MORE PRESSURE ON BT

A television programme – “The Wright Stuff Extra” – broadcast on 21 July was largely shot in Cedar Road in our Ward and included an interview with Councillor Clifton standing alongside the box outside number 39 that we have asked BT to move.

Richard made the point that when Parliament agreed that BT could put the boxes anywhere without need to abide by planning controls it expected BT to be responsible. The box, placed right outside Mrs Russell’s window, is in the wrong place.

BT declined to appear on the programme but issued a statement again refusing to move the box. This is deplorable.

A post on this site (see archive for May) describes the general problem and a later post (see archive for June) describes earlier action relating to the box.

OAKLEIGH SADLY NO ALTERNATIVE TO CLOSURE

In the  debate on the proposed closure of Oakleigh at Monday night’s Council Meeting, it was clear that this was not a straight  forward matter.  There were many different angles to consider and Heather addressed them in her contribution to the debate.

“None of us can be comfortable about closing a care home for some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

And one that has an excellent reputation.

I visited Oakleigh as part of the investigation by the Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee. The residents were happy and very well looked after.  Care staff  were totally committed to their work. I would be comfortable to see a relative of mine live there.

I took  therefore an challenging approach to  the scrutiny exercise we undertook  about Oakleigh.

From the outset, I was shocked at the very high weekly cost to look after each  resident.  (one thousand and twenty four pounds) £1,024.

This confirmed research I’ve read from  from the  Dept of Health.  Care homes run by councils are much more costly than those run by independent organisations.  This is a nationwide phenomenon.

In the wider context, Sutton’s grant was dramatically cut by central government.  We have to save  over £30 million over the next 3 years.  Savings of £10.5 million have to be found from the adult social care budget.

So the financial situation makes keeping an excellent, but costly,  Oakleigh less possible.

Current good practice says that people should be helped to stay in their own homes for as long as possible.  Many would prefer to do so provided the right level and quality of support is there.

As part of the personalisation agenda, introduced by the last government, everyone eligible for social care has their own budget. This is based on what their needs are assessed to be.  They should then be able to make their own choices about how to spend their money.  All this has to happen within 18 months.

This means that  it could be difficult for people to afford to stay at Oakleigh.

The key question is therefore  whether there are  other good quality care homes available in the borough?

As part of our investigation, we visited a wide range of care homes and found a wide range of quality.

The star rating system by the Care Quality Commission was not as helpful as we expected. ( now to be discontinued)  Oakleigh was given a 3 star rating.  Most care homes in the borough were given a 2 star rating.  We found that some of these were excellent, some not very good.

We therefore recommended, that the Commissioning Unit  and social workers, should work together to improve standards in those homes that had 2 stars.

We needed a Sutton based  quality assurance, reflecting our values and standards.  We could not rely on the Care Quality Commission.  That organisation is in any case changing.

We also recommended that we should challenge the regulations that prevented us from transferring the business of Oakleigh to another, independent provider.

Once again Sutton demonstrated its commitment to consultation.  It did challenge the Care Quality Commission successfully, and then went out for another 12 weeks consultation.  Few councils would take that trouble.

Unfortunately, no independent organisation was ready to bid for Oakleigh, probably because of the financial obligations   when staff are transferred from one organisation to another.

So I have reluctantly concluded that there is no alternative to closing Oakleigh.  I do realise what a blow this will be to those still living there, and to the hard working staff.  Great efforts will be made to help people find new homes.  Like my colleague I would like to say a big thank you to Link and to the dedicated staff at Oakleigh.”

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.