SAVE ST HELIERS

"THE FUTURE?"

Heather asked the Lead Councillor  for Health and Social Care two questions about St Helier at last night’s council meeting:

Q Sutton having now secured the funding for a new hospital, does the lead councillor see any risks from the proposed move away from the organisational structure that St Helier had with Epsom Hospital.”

Answer by Colin Stears, Lead Councillor Health and Social Care

Certain services have been concentrated on the Epsom site whilst  the preferred merger candidate St Georges Trust obviously has services in Tooting that it has built up over the years.

I think it is important for our Health and Wellbeing scrutiny Committee to monitor closely any proposed service changes and work with clinical commissioning colleagues in the GP consortia to make sure that quality services are delivered as near as possible to the patient.

It would be unfortunate if one of the very few new hospitals to be built in England did not deliver the appropriate range of services to the local community.

The building of the new hospital is an ideal opportunity for service users , commissioners , council representatives and the provider to starting working together early in the process to make sure quality services for local people are delivered in a local setting.

Q What does the lead councillor think about the ridiculously short timescale, scarcely a month, set by  St Heliers Transaction Board, for potential partners to undertake all the work necessary to take part in the selection process, given this is an issue of such importance to the health and wellbeing  of Sutton’s residents?

A This does seem a very short timescale compared to other projects that I am aware of.  I hope that this will be answered in the communications that we are having with the Transaction Board, but this is not satisfactory.

TRAIN LINKS TO NORTH LONDON MUST REMAIN

Sutton Council agreed a motion on Monday 18 July deploring a proposal floated by the train operating companies that trains from Sutton on the Capital Connect line to north London (passing through Farringdon, St. Pancras International and St. Albans on the way to Luton airport) would all terminate at Blackfriars.

Councillor Clifton was to be one of the proposers of the motion but due to the length of debate on earlier motions the motion was voted on without debate. Here is the text of the speech he was to have made:

“I am confident that we will all want to support this motion and to emphasise the importance to Sutton of maintaining a through rail service to north London. I’d like to mention a significant detail that ought to be recognised in our examination of this proposal here tonight.

This concerns the importance of links to St Pancras International as St Pancras develops further as an international rail hub.

Over the next few years there will be a mushrooming of international rail travel from London. If the current plans of Deutschbahn and Eurostar come to fruition – as they will – by 2014 it will be possible, on arriving at St Pancras, to have a choice of services, competing against each other, to travel from London to Amsterdam.

In addition to the current services to Brussels and Paris there will also be services from London to North Germany. This is a big market in terms of business travel. At present, each day, about 30 plane services fly between London’s airports and destinations in north Germany, carrying about the same number of people as could be carried by four or five train services using the Velaro D trains that are even now being built to provide rolling stock for these services, by the train manufacturer Siemens at its Dusseldorf factory, which in fact I visited last year.

Aside from the potential importance of these international links to the residents of Sutton, there are international companies that have significant centres of their enterprises in Sutton – Sutton, a thriving London suburb, offering office space much cheaper than that found in the centre of London, less than half an hour by train from the centre, with a pleasant ambience and environment, and a location from which – importantly – you can reach the centre of Brussels in just two train journeys, one taking about 40 minutes and one about 2 hours.

And the centre of Paris in just 15 minutes more. And soon – Amsterdam, north Germany.

These transport links are links that it is vital for Sutton to maintain, for the sake of our residents but also to maintain our attractiveness as a centre for business development.

We must keep pressure on the Department for Transport to make clear that the changes to the Capital Connect franchise being sought by the domestic train companies, that remove our links to north London and in particular to St Pancras, are just not acceptable.”

RESIDENTS GIVE THE SMALL BLUE A HELPING HAND

More than 150 residents of our Ward joined forces on 25 June at a special event to help save one of the UK’s rarest butterflies.

The Butterfly Watch, at Devonshire Avenue Nature Area in Devonshire Avenue, was part of a series of measures to aid the small blue butterfly, which lives in just seven locations in London – three of which are in Sutton.

Residents learnt how different butterflies use the reserve, while children joined in with face painting, nature trails, and craft activities to build a butterfly. Devonshire School’s Parent Teacher Association kept everyone fuelled with cold drinks  and home made scones, whilst watching their children have a lot of fun.

Sutton’s Biodiversity Team showed residents how  the butterfly survives on  kidney vetch, the plant which provides the caterpillar with its food and habitat. 

Kidney vetch thrives in Sutton’s chalky, alkaline soil, and Sutton Nature Conservation Volunteers took the names of people and organisations who want to grow the plant in their  gardens and allotments to increase the available habitat and provide stepping stones for the butterfly to colonise further areas.

