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:


Students at Sutton schools achieved the best GCSE results in the country this summer.

Sutton’s schoolchildren topped the results table, published in October, with 74.4 per cent achieving five or more A*-C grades including maths and English. The national average was 58.3 per cent, while 62.2 per cent of outer London pupils achieved the benchmark this summer.

An impressive 91.2 per cent of Sutton’s 16-year-olds earned five or more A*-C grades in any subject, compared to an outer London average of 82.7 per cent. 

This is excellent news and confirms something we have known for a long time; that Sutton has some of the very best schools in the country. To top the table, ahead of every other local authority area in England, is a real achievement, and one that teachers, parents and students will be delighted about. All those pupils who took GCSE exams this summer should be very proud of themselves.

The local authority looks forward to working in partnership with those schools which have since become academies, to ensure these results continue.

In August it was revealed that Sutton pupils had achieved their best ever SATs results, placing the borough third in the national league table. The tests in reading, writing and mathematics, are taken by 11-year-olds at the end of their primary education.

It also follows Sutton being announced as the best place in London to bring up a family. The survey which looked at a number of factors, including access to good schools, named Sutton as one the top 20 best places to live in England and Wales.

The top 10 local authorities with the best GCSE results – percentage of pupils achieving five or more A*-C grades including English and mathematics – are:

Sutton                                                       74.4%

Kensington and Chelsea                    72.2%

Hammersmith and Fulham              70.8%

Kingston                                                  70.4%

Buckinghamshire                                 69.4%

Isles of Scilly                                          68.4%

Redbridge                                                68.1%

Slough                                                       67.7%

Barnet                                                        67.5%

Wokingham                                             67.4%


Heather and Richard joined in the first of the kidney vetch plantings which took place today, 10th March, at Sutton Court.  Kidney vetch is the plant needed for the endangered small blue butterfly to survive.  This rare butterfly is found in three locations in Sutton, one of which is Devonshire Avenue Nature Area.

Youngsters who took part were delighted to find “white grubs” in the soil.  These are the grubs of the Maybug and they live for three years under the surface, until they become adults. The grubs were of course replaced in the soil once they had been inspected.

Hendryk Jurk, Sutton’s biodiversity manager led the planting assisted by Jill, his newly appointed gardens officer.  Jack Hamilton, from the Sutton South Neighbourhood Association, gamely wielded a pick axe too.

Further plantings in Sutton South will take place in Devonshire  Primary School, Christchurch and The Ridgway.  It is hoped to develop a corridor of habitat suitable for the small blue, leading to Warren Park.  Watch this website for further details.



People often ask us, as local Councillors, how Sutton is faring during the recession. We all see evidence of the difficult times the economy as a whole is going through, including empty retail outlets.

You might therefore be interested in the analysis below, taken from figures presented to the meeting held on 12 September of the Council’s Economic Development Advisory Group, of which Richard is member.

The figures show that Sutton has a vibrant local economy which is surviving the recession well. Data for the quarter to June 2011 show:

   Sutton has the highest economic activity rate of any Borough in London . There are 106,500 economically active residents in the Borough, with an economic activity rate of 82.3% compared to 74.8% for London as a whole

   The number of long-term unemployed in Sutton is falling, with the figures for June down 15% on the previous year

   The volume of house sales and the number of planning applications (both important indicators of activity) have been rising, in the case of house sales by over 20% on the previous year’s figures. House prices have however fallen, by 2.8% on the figures for this time last year

   The number of businesses going into administration has decreased. Business failures are of course compensated for by new local business start-ups and established companies moving into the area, on which data is less reliable

   The percentage of vacant properties in the borough has decreased.

The conclusion is that Sutton is weathering the recession well. People in Sutton find it easier to find work than is the case elsewhere, and Sutton is an attractive centre for inward investment that brings development and jobs. It thus remains a growing and successful London Borough and, despite the current economic climate, is one of the most attractive places to live in the country, with good transport links to central London and beyond, plenty of green space, good leisure facilities and some of the best performing schools in the country.

