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.


Keeping Sutton moving is one of our top priorities, so we’ve been working with the Department for Transport to make sure that we’re ready for the cold weather that this winter will bring.

Prevention is better than patching things up, and we’d rather stop potholes from appearing in the first place, reducing accidents, keeping traffic flowing and avoiding costly repairs.

We’re asking for residents’ help. There are over 200 miles of road in the borough and although we inspect roads regularly, we can’t be everywhere at once. We need your help to spot holes as soon as they start to form so that we can repair them before serious damage is done.

Residents can report a pothole online at or ringing 020 8770 5070, or let Heather and Richard know.


Sutton crowned council of the year for customer services

Sutton has been named council of the year after 99% of residents said they were happy with the customer service they received when they telephoned the council.

The award is based on feedback from residents who have spoken to the council via the telephone, internet, mobile phone and face-to-face at council offices.

This year alone, more than 87,000 people left feedback after contacting Sutton Council. Of this figure 92 per cent said they were satisfied with how their query was dealt with face-to-face.

The data is collected and analysed by a company called GovMetric, which is used by 75 local authorities across the country.

The council is keen to replicate this success on its website, to save council tax payers money. Each face-to-face transaction costs the council £5.87 to process. Over the telephone the cost is £2.24, but internet transactions cost just 28p.

From January to November this year, residents contacted the council by telephone 314,425 times, face-to-face 31,539 times and 625,958 times via the internet.

Deputy Leader of Sutton Council, Councillor Ruth Dombey, said: “Now more than ever it is important that we are able to deal with residents’ enquiries as efficiently and helpfully as possible, to ensure we get the best possible value for money for our council tax payers and the best possible results.

“I’m delighted residents are happy with the level of service they receive from their council. Our customer services team are doing a great job and it’s fantastic to have that recognised.

“The feedback we receive allows us to listen to residents and, if anything goes wrong, rectify it quickly. For example, when the 24-hour touchtone payment system was replaced with voice recognition software, customers told us they did not like it. The council reverted back to touchtone within a couple of days.”


Heather meeting Corporal Paul Bicker from The London Regiment

I had the privilege of attending, with my husband,  the presentation given by the  Army this evening at the Territorial Army facilities on Stonecot Hill.

Led by Brigadier Mathew Lowe MBE,  army officers and staff talked about their work and their links with the community.  We saw film of the army in action in many locations, not least Afghanistan.  And we heard at first hand about the service which these brave people give our country.  As one officer said to Peter and me, ” we have to work hard at the training, so that if your mate loses his leg beside you, you know what to do.”  Words that bring home the sacrifices that these men and women make for our safety.

The purpose of the evening was to emphasise that members of the army come from the community, and are part of the community.  They want the community to understand what they do, and to support them.  The army  also wants  to recruit more people from ethnic minorities and also to increase the numbers joining  the Territorial army  which is set to increase significantly over the next 5 years.


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.



Devonshire Primary School on the up


Children at Devonshire Primary School are getting a “good” education, according to a report just released by Ofsted.


The education watchdog said pupils “flourish socially and academically” at the school, and their attainment has been rising since the school was last inspected in 2008, when it was judged to be “satisfactory”.


The recent inspection, carried out before the half term break in October, said children are well behaved, enjoy lessons and are given opportunities to enjoy lots of activities outside of lessons.


The report states: “Pupils become good young citizens and make a good contribution to the community, participating enthusiastically in local events and willingly taking on responsibility outside lessons.


“The curriculum provides a breadth of exciting learning opportunities that enables pupils to enjoy school.”


The report also praised staff, saying they are enthusiastic and plan lessons that challenge pupils.


Headteacher Martin Kearsey said: “I am absolutely delighted that this report acknowledges the sustained teamwork of everybody at Devonshire. The staff, parents, governors and of course, our wonderfully talented children, fully deserve this recognition.”


Cllr Kirsty Jerome, Executive Member for Education and Schools at Sutton Council, said: “This is a great result for the pupils, staff and parents at Devonshire Primary School who have worked so hard over the last three years. They should be very proud of themselves and this report, which highlights the excellent learning and social opportunities available at the school.”


The result follows the expansion of Devonshire Primary, which saw three new classrooms open in September 2011.


