SUTHERLAND HOUSE: POSITIVE NEWS AT LAST

sutherland house

At last some positive news on what is happening to Sutherland House, the empty building just south of the railway station in Brighton Road on  the corner with Cedar Road.

This building has been empty far too long but we now have confirmation from the owners, Criterion Capital, that the work is well under way to renovate the building. The renovation will convert the building to 128 luxury flats with car parking spaces, one per flat.
They expect the work to be finished by March 2016. They will be appointing local estate agents to act for them to offer the flats for rent. We are a little surprised that they are to be offered for rent rather than sale, but given the location close to the station there will be no shortage of demand. We doubt if they will be actively marketing the flats until the work is sufficiently progressed for them to have a show flat for people to look at, but they say the work will be to a high standard.
We have been critical of the developers as they used a route to bypass normal planning permission requirements, but at last work is under way and we have a date by which the building will be occupied. The year 2016 will be a good one for the area with the occupation of the Subsea7 building and Sutherland House, bringing people into the area who will spend money in local shops and restaurants, which will give the whole area an uplift.

The argument over the future of Sutherland House was the subject of a letter from Richard published by The Guardian (the national paper, not the Sutton Guardian) on 5 February. Here is the text:

“Sir

Congratulations to The Guardian for exposing the loss of affordable housing that has resulted from the Government’s successive changes to planning law.
The latest changes are in a series that have progressively created major loopholes to excuse developers from providing affordable housing. Just south of Sutton station, in south London, there is an office building, empty for some years, which the developers propose to convert to 128 luxury flats. The day before Sutton Council’s Planning Committee was to approve the scheme, which included a significant number of affordable homes, the developers withdrew the scheme. They had spotted the advantages to them if they followed a newly-created route called “prior approval” that has now forced the Council to accept the application with zero affordable homes included.
On one calculation, our Borough may have lost up to 500 affordable homes due to that legislation. The latest changes you highlight are further steps on a path that is seriously undermining the efforts of local authorities to help those in dire need of better housing.
Councillor Richard Clifton, Chair of Planning Committee, London Borough of Sutton”

At the meeting of Sutton Council on 19 January Richard criticised the owners of Sutherland House for their “inertia” in relation to the re-development of the empty building.

Richard joined with Sutton Councillor Hanna Zuchowska in pointing out that the owners withdrew an application for planning permission that included an element of affordable housing before exploiting recent changes in planning law to get permission for conversion of the building to 128 luxury flats with no affordable housing element. But still, although the building has been empty for five years, they do not get on with the re-development.

Speaking after the meeting Richard said “The building is still empty and a blot on the landscape. The development of the Subsea7 building, bringing 800 office jobs to the area, and the improvements associated with the Sutton Gateway project, are giving a lift to the area just south of Sutton station. We need the developers to get on with the renovation of Sutherland House.”

The full text of Richard’s speech, seconding a motion on affordable housing, is as follows:

“In seconding this motion, I would like to draw attention to the opening sentence, which speaks of the widening gap between the rich and the poor.

I find it astonishing that in my own lifetime the wealth gap between rich and poor has not just failed to diminish but has actually widened.

The figures are so astounding one hardly believes them – that the top 80 (eight zero) wealthiest individuals in the world own more than half the world’s wealth, that is they own as much as half the population of the planet.

And in our own country about 30 billionaires own half the wealth of the nation.

And the implications of this inequality are not just a matter of concern for social policy.

A fascinating study published by the OECD last December showed that countries with a smaller and narrowing gap between rich and poor experienced higher rates of economic growth, and if the gap between rich and poor had not widened in Britain from the 1980’s the UK economy would in fact be 20% larger.

George Osborne ought to reflect on the reasons for this. If you increase the earnings of the poor they will spend it, creating income, jobs and wealth for others, but if you increase the earnings of the rich they may save much of it. He ought to remember this when he plans yet further raids on the welfare budget, on financial support to the very poorest in society, rather than asking the wealthy to contribute more.

It is a finding that demonstrates that the so-called “trickledown” economics so beloved of leaders on the right of the political spectrum – and that included Margaret Thatcher – whereby largesse afforded to the very rich trickled down to help the very poor, was in fact a recipe for lower growth and thus a lower increase in living standards for all.

We need concerted policy action to deal with this, and tax rates on the highest earners, property taxes, the minimum wage, and welfare support to the very poor, are all important aspects. But we all know that action and support for those in need can be best targeted if undertaken at a local level.

Here in Sutton, we will continue to do what we can to build a fairer and more equal society, something of particular importance to us as Liberal Democrats, even if what we can do is sometimes at the most basic level, such as dealing with concerns about food and housing.