Here, the Council’s Biodiversity Officer, Jurk Hendryk, explains what the butterflies need to survive. 
Councillor Heather Honour said: “This event was part of a wider scheme to improve the site, which provides an important green space in an area of our borough which has fewer back gardens. I am so pleased that many different parts of our local  community are involved in this project, from Christchurch in the neighbouring road, to the South Sutton Neighbourhood Association (SSNA).  For many of the children, it was the first time they had ever been on a nature trail, and they loved it!  Fun and learning, what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon?”

The SSNA has put in a bid for external funds to improve the area and provide a small play facility so local children have somewhere local to play.

Small blue butterflies were identified in the late afternoon and there is currently (July) a good display of kidney vetch at the nature area.  There will be a demonstration of how to grow it and distribution of seeds later, in early September.

Colin Hall, Executive Member for Environment and Climate Change on Sutton Council, said: “The information day was all about telling residents how to give the butterfly a helping hand by growing the plants that it needs to survive – it’s a great example of the community coming together and boosting biodiversity in its own back yard.”

For any enquiries about getting involved with the project contact Councillor Honour on heather.honour@sutton.org.uk or for information about the site or small blue butterfly, please call the Biodiversity Team on 020 8770 5821 or email: biodiversity@sutton.gov.uk. 

[ Devonshire Avenue Nature Area ]

REDUCING SPEEDING IN SUTTON SOUTH WARD

An issue raised with us from time to time by residents is that cars travel too fast along the quiet back roads in some parts of our Ward.

Consequently the police have been working with the community on an inititive known as “Speedwatch”.

On the morning of 6 June a group from the Sutton South police consultative panel (visit the page on this site called “Sutton Police” for details of panel meetings) were stationed, early in the morning, in The Ridgway in South Sutton. Using a complex piece of technology, they recorded the speed of cars coming down the road, so that the police could stop and warn anyone speeding.

In the picture you can see representatives of the panel and the police with Councillor Richard Clifton, holding the “gun” that is pointed at cars and records their speed. This was the first in a programme of such speed recording activities.

We support initiatives to reduce the problem of speeding cars in our Ward.

Heather’s New Council Roles

Heather Honour was appointed a member of the following committees at the last Council Meeting, 23rd May:

  • Appeals Committee, for council employees who have grievances or appeals against disciplinary action;
  • Health and Wellbeing Committee;
  • South Sutton, Belmont and Cheam Local Committee.

She has also been appointed as a council representative on the following external bodies:

  • Merton, Sutton and Surrey Joint Health and Safety Committee;
  • Executive Committee of the Arts Council
  • SCILL
  • Sutton Centre for the Voluntary Sector
  • Royal Marsden Hospital Foundation Trust Status

Please let her know if you have any queries or views on these appointments.

ROAD MEETING FAILS TO SOLVE CEDAR ROAD BOX PROBLEM

A street meeting attended by local residents was held on the morning of 9 June at the box, pictured above, erected by BT/Openreach outside 39 Cedar Road in South Sutton Ward. While we need these boxes for Broadband, local people have expressed strong feelings about the way this box is erected right outside the resident’s front window.

A post on this website (see archive for May 2011) describes the general problem related to these boxes, but we are aware that BT/Openreach can, due to an Act of Parliament, ignore planning law in erecting the boxes. Sutton Council wrote to them last November with objections to the proposal to erect this box in Cedar Road as it contravenes Department for Transport guidance. BT seemingly ignored the Council’s objection, which they can legally do, though they have maintained that in a discussion with a member of staff of the Council the objection was later withdrawn. These objections related only to comformity with planning guidance and not the wider problem of the impact of the box on the amenity of local residents. Within a 100 yard radius of the box there are four old-style green boxes in appropriate positions that do not cause any problem to residents. Local residents felt that the box could have been erected alongside one of those.

The street meeting was attended by local residents, including the occupant of 39 Cedar Road, Councillor Clifton and Councillor Colin Hall, who deals with these issues on the Executive of Sutton Council and has been in touch with other Councils that have similar problems across London. Jack Hamilton, former chair of Sutton South Neighbourhood Association and a local resident, also attended. 

Two people from BT/Openreach, Giles Ellerton and Adrian Paice, came to the meeting. The argument they put to the local residents was an entirely technical argument that technical problems, related to avoiding digging up pavements where there are high-voltage cables and required distances between cabinets, prevented them from putting the cabinet in any other position.

Local residents were suspicious of the argument put, in that it is a technical argument by the people who have the technical expertise, and consequently no-one present had the expertise necessary to assess its validity. There was also a feeling that if the occupant had had hard standing for a car in front of her house, as the house next door does, this would have prevented BT/Openreach from erecting a cabinet in that position – in which case they would undoubtedly have found some other solution, not just given up.

In email exchanges after the meeting an offer has been made to the resident of 39 Cedar Road of compensation for particular aspects of the inconvenience she has suffered. However this is very limited and we understand she is not likely to accept it.

Councillor Clifton, whose pressure led to the meeting being set up, comments as follows:

“This meeting has not resolved the problem. I can take some positives from it.

First, BT/Openreach have, under pressure,  now met local residents and explained in much greater detail than we have had before why the box was erected where it is. This makes it possible to seek more information and a technical opinion on whether their argument stands up, something we will do.

Second, alerted by the problem here, I will ask Sutton Council officials to advise me as a local Councillor of the locations of any further boxes to be erected in Sutton South Ward so I can look at the proposed locations. BT/Openreach seem to have been usually quite responsible in assessing locations, which makes it particularly disappointing that they cannot resolve the Cedar Road problem – a particular, and severe, problem.

Finally, the meeting has led to a very limited offer of compensation. That is, however, a matter for those involved to discuss.” 

[ A tense moment during the road meeting, at which there was a frank and open exchange of views between local residents and BT/Openreach staff. Councillor Clifton, on the right, puts a point to Giles Ellerton of BT/Openreach. ]

SUTHERLAND HOUSE “A BLOT ON THE LANDSCAPE”

 

Sutherland House,  at the heart of Sutton South, is a “blot on the landscape” said Councillor Heather Honour addressing the Development Control Committee on Wednesday 2nd March, a view repeated by Councillor Clifton when he spoke to the Committee on 8 June.

There is now a section 106 agreement in place, which we have helped to draw up, so that any developer will be required to make a contribution to the welfare of the local population.  The Development Control Committee considered, on 8 June, minor changes to the conditions attached to the development proposal. We still have no timetable for the development.

Key points we have made are that residents continue to raise concern about the state of Sutherland House and its continuing deterioration now that it is unoccupied.  In addition to the large number of windows that are boarded up, the retail premises, previously occupied by an estate agent, are now also boarded up, adding to the general dilapidation of the area. This presents anyone entering Sutton from the South with an unpleasant and off putting view .

Some residents remain concerned about the proposals that have been agreed.  However, in the interests of the area as a whole, we need development to go forward, to improve the appearance of the building and as an occupied building will mean that the office workers and residents are spending money in local shops and restaurants, making the economy of South Sutton more vibrant. But we must register concern at the current state of the building and have sought to require the owners to improve the external view, e.g. more attractive boards surrounding the building.

In speaking to the Committee on 2 March Heather reminded the Committee of the concerns raised by residents of Grosvenor Court and Forest Dene. Heather said that the current state of the building was a disgrace. Windows were smashed and boarded up.  The doorways were refuges for drinkers and smokers and full of litter.  The space below the iron railings on Cedar Road was a rubbish tip and a health hazard containing unsightly and unhealthy waste from fast food outlets.   And the building had been host to a cannabis factory, or even a plantation given the huge amount of the weed grown there.

Although unable to revisit the details of the planning application, Councillor Honour  pointed out that the car parking, consisting of 62 bays was inadequete for the proposed 96 flats and 70 bedroomed hotel.  There were already serious parking issues at nearby Sutton Court and this would only exacerbate the situation. 

Road safety was already an issue at the junction of Cedar Road and Brighton Road and many of the residents  at Forest Dene feared to cross the road there.  The proposed entry to the lower cark park would worsen the situation and Councillor Honour advocated using Wellesley Road for the entry to the car park.

She also drew attention to the fact that the original planning application had said that the hotel would be commissioned from Hilton Hotels on behalf of the Hampton brand.  The latest information was that  the hotel was likely to be either the  Premier Inn or Travelodge chain.  Would their branding conflict with the approved design of the hotel?

Highlighting the fact that most of Sutton South was now a mixture of private flats and social housing and that there was insufficient open space in the area, she said that 50 per cent of children did not have access to a garden and she asked that under the new Community Infrastructure Levy the developer be asked to improve the Devonshire Nature Area and contribute to more open space for the surrounding community.

Our latest information is that the development is not likely to follow the current planning permission but will be a much more limited development, reflecting the current economic circumstamces.

GROSVENOR COURT RESIDENTS LOSE PIZZA DELIVERY BATTLE

grosvenor-court-picture.JPG

[Grosvenor Court, the Mansion flats above Regent Parade]

 

 

Dominos Pizzas have, on appeal, overturned a decision by Sutton Council to reject an application to open an outlet in Regent Parade, on the Brighton Road near Sutton station, in Sutton South ward.