It was one of four to expand as the number of places needed in Sutton continues to rise. Beddington Park, Dorchester and Muschamp primaries also expanded this year, and another five – All Saints Benhilton Church of England Primary, All Saints Carshalton Church of England Primary, Brookfield Primary, The Federation of St Elphege’s Catholic Infants and Junior and Cheam Common Infants – will be enlarged in time for the next school year.


Sutton’s primary school pupils achieved the third best SATs results in the country this year, and at GCSE level Sutton came top.



We have supported, and been instrumental in extending, proposals that will reduce disruption at local schools every time there is an election. 

Sutton Council recently completed a review of polling areas and polling stations, something it is required by law to conduct at set intervals.

We have long been aware of a concern on the part of parents of children at Devonshire Avenue primary school, the school that most primary-age school children in our Ward attend, of the disruptive effect of closing the school for a day to use it as a polling station. It disrupts the education of the children and creates a child-care issue for many parents, particularly those who work and may need to take a day off work as the school is closed. Consequently we have supported the proposal to consider, as an alternative, the use of the hall of Christchurch church in Christchurch Park. We are pleased that this proposal is now likely to be agreed.

During this consultation exercise Richard was approached by parents who live in Sutton South Ward but who send their children to Barrow Hedges school, which is just outside the Ward, making the point that similar considerations (the disruptive effect to the education of the children and the impact on parents) apply in respect of Barrow Hedges school. This led Richard to promote considering the use of the Baptist church hall in Banstead Road as an alternative. At the meeting of Sutton Council on 5 December the proposal will be put to it that in future neither Devonshire Avenue school nor Barrow Hedges school be used as polling stations. We support these proposals as they will avoid the disruption to the life of these schools that is involved in closing them for a day every time there is an election.


On several occasions now, including 16 December, 10 November and 8 December 2011, Richard has been proud to represent the Borough (and the Government and the Queen) at a moving ceremony held in our Ward, at the Sutton Registry Office in Worcester Road, to confer British citizenship on new British citizens. These are people from all over the world who share a desire to be British citizens, and have taken examinations in the English language and in our history and way of life to obtain citizenship. On 16 December there were people from Iraq, Sri Lanka, India, Hong Kong and Rwanda. On 10 November there were people from Ethiopia, India, Nigeria,Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bulgaria, Tunisia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, all of whom had successfully applied for British citizenship. On 8 December there were people from Nepal, Sri Lanka, India, the Ukraine, South Korea, the USA and the Congo.

Richard says “I find these ceremonies moving. Britain benefits enormously from being a multi-racial society, with so many different cultures learning from each other. These people will be a great credit to Britain, and are enthusiastic about becoming British citizens. They will bring to our country cultures and experiences that we will learn from and which will make Britain a better place.”

This is the text of his speech of welcome, elaborating on the standard speech normally made at this ceremony in order to draw particular attention to the many advantages of setting up home in the London Borough of Sutton, and the benefits to Sutton of the skills and experiences that people from such diverse backgrounds bring to our community.

“It is indeed a great pleasure for me to extend my personal welcome you all, as well as welcoming you on behalf of the London Borough of Sutton and  on behalf of the government of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth  the second. 

I am delighted that you have either chosen Sutton as a place to live or have chosen Sutton to celebrate this very special occasion.

Sutton cherishes its diversity and today we are celebrating this with all of you, people who come from many different parts of the world. You bring with you cultures and experiences which we will value, and which can help to continue to make Sutton a great place to live and to work.  You have many opportunities to participate in the local community, in particular by volunteering to help in a wide range of groups and activities where your expertise and experience would be invaluable to the community.

Many of you have children. Sutton is proud to have excellent schools and opportunities for our young people. We look to inspire young people so they develop and thrive in a learning environment. This year students at Sutton schools achieved the best GCSE results in the country.

A recent study rated Sutton as the best place in London to bring up children. The study looked at factors such as low crime rates, affordability of houses, earnings and access to good schools, and concluded that Sutton is the best Borough in London to set up home.  So, for those of you who have set up home in Sutton, congratulations on making such a wise choice.

Sutton is also the Borough with the highest percentage of  residents in work – 78% of Sutton’s working age population has a job, and there is evidence that in this period of recession Sutton remains vibrant.