Transport links are of course vitally important to our attractiveness to investors.  They also are important to the people of Sutton, many of whom commute to central London. For this reason, the threat to terminate the Capital Connect (Thameslink) services at Blackfriars, so they do not run further north of the river, is something we are personally committed to fighting. You can find a link to a petition on this issue on this website if you scroll down the posts to find “Protect Commuter Services From Sutton”.



The Mayor of London has been accused of short-changing Sutton after the borough was given the capital’s lowest transport grant. 

Each year, every London borough receives Local Implementation Plan (LIP) funding from Transport for London (TfL) to invest in local projects which support the Mayor’s plan for transport in the capital. For the second year in a row, Sutton has been given the least in London, leaving the council with less money to invest in the transport infrastructure.

frustrated councillors have criticised the Mayor for failing to invest in Sutton, despite the borough’s track record in delivering innovative transport plans.

Cllr Simon Wales, Executive Member for Communities, Transport and Voluntary Sector on Sutton Council, said: “Sutton has a great track record in running innovative and successful transport schemes, but we need money to make them work. The council and members of the local community work together to make sure the transport system keeps getting better and better but the fact remains that we could do even more if we had more funding.

“I’m disappointed that the Mayor and TfL won’t give Sutton the same kind of grant that it awards to other boroughs. This means that some of the improvements that we have planned will have to be cut back, or even shelved completely. We think that Sutton’s residents deserve better, and will continue working hard to carry out transport improvements that the local community wants to see.”

As well as schemes to boost traffic flow and make travel more sustainable, LIP funding is used to make the borough’s roads safer.  Maintenance works are financed through a separate budget, but improvements to reduce the number of road accidents often come out of LIP resources. Transport investment is particularly important in the current economic climate, as good accessibility is one of the factors that help town centres and local shops to thrive.

In Sutton, LIP money has been used to continue the successful initiatives on sustainable transport under the scheme known as Smarter Travel Sutton, which increased cycling by 75 per cent and is now used as example by other councils, after the initial project came to an end.



The Borough’s MPs, Paul Burstow and Tom Brake, are calling for the local NHS to pause, listen and reflect over plans for a “headlong rush to merger with St George’s”.
The two MPs have told local and London NHS bosses that the plans for a merger with St Georges lack legitimacy because they have failed to secure support from hospital doctors, GPs and local Councils.  The MPs are stepping up the pressure by launching an on-line petition to London NHS boss, Ruth Carnell.
St George’s NHS Trust was the only Trust to bid for St Helier.  However, St George’s is struggling with a series of financial difficulties and recently has seen the departure of its Chief Executive.  Amidst growing concerns that St George’s will ‘asset strip’ St Helier, the Borough’s MPs want the merger process to be put on hold to give both St Helier and St George’s the time to sort themselves out and allow other NHS hospitals to come forward.
Paul Burstow MP said, “I have been hard-pressed to find anyone in favour of this merger plan.  Health professionals and local councillors feel bounced.  There is growing alarm at the haste with which this process is moving.
“The future of St Helier depends crucially on support from clinicians, without that essential goodwill, a merger will become a hostile take-over.  From my discussions with consultants, it is clear to me that the relationships between the two hospitals are toxic, hardly the basis for a genuine marriage in the public interest.
Tom Brake MP said, “The priority here is to get the best deal for St Helier, not the fastest one.  The Government has just completed a major national NHS listening exercise, local Health bosses must do the same; stop, pause, take on board people’s concerns and come back with a better offer.”


The Safer Sutton Partnership is pleased to announce the launch of Sutton’s Domestic Violence One Stop Shop. It will take place every Wednesday morning, starting July 13th, between 9:30 – 11:30 at Sutton Baptist Church, across from the Civic Centre.

Anyone who comes along will recieve advice and support from the Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA) from Victim Support, Police, a Lawyer and Citizens Advice Bureau.

So if you or anyone you know is suffering from physical, sexual or emotional abuse come along to the DV One Stop Shop, on Wednesdays 9:30am – 11:30 am at Sutton Baptist Church, 21 Cheam Road, Sutton. SM1 1SN. For more information dial 020 8685 1637.