 

Councillor Clifton said:

“I very much regret that this democratic decision, locally taken by Sutton Councillors, has been overturned by Inspectors remote from Sutton. I will ask the residents of Grosvenor Court to let me know if the motorbikes used by the pizza house wind up being parked on the pavement outside, something I fear. The Inspector has imposed some conditions on the use of the pizza house, which is helpful to a degree, and I hope that our representations were instrumental in getting these imposed, though they will not fully meet the concerns of the residents.”

 

The Inspector imposed conditions relating to the extraction system, hours of opening, noise emissions and sound reduction measures, as well as requiring that the extract duct be painted black to protect the outlook of nearby residents.

 

Councillor Clifton had called for the rejection of the application, responding to objections raised with Sutton South LibDem Councillors by a number of residents. He twice spoke against it at meetings of the Development Control Committee.

 

Councillor Clifton argued that the application had a number of defects, citing:

 

– the adverse effect on the amenities of residents in the large block of mansion flats above the shop by virtue of increased noise, fumes, traffic and parking problems contrary to policies TSC5 and TSC7, in particular due to the the continuous arrival and departure of motor bikes during the hours of operation in what is an area of concentrated residential occupation

– the lack of available parking close to the restaurant for six motorcycles during hours of operation, with the likelihood that they will be parked on and block the pavement

– the cumulative effect of a third vent pipe on the Grosvenor Court building on the appearance of this building

– the inadequacy of arrangements for dealing with waste.

Councillor Clifton spoke against the proposals at meetings of the Sutton Council Development Control Committee, as a Ward Councillor, on 11 August and 3 November 2010.

 

 

 

 

COUNCILLOR CLIFTON CALLS FOR NEW LEGAL CONTROLS ON LOAN SHARKS

At the Sutton Council meeting on 9 May Councillor Richard Clifton made an impassioned speech about the desperate plight of those who borrow money from loan sharks. He cited cases he had found of people being charged 1 737% for loans, on a day when the Bank of England Base Rate stood at 0.5%.

He called for legal controls on the maximum amount that could be charged for credit. Here is the full text of his speech, contributing to discussion of a motion welcoming the work of the Savers’ Credit Union:

“There are two themes to this motion. First, ensuring those who, for whatever reason, need access to affordable credit can obtain affordable credit, and the motion rightly commends to us the work of the Savers’ Credit Union in achieving this goal.

The second theme is the flip side. It is a much darker theme, and concerns protecting and helping vulnerable people who, perhaps because of the desperate circumstances they find themselves in, take out loans offered at crazy rates of interest by loan sharks, people who offer unsecured loans at high rates of interest to individuals, sometimes enforcing repayment by blackmail or threats of violence.

So can I draw Council’s attention, in particular, to the sentence in the motion:

“ This Council calls on the Government to introduce a cap on the total lending rate that can be charged for providing credit”

I know the problem is not just the level of the interest rate:

* it is sometimes a lack of clarity about the interest rate atall

* it is the way people are targeted, and

* the way re-payment is enforced.

But it is salutary that I looked last week at some websites, found by just typing “loans” into a few search engines. Websites are the top end of the market compared to what is sadly typical, a man touring our social housing estates with a bunch of used fivers in one pocket and a vaguely worded contract in the other.

The websites I found had top banners reading “GET THE CASH YOU NEED TODAY”, and “YOU COULD HAVE £1000 IN YOUR ACCOUNT TODAY”. But if you go on clicking you find the truth.

The first one I looked at had an APR of 51%.

The second had an APR of  1 737%. To make sure I had not mis-read this I checked the site again today, and the rate had gone down. It was only 1 734%.

The DirectGov website quotes examples of over 8 000 %, being charged to people who “GET THE CASH THEY NEED TODAY”  because they are already desperate, before they have to face the consequences of taking out these loans. Once they have have taken out loans at these rates of interest they never escape from the spiral of debt

I said “crazy” rates of interest. Why not criminal ? Why should it be lawful to offer vulnerable people loans at these rates of interest on a day when the Bank of England base rate is 0.5%. Some people do try to justify these rates of interest – saying there is a market, these are unsecured loans, the lender has to be protected against bad debts. But there is no justification for such staggering high rates of interest.

I see no reason why some upper limit could not be set by law and enforced.

That would require regulation – a dirty word in some quarters but it is the regulators who protect the vulnerable. And since financial regulation in the UK has such a poor track record it would be good to give the financial regulators a chance to retrieve their reputation.

