On 23rd May we held an event ,together with the Sutton Town Centre BID, at Uno Tapas to update local businesses on progress following the launch of our Opportunity Sutton Economic Strategy in June last year.
I was very pleased to be able to announce that since the launch we have seen an amazing £317 million of new investment in the borough, and the provision of 1,700 permanant jobs. That is quite an achievement after less than a year and I have to thank our Economic Development Team headed up by Amanda Cherrington for their part in making this happen.
We were also honoured to have Norman Baker, Under Secretary for Transport, attending the event and speaking about the benefits of light rail projects, like Tramlink for boosting an area’s economy. This was appropriate as one of our key priorities under the Opportunity Sutton delivery plan is to make the case for bringing the Tramlink extension from Wimbledon through Merton to Sutton. Cllr Colin Hall, deputy leader of Sutton Council, spoke about the benefits the Tram could bring to the borough and launched our Tramlink Prospectus.
There was a good attendance at the event, and we received very positive feedback from businesses about the efforts the council is making to boost the local economy.
I was very cross to read statements from Housing Minister Mark Prisk that he intends to ‘get tough’ with Councils that place homeless households in bed & breakfast accommodation for longer than six weeks. What is so scurrilous about this statement is that no local authority chooses to place families in B&Bs: the negative social impact on the families involved is obvious, but it is also incredibly expensive. In these austere times why on earth would councils choose to use the most expensive temporary housing option? It leaves even less funds available to accommodate the increasing number of people presenting as homeless.
The reason that councils in London are increasingly having to rely on Bed & Breakfast accommodation is because there is nothing else available. And the current lack of alternative temporary or permanent accommodation in the capital is the direct result of Government policy. Policy meant to depress rents in the private sector has had exactly the opposite effect in London so there is less affordable private rental accommodation available overall. Any private sector accommodation that is affordable is fiercely fought for by councils desperately competing to find places for those households presenting as homeless. And the increase in people finding themselves homeless and thereby increasing demand for temporary and permanent accommodation is also the result of Government welfare policy.
But then to add insult to injury, the Planning Minister Nick Boles pulls the rug from under our feet and reduces the powers of local authorities to ensure affordable housing is built! By allowing offices to be converted to residential units under permitted development rights we lose all s106 funding that would have been negotiated when a planning application was required. And as, since the HCA grant has been significantly pared back, s106 obligations are now the main delivery vehicle for councils to secure affordable housing, it is the equivalent to having an arm cut off in our fight to increase the amount of social housing in London. Not to mention also losing s106 funding to ensure that the new residential units have the local infrastructure support to make them desirable places to live.
On behalf of Sutton Council I have written to both Ministers on these matters, and received unhelpful responses. But perhaps what they really should be doing is talking to each other.
Opposition to a two-storey drive-through McDonalds in Wallington has spurred local residents to start a campaign against the planning application. Leaflets are being distributed and posters are appearing around the area saying ‘No to McDonalds‘.
On Saturday 8th June they will be in Wallington High Street collecting signatures for their petition against the development proposals and Tom Brake MP and I will be there to support their campaign and help collect signatures. Petitions are also being distributed around local community groups.
I have also been talking to local businesses about the proposed McDonalds. There are a number of independent restaurants, cafes and takeaways in the immediate area who feel this big brand chain will prove too much competition and put them out of business.
The residents concerns focus on the impact on the area in terms of increased traffic congestion, the additional noise, litter and anti-social behaviour, the extended opening hours, and the brash signage. A number of parents have pointed out that with two primary schools close by it does not send out the right messages about healthy eating and will encourage childhood obesity. There are already enough takeaways along Stafford Road.
It is still important that residents formally comment on the planning application as their views will be taken into account if submitted right up to the date of the Development Control Committee, for which a date has yet to be set. See my previous post for details of how to do this.
From the feedback we have had it is clear that the majority of Wallington residents and a good number of businesses are opposed to McDonalds locating a drive-through restaurant in Stafford Road, so as your ward councillors we will do all we can to help residents fight the application.
After just a morning in Wallington High Street we collected almost 600 signatures on the petition. At some points we had people queuing up to sign. Thanks to word of mouth and the article in the Sutton Guardian lots of people were already aware of the planning proposal, so we didn’t have to do a lot of explaining. The key point of objection from most people was not against McDonald’s in principle, they just felt that Stafford Road was the wrong location for it. However a good number of people felt that there were too many McDonald’s in the area already. Congratulations to the local residents for producing the posters, leaflets and special hi-vis jackets, as well as ensuring a steady stream of volunteers to man the stand.
Tom Brake MP has also put up an online petition you can sign here.
A planning application has been submitted for a McDonald’s two storey restaurant and drive-through on the site of the old garage, and more recently car wash, on Stafford Road in Wallington.
The site backs onto gardens of residential properties in Blenheim Gardens, Charlotte Road and Hinton Road, with the entrance and exit to the site located on Stafford Road
Two other applications have been submitted alongside this for signage and the famous golden arches.
It is very important that you let us as your ward councillors know your views on this significant development, whether you are a Wallington resident or local business, so that we can consider the potential impact it will have on the area.