And the fact that we have Food Banks, here in Britain, in one of the more affluent countries in the world, makes my point about inequality more eloquently than any of my words can do.

On housing, we can be proud of our record in Sutton.

As Councillor McCoy told us, the Council is promoting affordable housing, something that is vital when I find that in my own Ward changes to planning law mean that a block like Sutherland House can become 128 luxury flats with no affordable housing requirement atall. If and when the developers finally get on with it, and I deplore their inertia.

And the Council is dealing with homelessness: I was heartened by the serious and concerned tone of the debate at Planning Committee on the proposal to provide short-term accommodation for homeless families in Benhill Road. It was the Committee at its best. This was on an evening – 17 December 2014 – when no less than 76 (seven six) Sutton families were homeless and in bed and breakfast accommodation, often miles from Sutton.

Mr. Mayor, we must continue our efforts as a Council to care for the most needy of our residents, while having a concern – as citizens – to promote policies, at every level, that will increase economic growth but distribute the rewards more fairly.

I am pleased to second the motion.”

 

NEW CROSSING IN CEDAR ROAD – COMPLEMENTING THE GATEWAY PROJECT

zebra crossing cedar

After a long campaign initially led by Richard and former Councillor Heather Honour, more lately by Richard and Trish, the new zebra crossing in Cedar Road is there. This project began some years ago when we obtained funding for a survey of traffic speeds in the Ward which identified Cedar Road and Cavendish Road as speeding hot spots. The new traffic islands in Cavendish Road have reduced speeds. People will doubtless think the Cedar Road zebra crossing is part of the Sutton Gateway project, but in fact it is a separate project.

The Gateway project should be completed in the next month and has smartened up the station area.

The project aims to further develop the area around Sutton station, including by:

– refitted shop fronts, new paving and newly planted trees to improve the look of the area

– more lighting and CCTV cameras to make the area safer

– extra cycling facilities, with new bike racks and shelters

– a town centre clock

– less crowded pavements and bus shelters

–  a new crossing in Brighton Road.

OVER 14 000 RESIDENTS SIGN UP TO GREEN GARDEN WASTE SCHEME

quadrant bins

10,000 people needed to sign up by the 15th February 2015 to make the proposed service viable. By the middle of January over 8 000 residents had signed up and by the due date it was over 12 000. We are there!

Now, those who have signed up need to make sure they make the necessary payment, and you can do this via the Sutton website. 

 

Stopping the free service will save the Council £736,000 a year, a contribution to the £40 million needed as a result of Government cuts.

Sutton Council will begin charging for Green Garden Waste Collection from July 2015.

Residents had until 15th February 2015 to sign up for the service. They can still sign up and make the required payment, either online by visiting

www.sutton.gov.uk/ggw

or by returning the form received in the post to the Council.

A 240 litre bin will be charged at £59 annually with an early bird discount rate of £49 offered to people who signed up before the 15th February 2015. That’s cheaper than neighbouring boroughs of Kingston (£71), Merton (£65) and Richmond (£60). This decision was taken by the Environment and Neighbourhood’s Committee after almost 2,000 people had their say on the future of the service. The consultation was part of the Council’s “Sutton’s Future” campaign which encourages residents to help the Council achieve £40m of savings from its annual budget by 2019. The savings are being forced by unprecedented government reductions to funding and growing demand for Council services.

Residents were given the option of the current free service becoming a charged for service, or being stopped completely. The paid for service will start on 1 July, 2015. The Borough-wide consultation included a telephone survey representative of the Borough, an online survey on the Sutton’s Future website and three ‘Have Your Say’ events where residents could give their views in person and ask questions. In the telephone survey, 79% of those surveyed had a garden and 74% of these used the current service. Out of the 1,002 people surveyed, 32% were in favour of charging for the service and 42% supported it being stopped. In the online survey, out of the 892 people that took part, 69% favoured the chargeable service and 60% said they intended to subscribe, while 11% said they supported the service stopping. In the three ‘Have Your Say’ events, the preferred option among the 92 attendees was to charge for the service.

WILL THE TRAM COME TO SUTTON ?

tram

Consultation to gauge public views on phase 1 of the proposed Tramlink extension to Sutton indicates overwhelming support.

The proposed route consulted on would involve a branch to the current Tramlink route after it has left Wimbledon and got as far as Morden Road. The branch to Sutton would leave the current Wimbledon to West Croydon Tramlink route at that point, proceed via St. Helier Avenue to the Rosehill roundabout, then to Angel Hill and on to Sutton, where it will go round the gyratory. There will be a loop from the Rosehill roundabout to St. Helier hospital.

Full details can be found at  www.suttonmertontramlink.co.uk or by clicking on this link.