The motion says “This Council calls on the Government to introduce a cap on the total lending rate that can be charged for providing credit”

I ask you to support the motion.”

COUNCILLOR CLIFTON GETS LISTED BUILDING STATUS FOR PAVILION IN OUR AREA OF SPECIAL LOCAL CHARACTER

clubhouseresized.jpg

Councillor Clifton nominated the Edwardian tennis pavilion that sits on the triangle of land where The Ridgway joins Mayfield Road in our Ward for inclusion on the Sutton Local List. At the Sutton Council meeting on 9 May 2011 the pavilion was included in the list of buildings to be added to the Sutton Local List.

This is the only building in Sutton South Ward to be included on the Local List, though the Registry Office in Worcester Road is on the national list of Listed Buildings.

The building is the only one of the buildings put forward as additions during the consultation process to make it to the final list.  This was attributed to the fact that Councillor Clifton had put forward a carefully researched case, including adequate evidence.

The Sutton Local List is a list of buildings thought to be of importance to the comunity, though not of sufficient merit to be “Listed Buildings” for inclusion on the national list. The list thus includes local buildings of significance to the local community. Sutton Council has been consulting on additions to the Local List and, at a presentation to the Sutton South, Cheam and Belmont Local Committee on 27 January, it became evident that not one single building in Sutton South Ward was under consideration for inclusion on the local list. This led to Councillor Clifton proposing inclusion of the pavilion.

The inclusion of the pavilion on the list may be helpful in the preservation of the character of this area as an Area of Special Local Character (ASLC), and thus resisting any inappropriate development in the area, such as demolition of houses and erection of blocks of flats, which has been the trend in adjacent areas. At a Planning Appeal attended by Councillor Clifton last year he had to explain to the Inspector the importance of local people of the ASLC and why it should be taken into account in the planning decision.

Councillor Clifton said:

“I am delighted with this outcome. One of our key objectives, as local Councillors, is to preserve the character of the Area of Special Local Character at the east end of Sutton South Ward. We must resist the trend to knock down houses and build small blocks of flats, which has led to a shortage of family homes in many parts of Sutton South Ward, and half the children living in accommodatin with no access to a garden. This recognition of the importance of buildings such as the Edwardian tennis club to the special character of the area may be helpful to us in pursuing that objective.”

In proposing the pavilion, Councillor Clifton wrote: 

“It is an Edwardian tennis pavilion, built in 1908 by the local architect Percy Vere Windebank, on the triangle of land at the junction of Mayfield Road and The Ridgway, in South Sutton Ward. It is a relatively unaltered example of a small, Edwardian tennis club pavilion, though the windows have been altered in an unsympathetic manner.

The history of the building is interesting. Up to 1906 this area was lavender fields. Between 1906 and 1914 Windebank laid out the Highfields Estate, building what is now The Ridgway, Mayfield Road , Chalgrove Road and Hillcroome Road . The concept was an estate of large, expensive houses with large gardens, grouped around or close to a triangle of land on which there would be a lawn tennis and croquet club, for the benefit of the residents. In 2008 the Highfields Residents’ Association published a history of the estate, “Highfields 100”, to mark the centenary. A copy of this history, to which Councillor Clifton is listed as a contributor, is obtainable from Mr Keith Percy at 63 The Ridgway, SM2 5JX. The houses are of some architectural merit, as indicated in the history.

We believe the pavilion was built by 1908, as the Highfield Lawns tennis club was in existence by that year. On 22 August 1908 an advertisement for the first of the newly-built houses on the estate was published in the Surrey County Herald newspapers, and mentioned the private tennis club on the estate. Highfield Lawns Ltd. was established as a company by 1913 with the sole objective of owning the land in order to allow the tennis and croquet club to operate. Those who bought one of Windebank’s houses could buy shares in Highfield Lawns. The Articles of Association of the company provide, to this day, that if you own a share in the company you can only vote on its affairs if you also own property in the Highfields Estate.

Over the years the large gardens have been sold off for infill housing, mostly of a good quality. The area is designated an Area of Special Local Character (ASLC) and the Edwardian tennis pavilion is central to the character of the area. Were it to be proposed to demolish and re-build the pavilion any replacement would need to be a building of a similar character (not a modern building or a concrete slab) due to the ASLC designation. If the Local List is a list of buildings of some local significance, the pavilion should be on the list. This is based on criteria 3, a building of significant local interest.”

 

Councillors Clifton and Honour would welcome information on any famous people who have lived in Sutton South Ward, for consideration as to whether there should be a plaque erected on the property where they lived.

 

This is a picture of the clubhouse taken from the triangle in The Ridgway. A photograph taken in 1913 shows an almost identical scene.