I would also strongly recommend that you submit your comments on the application, for or against, to our development control department. When considering an application of this size your views can help determine the progress and delivery of the proposals.
The full plans can be viewed on the Planning section of the council website and are listed under reference D2013/67396. Your comments can be submitted online through the council’s Online Planning Register, emailed to email@example.com, or posted to Development Services, Environment & Leisure, 24 Denmark Road Carshalton SM5 2JG. Do be sure to include the reference.
Update 24th May 2013
We have already been contacted by a large number of residents who are concerned about the impact of this application on them and the area. As a result Councillor Hall has dedelegated the application to be considered by a panel of councillors at a Development Control Committee on the following grounds:
• Impact of the building due to its bulk, location, purpose and hours of operation on neighbouring properties in what is primarily a residential area;
• Likely detrimental impact of customer and delivery vehicle movements on the highway – Stafford Road – which is already heavily congested at peak travel times each day;
• Increase in litter and anti social behaviour associated with the nature of the business and hours of operation;
• the number of takeaways and restaurants in the area which make the need for this additional one doubtful.
It remains important that you write in to the planning department with your views so that members of the Development Control Committee understand your concerns.
Child psychologists tell us that the early years of a child’s life are the most crucial in terms of impacting on their future well-being, so it is imperative that we get this bit right. And it isn’t that complicated, apparently all that is required is for the child to be able to form a special bond with at least one person. That person needs to be loving, reliable and responsive to their needs. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a parent, and a bond can be formed with more than one person.
And this is why increasing the amount of children a single adult is responsible for in a nursery setting is concerning. As a parent I know it can be tough enough caring for one young child, when you have a baby and a toddler even more so. And it is much more difficult to comfort a child when you are not the main carer for that child, when you haven’t got that special bond, which makes it a tougher job still.
Currently the required ratio for under ones is 3 to one adult. Frankly I think this is already stretching it a bit if we expect some bond of trust to form between baby and carer, but I have seen it work over reasonable periods. I cannot see any good from increasing this ratio. Nor can I see increasing the number of toddlers that a single adult can have responsibility for in a pre-school setting having anything other than negative impacts on both the experience of the child and the stress-levels of the carers. The studies coming out of those European countries where childcare is common at greater child:carer ratios showing negative impacts on those children later in their lives is very worrying.
Yes it is important that childcare should be affordable, but quality costs. I never resented the cost of childcare because I wanted good quality people looking after my children in a safe and pleasant environment. Employee costs are always the major outgoing in a service industry, and we should demand high quality care at this important time in our children’s lives.
But there is more to this debate than just the cost of childcare. We must be very careful of the rhetoric around this debate. The discussion needs to be focussed on offering choice to parents, so that they can make a decision about whether to work and use childcare, or whether they want to be the main carer themselves in these early years, and how they fit that to their particular circumstances.
We need to be very careful not to undermine the choice of a parent not to work in order to be their child’s main carer. Whilst they may not be ‘economically productive’ whilst undertaking this role, they may instead be making a huge investment in the future economic productivity of their child by providing them with such a quality environment that it ensures they will become employable, active and involved citizens of the future. The few years taken out of employment to provide care in the early years is a small price when viewed in this way, and should apply equally to a lone parent as to a family with the luxury of two caregivers. A lone parent’s dependence on benefits for that period in order to give high quality care to their children may be a drop in the ocean compared to the costs to society of getting it wrong. We already see these impacts in young adults with inadequate education to be employable, who get involved in criminal activities or gangs as a result of negligible parental control or supervision, who become a permanent drain on the state.
Forcing or bullying parents into work, and offering cheap but poor quality childcare as the incentive (or removal of cost as an ‘excuse’) could exacerbate the very problem it is seeking to fix.
Then there is the other sensitivity, that we don’t make parents who work feel guilty for doing so, or for making use of childcare. And more often than not we are talking about mothers here, as sadly we are not yet at the stage where fathers are equally condemned for spending long periods at work away from their children and not being angst-ridden about it. As I said at the beginning of this post, it is not who the caregiver is, but the quality of that care that appears to matter most, and this role can be shared. Let us also not forget that for some parents there is no choice – they have to work to be able to meet their outgoings, and rely on whatever childcare is available via family, friends or paid care.
For me the key to this debate is choice. Yes making childcare more affordable will make it more widely available, and therefore more financially worthwhile for a parent to work. But we should also respect the choice of a parent to decide between providing that care themselves, and paying someone else to do it.
One reason that childcare works out so expensive is because that care often has to cover a full day’s work, plus travel time. So a parent working a 9-5 day will usually have to pay childcare from 8am to 6pm. And as we know in the UK 8-6 is often the minimum expected from an employer. Not only is this expensive but such long periods of time in a nursery setting is exhausting and possibly unhealthy for the child’s wellbeing. This is probably why so many women look to work part time or flexibly during the early years of their child’s life. But as we all know part time work usually pays less, so the choice sometimes comes down both to whether it is affordable, and whether the parent feels the need to work. Some parents feel they need to maintain their career progression, some to maintain their standard of living, others (me included) need the intellectual stimulation of work to keep them sane, and to make them better & more patient carers when with their children.
