our housing targets partly through a more intensive area of development close to the town centre and near the railway station. As public transport links are good in this area it is possible to envisage a car free or “car light” development – if you have to provide a parking space for every house many fewer homes can be built. This reduces development pressure on the borough’s suburban heartland and Green Belt areas. Planning Committee often considers proposals to build on the Green Belt which we resist, but the new homes must go somewhere. The more intensive development in the town centre will inevitably include some tall buildings, and there is a cluster close to the railway station.
Evidence was presented to the committee on action taken to deal with some of the consequences of this development, such as a need for places in local schools, demands on health services and additional strain on water and sewage systems. Richard commented that there were attractive features to the proposed development, 60% of which would be open space, including an area of public parkland, a water feature, an amphitheatre and terraced roof gardens. The most important aspect, though, was the plan for 337 “affordable” homes where Sutton Council can place the most deserving of the 2 600 families on the housing register. This will include families that are homeless or those we meet, in our Ward, who are living in dreadful housing circumstances – sometimes families with three or four children living together in tiny flats.
The planning application was approved. Initially all that local people will observe is the closure of the store, hoardings put up round the site and the store demolished. Then there will be building work but it will be several years before anyone moves in. Eventually, it will be an attractive, landscaped site. On the website
there is a video of a walk through a CGI representation of what the final product will look like.