The green spaces and parks in Sutton enable everyone to enjoy their leisure time. Sutton is proud of its “green” environment – having over 1 500 acres of parks and open spaces and over 20 000 street trees. There is also a wide range of other facilities in the Borough such as libraries, theatres, and the Life centre, which encourages citizenship and learning.

Historically Sutton has been linked to the Queens and Kings of England. King Henry 8th was frequently a visitor to the Borough having a home in Nonsuch park.

This house that we are in today is a fine example of Victorian architecture, once  inhabited by the Walls family, a name you may recognise, famous for their Walls Ice Cream and Walls Sausages. But there are many other heritage sites worthy of a visit including Whitehall in Cheam and The Honeywood centre in Carshalton. Since 1965 this building has been the Register office, registering important life events such as births, deaths marriages, civil partnerships and – today – people choosing to take British citizenship.

As we look across the world and realise how fortunate we are to live in a democracy, I urge you all as new citizens to use the opportunity to vote in our elections, to shape the future of the Borough and your new country. Your next opportunity to do that will be in May, when we elect a new Mayor of London and a London Assembly.

May I congratulate you all and wish you happiness and success as new British Citizens. “

 This is Richard with the Registrar, who conducted the ceremony.



Richard and Heather were involved in initiating a debate on planning policy at the Sutton Council meeting on 17 October. Richard wanted to welcome some aspects of proposals for a National Planning Policy Framework while drawing attention to a number of problems involved in the planning system that have affected Sutton South Ward – the permissive nature of permitted development rights, the inconsistent decisions of the Planning Inspectorate and the slowness of the system, which does not help maintain public confidence.

The full text of Richard’s speech is as follows.

“I would like to support the motion’s cautious welcome for the National Planning Policy Framework, as a set of planning policies that respect a localist agenda,

while at the same time expressing our concern that there are some aspects of the direction of policy that we still need to work on to get them right.

I believe that the planning system, as it operates in Sutton, has worked well to protect the interests of the community.

We have in particular, over many years, adopted a strong policy to protect backgardens and control backgarden development. There are two important aspects to this:

–         we have adopted planning policies that carefully control what types of backgarden development might get planning permission, and even this year have strengthened that policy with amendments to planning policy DM30 to ensure that aspects of character, appearance and amenity are fully considered: and

–         we have devoted significant resources to ensuring planning requirements are strongly enforced.

To this end, every site where an infringement of planning law is alleged is visited and the enforcement staff work carefully through the processes required by law to get any breach corrected.

I am impressed by the statistic that in the last year the enforcement team have met their target times for early site visits in 97% of cases.

The processes they follow are, because of planning law, sometimes slow – but every case is doggedly pursued to its conclusion.

This policy, however, comes under pressure from several sources that we cannot as a Council control.

First, from the legal requirements concerning what is permitted development.

I think the reforms of 2008 took out of the planning system buildings that really ought to be within it.

I was surprised recently when, in my Ward, a large building was built in a back garden but found – due to the dimensions and overall size of the plot, and its planned use – to be permitted development, though it has certainly affected the amenity of neighbours, some of whom are here tonight. We must be on guard against any further relaxation of permitted development law.

In taking forward the National Planning Policy Framework, none of us would want to see rights of permitted development widened still further, and a key point in the motion is the statement that extending permitted development rights further will reduce rather than enhance the power of the community to stop inappropriate changes.

I am therefore delighted that the amendment to the motion calls for a full review of permitted development law.

Second, there are the decisions of the Planning Inspectorate – not mentioned in the motion, but I cannot let pass the opportunity to say their decisions are less consistent than I would have expected – and indeed some of their decisions have done real damage in my Ward.

Third, the legal processes do not help. They provide those who breach planning law with myriad opportunities for appeals and delay, all of us have examples from our own Wards. And at the end of the process we sometimes face the seeming lethargy of the Courts in dealing with such breaches. All of this hinders our strong enforcement efforts and leads to a public perception that things take a long time, which affects public confidence in the planning system.

These are all factors we cannot control, but we must take every opportunity to make representations to seek their amelioration – and this motion is a part of that campaign. 

So – a cautious welcome for the National Planning Policy Framework, recognising that this is a policy area central to our efforts to maintain the pleasant environment of our Borough. It is right that we should intervene in this national debate to make clear to all our determination to be able to continue those efforts to cherish and protect the green and pleasant character of Sutton.”



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: