SETTING UP THE “FRIENDS OF THE DEVONSHIRE AVENUE NATURE AREA”: WOULD YOU LIKE TO JOIN?

We are working with Sutton Council to set up a Friends of Devonshire Avenue Nature Area group.

Would you like to join it? The nature area is the only open space in our Ward, in an area where many children live in flats without access to a garden. As it is the only open space in our Ward it is precious to us. It is a nature area so requires careful management.

We have secured funding for improvements to the nature area – to the signage and the seating and to clean off the graffiti. On 18 October last year the three Councillors met with several Council officers from the Parks Department at the Nature Area to discuss improvements to the area, and we subsequently took proposals to the local committee to obtain funding for improvement work. On 23 January we met with the volunteers from Sutton Nature Conservation Volunteers who were engaged in necessary maintenance activities at the site. There is discussion about how to best use the area, protect biodiversity (such as the rare “ivy broomrape” which is found in the nature area) while keeping it well used by residents, reduce litter and graffiti, and whether it should be locked at night. Please contact us with your views and to join the Friends group.

THE COUNCIL BUDGET APPROVED

On 4 March the Council discussed the budget proposals for the coming year. Legally, the Council is required to set a balanced budget. With so many Councils going bust or in great financial difficulty, this was always going to be a difficult task. The problems are due to Government cuts but also a big spike in demand for services. While people think of the Council as the people who mend the potholes, empty the bins and fix the street lights, 70% of spending is on adult social care and children’s services (particularly for those children with special educational needs), plus the cost of finding accommodation for the homeless. There has been a major increase in demand in the past year, particularly in the number of adults whose social care has to be paid for by the Council and in the number of homeless families.

Trish and Richard both spoke in the debate, Trish on the role of audit and governance (she chairs the Audit and Governance Committee) and Richard on homelessness – a subject in which he has a special interest due to the work history of his daughter, Ellie, and because as chair of Planning Committee he has a role in increasing the supply of affordable family accommodation.

Here is Richard’s speech:

“There is a statistic buried on page 21 of the main paper that an
extra £2.75 million is needed due to the additional demand for
temporary accommodation. This is the cost of homelessness – and
tonight 1045 Sutton families are homeless and living in bed
and breakfast accommodation, many of them some distance from
Sutton. I find this a frightening figure.
I commend what the Council is doing – not set out at length in
these papers before us tonight – to help people avoid
homelessness and to assist them if it happens. And I am pleased at what we are doing to increase the supply of affordable family homes.

But what a local authority can do is limited. This is a national issue.
There has been a major spike in homelessness in the last year,
not just in Sutton but nation wide.
We ought to recognise the causes of this – that families have been
priced out of their homes by the cost of living crisis and the 14
consecutive monthly increases in interest rates that followed the
famous budget based on the principles associated with those
revered icons of the Conservative right Kwasi Kwarteng and – Lis
Truss – who I see is now re-inventing herself as an icon of
American and British deep state conspiracy theorists.
Who cares about homelessness ? Not the Government, which
ignores reasonable policy proposals that would help, such as the
proposals last week from the LGA to lift the cap on housing benefit
subsidy for temporary accommodation, increase
discretionary housing payments and – most important – ensure that local housing
allowance rates track market rates.
Not Rishi Sunak, whose often repeated targets we are asked to
judge him on – not that he is achieving them – do not include any
target on reducing homelessness, which he clearly does not see
as important. I find that shocking.
And can I mention the contribution to the debate of that other great
icon of the Conservative right Suella Braverman who told us the
homelessness crisis was largely caused by foreigners and by
people who chose homelessness as a life style, and that the big issue was
“Should they be allowed to sleep in tents ?”
That seems cruelly remote from our homeless residents worried
about how to get their kids to school in Sutton when they are in B
and B accommodation in Slough or Heathrow, or somewhere.
This is a problem causing destitution and poverty.
We are doing what we can – but it requires Government action and the Tory Government is in
complete denial.”

MEASURING TRAFFIC IN OUR WARD

It is some years since we have last had an exercise to measure the volume and speed of traffic in our Ward. The last time this happened it enabled us to introduce some measures to calm traffic in Cavendish Road. From Monday 19th February these tubes, integral to traffic measurement equipment, have appeared in many local roads at the eastern end of the Ward. The tubes will collect data for seven days on the volume, speed and classification of vehicles. It is hoped that data will be collated by the end of March and the implications can be considered.

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

ADVANCES IN OUR WARD

We are always seeking ways to improve the quality of life locally. The defibrillator installed in Brighton Road outside Northumberland House, pictured above, is a potentially important facility, but we were disturbed to learn that the one at the railway station a few hundred metres north of this location has been stolen. Action is in hand to replace it.

Many new street trees have been planted in the Ward including, in the recent period, new trees in Farm Road, Devonshire Avenue, Effingham Close, Prior Avenue and Kayemoor Road, adding to the pleasant, green, suburban feel of our Ward. We are delighted that the tree that had to be felled in Brighton Road, outside Northumberland House, as it was diseased, has been replaced, thanks to funding we obtained from the Council’s Public Realm budget.

The fencing in The Quadrant, nearby, which had become damaged has been repaired, also with funding we obtained from the Public Realm budget.

In addition, Sutton Council was delighted to be successful in obtaining funding to upgrade rail services to Belmont Station. The funding will allow train services to double from two to four trains per hour and will also facilitate improvements to the station. This will improve transport to the Cancer Hub.