If agreed and built, phase 1 may be followed by phase 2, an extension to the re-developed Sutton hospital site in Belmont. This is as yet far into the future. We remain hopeful that funding will be found for phase 1.

RICHARD SETS OUT HIS VISION AS CHAIR OF THE PLANNING COMMITTEE

richard-councillor-002

On 11 July Richard took the helm as chair of the Council’s Planning Committee (formerly the Development Control Committee) by chairing the first meeting of the Committee following the election and his appointment as chair.

A lively meeting dealt with some important planning applications, including one for the re-development of Times Square in the Sutton shopping centre.

Richard commenced by thanking his predecessor, former Councillor John Leach.

Richard introduced his first meeting by setting out his view of the vision and mission of the committee, saying that the work of our committee is massively important and our mission is:

– to achieve the vision for Sutton in our plans and ensure that acceptable standards are observed in all developments within the Borough.

He said “The business of the committee is to consider certain categories of planning applications, particularly those that are significant to the development of Sutton and those that are disputed.

The way the planning system works is that Sutton Council adopts and publicises planning policies, setting out its overall plans for the Borough and standards on such matters as design, environmental impact and the impact on local amenities.

These policies are discussed and adopted by the Housing, Economy and Business Committee (HEB).

Our committee is concerned with the implementation of those policies – in the actuality of the proposals for new developments in Sutton, in the planning applications that come before us and thus what is actually built.

In considering planning applications we will not grant them where there is clearly a conflict with our planning policies. A decision not to grant an application is of course subject to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.

But the work of our committee is massively important – to achieving the vision for Sutton in our plans and in ensuring that acceptable standards are observed in all developments within the Borough.”

 

RICHARD AND TRISH TAKE ON NEW RESPONSIBILITIES

TWO 1 ROTATED

Trish and Richard are taking on a range of new responsibilities, following their election.

Trish will be a member of the Council’s important Housing, Economy and Business Committee. She will be a member of the Licensing Committee, having had experience in matters relating to licensing. She will also be a member of the Appeals Committee and of the Merton and Sutton Joint Cemetery Board.

Richard will be chair of the Council’s Planning Committee (formerly Development Control Committee) and continue as chair of the Health and Safety Committee. As a former chair of the Board of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work he cannot escape that task. He will also sit on the Strategy and Resources Committee and the Standards Committee. He will also sit on the Council’s joint committee with recognised trade unions and have other responsibilities on joint committees of London Councils. His wife Gloria sometimes reminds him that he is supposed to be retired.

NEW STREET TREES PROGRAMME ANNOUNCED

Richard plus tree in Farm Road 

Richard planting a tree in Farm Road.

Richard, Nali, Heather and Sue with trees

Richard, Nali, Heather and Sue with trees

There is a new programme of tree planting in our Ward, over the winter. Exciting news. Some of these are already planted. Here is a listing of sites. Contact us if you have other nominations to make.

There will be a number of different types of tree including laburnum, malus trilobata, corylus colurna, prunus sargentii rancho, crataegus laevigata “Paul’s Scarlet” and acer campestre “Streetwise”.

SUTTON SOUTH WARD

ALBION ROAD, SUTTON Outside number 20      

 

ALBION ROAD, SUTTON 10 (FLATS 1-8) near FERNDOWN CL      

 

CHRISTCHURCH PARK, SUTTON AMBERLEY COURT(FLATS)      

 

DEVONSHIRE AVENUE, SUTTON

PENARTH COURT      
 

DEVONSHIRE ROAD, SUTTON

10      
  DEVONSHIRE ROAD, SUTTON  near junction Egmont Road      
 

DEVONSHIRE ROAD, SUTTON

 near junction Egmont Road      

 

EFFINGHAM CLOSE, SUTTON

57      

 

FARM ROAD

7, and opposite Kayemoor Road      

 

KAYEMOOR ROAD, SUTTON

Outside 24/26, outside 10, outside 32/34      

 

PRIOR AVENUE, SUTTON

Outside 41

     

 

STANLEY ROAD, SUTTON 3-15 ESPRIT COURT (entrance)      
 

UPLAND ROAD, SUTTON

Close to number 90      

 

UPLAND ROAD, SUTTON

Outside 45, 53/55, 76

     

 

UPLAND ROAD, SUTTON

Outside 9, 62, 4

     

 

MAYFIELD ROAD, SUTTON

Outside 15

     

 

WILLIS AVENUE

Outside 15/17

     

 

 EFFINGHAM CLOSE

 Outside 5, and outside 6      

 

 CAMBORNE ROAD

 4b

     

 

An additional tree has been planted outside 3 Chalgrove Road at the suggestion of a resident.

Residents have the opportunity to foster these new trees and help leave a green legacy. Under the Council’s Tree Fostering Scheme they can help look after trees that are planted near their homes for up to three years. Maintenance duties include watering the trees with three buckets of water a week in the dry months and, if they want to, loosen tree ties and trim off broken twigs. By signing up, residents will receive a tree care guide with information on how to look after their tree.

NEW GP SURGERY ? NOT IN THE RIGHT PLACE

Homeland Drive, Belmont

Homeland Drive, Belmont

Heather and Richard are concerned at the proposal to close the Grove Road surgery and move it to a building in Homeland Drive, in Belmont.

There is no GP surgery in Sutton South Ward. Our residents are spread between a number of surgeries and many (including Richard) use the Grove Road surgery. There is no disputing that this building, a converted house, is not the best place for a surgery and it does not meet the best standards. However, closing it and moving to Homeland Drive is not the best move, as the new building is not on a bus route and it is a difficult walk for those with mobility problems from the nearest bus stops in the Brighton Road. Increased traffic at the site will give rise to safety concerns. We believe there are better sites, such as locating the surgery at the Sutton hospital site, where part of the site is shortly to be vacated. This is not, of course, an issue on which the decision rests with the local Council. An application for planning permission has been made, but issues that concern whether there are better sites are not planning issues on which a decision to turn down the application could be based.

The following is the text of a letter we sent to the Sutton Guardian:

“What the discussion in the letters page of the Guardian, about the proposed new GP surgery on the old Henderson Hospital site, has failed to address is the scandal that there is no GP surgery in the whole of Sutton South Ward.  This issue has long concerned us because our Ward has the largest proportion of people over 65 in the whole of Sutton,17 per cent.  The needs of this group was one of the reasons for launching Sutton South Hello this year. Closing down the Grove Road Surgery only makes the situation worse.
 
New health facilities are desperately needed but can’t we find somewhere more accessible, and safer?  We understand that there have been four collisions at the junction of Homeland Drive and Brighton Road.  These might have been categorised as light but, with increased traffic flow, they could increase.  And what about those who have no cars, are elderly,  and will have to trudge up the dark and steep road from Brighton Road?”

 

FEWER EMPTY HOMES IN SUTTON

end of devonshire

With continuing pressure on housing in the Borough, it is a matter of concern if houses are left empty for long period.

Last year Sutton Council introduced a number of technical changes to Council tax collection arrangements that changed financial incentives to keep properties empty. Richard, in his role as vice-chair of the Housing, Economy and Business Commmittee, was closely involved in the design of these changes, which involved the removal of discounts on Council tax previously enjoyed by owners of second homes and owners of empty properties.

At the meeting of the Housing, Economy and Business Committee on 8 October Richard commented on figures the Committee discussed that showed a fall in the number of empty properties. However, while the figures are moving in the right direction there is clearly some way to go. They show that there are still 200 properties in Sutton empty for over two years (excluding those in probate), down from 210, and over 450 properties unoccupied and unfurnished (470 down from 573). 

Richard said “at a time of housing pressure these empty properties are a cause for concern. The policy the Council introduced last year to remove financial incentives to keep properties empty has been a success, in that the numbers have fallen, but there is still a way to go.”

SUTHERLAND HOUSE – PLANNING INSPECTORATE SUPPORTS VIEW THAT AFFORDABLE HOMES ARE REQUIRED

Sutherland House

The owners of Sutherland House will make sufficient profit when they re-develop Sutherland House as 160 luxury flats that they can and should include some “affordable homes” in the proposal.

This is the view of the Planning Inspector who has rejected the appeal by the owners of Sutherland House against the view taken by the Council and supported by Richard and Heather. The Inspector awarded the Council costs on the grounds of the unreasonable action of the developers.

Richard and Heather have appealed to the developers to now get on with the re-development of the site taking on board the Inspector’s views – that we need some affordable housing and a better design for the units in Cedar Road.

Richard spoke at the appeal hearing on 17 July.

The Council supported the re-development of Sutherland House as residential units but argued for some affordable housing and that the proposed development fronting on to Cedar Road included accommodation of a quality that was not acceptable. The Inspector supported the Council on both points. The Inspector accepted a financial analysis of the viability of the project that showed there was sufficient profit to make it possible to include some affordable housing.

Richard says “The views of the Inspector accord exactly with the case I put to the hearing. I feel vindicated, in saying this proposal was not good enough. The developer will make a lot of money from turning this building, close to the town centre and Sutton station, into luxury flats. The appraisal accepted by the Inspector showed there can be some affordable housing included without threatening the financial viability of the project. As a Councillor, I meet local families living in extremely overcrowded conditions and we desperately need more affordable housing. The building has been empty too long and I call on the developer to now get on with it and come up with a scheme that reflects the Inspector’s decision.”