MORE APPLICATIONS FOR EXTRA STOREYS

The owners of Harrow Lodge, 28 Eaton Road, have used a device known as “Prior Approval” to obtain planning permission to extend the building – adding a storey to the top of the building, with some other changes. This will add 10 new flats to the building. In Mulgrave Road the owners of The Rowans, 47 Mulgrave Road, have similarly obtained planning application to add 8 new flats by adding two storeys to the top of the building. This is a current trend – to add extra storeys to the top of blocks of flats.

The applicants both used a device in national planning law known as “Prior Approval” which means that Councillors cannot take the application to the Council’s Planning Committee. We consider that this procedure was introduced to undermine the planning system and reduce local control of planning decisions. We are not able to stop these changes taking place as the system means the application has to be assessed by Council officers against a narrow set of criteria and if the application is refused the Planning Inspectorate, based in Bristol, has the power to over-ride local decisions.

As your local Councillors, we are concerned about these developments. While there is a need for more accommodation, these changes will involve building work that will impact on residents. However we seek to ensure that conditions are stipulated in any planning permission, if it is granted, to protect the peace and quiet of the residents during construction work. These include that access to the roof should be via an external hoist, the interior of the building should not be a storage area or building site, there should be a construction management plan, the contractors should join the Considerate Contractors’ Scheme, and there should be a liaison officer residents can contact. If scaffolding is erected it should only be erected when needed and removed as soon as it is not needed.

A similar application for extra storeys on the roof of the building at Chelsea Court in Mulgrave Road was turned down on the basis of our representations that it would have made the building look incongruous. And a similar application in relation to Magnolia Court in Grange Road was withdrawn in the light of our opposition.

We welcome feedback on your views on planning proposals. You can see the details and comment on planning applications via the Sutton Council website (go to the section on planning) or comment by post to

Development Management, Civic Offices, St Nicholas Way, Sutton, SM1 1EA.

NEW HOMES LOCALLY TO MEET THE HOUSING CRISIS

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

www.chalkgardens.co.uk

there is a video of a walk through a CGI representation of what the final product will look like.

WELCOME TO OUR SITE

The simplest way to get in touch with us on any issue or to volunteer is by email

richard.clifton@sutton.gov.uk

trish.fivey@sutton.gov.uk

louise.phelan@sutton.gov.uk

or by phone on 0775 905 0685

STOP PRESS: A date for a further meeting of the Sutton South Ward Community/Police Consultative panel has been provisionally set, Wednesday 24 April 2024, 7 pm, at Devonshire Avenue school. These are open, public meetings all residents can attend. The police report on the crime statistics for the Ward and policing priorities. Do you have concerns about crime? Come to this public meeting with our local police officers to give them your views. See articles further down on crime and policing in our Ward.

Trish, Richard and Louise in the Devonshire Avenue Nature Area

WELCOME TO OUR SITE

Our site aims to tell you the latest news about Sutton South Ward and our work as your local Councillors. 

AS LOCAL COUNCILLORS WE AIM TO KEEP SUTTON A GREAT PLACE TO WORK, LIVE AND RAISE A FAMILY, AND TO PRESERVE THE PLEASANT, GREEN, SUBURBAN FEEL OF SUTTON SOUTH WARD.

WHAT WE VALUE ABOUT SUTTON IS:

  • good schools
  • more affordable housing than in many London boroughs
  • easy access to the countryside and to the centre of London
  • a pleasant, green, suburban atmosphere
  • lower levels of crime than is typical in outer London.

Richard and Trish on the top of the Subsea7 building during its construction

Richard was first elected to Sutton Council in 2010, and was re-elected in 2014, 2018 and 2022. Trish was first elected in 2014 and was re-elected in 2018 and 2022. Louise was elected in 2022. Richard served as Mayor of Sutton for 2016-17 and Trish was our Mayor for a record three yearly terms, to May 2023. Louise is our Deputy Mayor for the year through to May 2024.

Louise, Richard and Trish at City Hall presenting the  petition opposing ULEZ signed by over 10 000 Sutton residents

CONTINUE DOWN THE PAGE TO OUR CURRENT NEWS STORIES

OR CLICK ON THE LINKS BELOW TO GO TO OUR SPECIFIC PAGES

Richard’s Blog!
Richard reports back on his activities

Public Art and Historic Buildings in Sutton South
Some of Sutton South Ward’s best public artwork and the important historic buildings in our Ward

Sutton police
Information on our local police force, on crime statistics in the Ward, on consultative meetings with the police you can attend

Who Are We?
Trish, Richard and Louise introduce themselves

Louise is Deputy Mayor of the Borough for the year to May 2024

Richard with the tree we got planted at White Lodge Close, one of many we have had planted in the Ward
Trish and Louise cleaning off graffiti outside Northumberland House. We strive to keep our Ward clean

With our Ward police officers at the Sutton South Hello Christmas party in December, where Trish (as ever) led the dancing

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.

“COMMUNITY WALKABOUTS” AT KINGSLEE AND THORN COURTS, SUTTON COURT AND BEAUCLERE HOUSE

On 21 September Richard attended a “Community Walkabout” organised by Sutton Housing Partnership (SHP) at Kingslee Court and Thorn Court in Worcester Road. These events are organised to provide an opportunity for residents to raise issues of concern with SHP staff. SHP’s Chief Executive and senior SHP staff attended. A high proportion of the residents are leaseholders and many took part. The residents said they appreciated the recent re-location of the refuse bins and the re-painting of the entrance gate. Some “snagging” arising from the recent renovation work on the buildings was noted and various other concerns of the residents explored.

On 19 October all three Councillors attended similar “Community Walkabouts” at Sutton Court and at Beauclere House, in Brighton Road. These were again well attended by residents. A wide variety of issues were raised including the use of the garages, parking, dealing with anti-social behaviour and lighting. These exercises were thought to have been very useful by those who took part. The photo shows the group at Kingslee Court.