The biggest obstacle is the standard working week which does not sit well with enabling both parents to make choices about work and care-giving. The five-day, 9-5 model is based on the man being the income generator and the women the children’s caregiver and home-maker. Whilst we have been largely liberated from these narrow gender stereotypes, the economic modelling has not moved on at a similar pace. For me this is the great travesty as modern technology gives us the power for flexible working and breaking away from this outmoded working week concept. Many of us have drifted into this way of working, but the mind-set of office-based working remains. This is what makes the work/childcare issue so difficult – it is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
I am in the luxurious position of being one of two economically active adults in a household with children. My work can be done largely from a laptop anywhere, and I have the flexibility to arrange meetings around my children. My husband is self-employed which, along with technology, also allows him an amount of flexibility about hours and workplace. Together we can balance looking after our children with our working commitments, and when clashes occur we are fortunate to be able to call on family for additional childcare assistance.
And many families have found similar informal routes to achieving the balance that works for them. Many rely on relatives – often grandparents, to provide the high-quality but cost-effective childcare to enable them to work. Others find the one parent working, other homebased & main childcare provider suits them best. Others choose employment that has offers the working hours that work best for them, or that offer flexibility. These arrangements are decided upon and worked out by the families themselves, informally and innovatively, however not everyone has the same choices or range of options.
So my response to the childcare debate is that we should stop focussing on the issue from the narrow perspective of enabling both sexes to join the 9-5 rat race, and instead seek to encourage and enable more flexible ways of working and childcare. That could be through use of technology; through incentives for businesses to be more open-minded about their employment practices; via flexible maternity/paternity leave; and most importantly by accepting and valuing the contribution made by those who provide care for our children, whether that is the parent, a family member, or a remunerated carer.
How would you improve Beddington Park?
Join the discussion 7:30 pm Thursday 23rd May or Tuesday 28th May, Pavilion Cafe, Beddington Park.
We have an opportunity to apply to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for £3million for Beddington Park.
The HLF is looking to fund projects that make a lasting difference to heritage, people and communities. The funding will help us to bring the Park’s rich heritage to life and to help local people connect with it.
We will only be successful if the application is supported by local people who are passionate about their Park and want to be involved to secure its future.
Come to the Pavilion Cafe in Beddington Park on Thursday 23rd May or Tuesday 28th May at 7:30pm to join the discussion with tea/coffee and cake.
Please let us know if you can come by calling 020 8770 5163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s really important that you get your voice heard so please send someone on your behalf if you can’t come. Everyone is welcome – tell people you know.
Exciting new plans to redevelop Wallington Square in Wallington high street have been submitted and are out for consultation.
The square has been looking very tired for years with a number of empty units and needs redeveloping to be able to attract new businesses. Work was done recently to turn the derelict offices facing onto the high street into affordable residential flats and this has been a vast improvement to the main entrance to the square, so we are pleased that the owners are now looking to address the rest of the square.
Cllr Hall and I met with the architect to learn about their plans. We understood that in order to make the redevelopment financially feasible it needed to incorporate additional housing units. Previous proposals had looked at building a tower block to rival Rosemount Tower, but this was rejected after strong objections from local residents, and from your ward councillors, as we felt it would be too overbearing on neighbouring properties and did not provide sufficient parking space. The new proposal has tried to be much more sympathetic to the neighbouring properties by incorporating two blocks of three story flats on top of the retail units – effectively making them four storeys high, with green amenity space and parking facilities. We talked with the architect about the importance of minimising overlooking of properties in Rosswood Gardens – the nearest residential street that would be impacted.
As well as improving the retail units there is a proposal to cover the square with a transparent canopy.
The full plans can be viewed on the Planning section of the council website and are listed under reference D2013/67339. Your comments can be submitted online through the council’s Online Planning Register, emailed to email@example.com, or posted to Development Services, Environment & Leisure, 24 Denmark Road Carshalton SM5 2JG. Do be sure to include the reference.
The developers also have a dedicated website which gives artist’s impressions of the plans and more background to the proposals which were used for the public consultation prior to submitting the planning application.
Today MPs will vote on the proposals to relax planning rules to allow people to significantly extend their homes without need for planning permission. The effect of this will be to remove the opportunity for neighbours to object to extensions that impact on their light; that impinge on their privacy, or otherwise negatively affect their amenity.
Councils have been united in their opposition to these proposals. Councillors of all political colours have voiced their concerns about the potential for dispute between neighbours, and the lack of evidence that the proposals will do anything to benefit the construction industry as claimed by ministers.
In Sutton we were one of the first councils to speak out about the proposals, and I put the case against at the last Lib Dem Party Conference.
This united opposition of Local Authorities, expressed through the response of the Local Government Association (LGA), and the concerns of local councillors is significant, as they are the people and the authorities who deal with and implement planning policies on a day to day basis. They are the front line who experience and therefore understand what the impacts of these proposals will be.
This vote will be a test of whether our Ministers and politicians are willing to listen to their councillors, to take on board the knowledge and experience of the councils that have to implement Government policy. Our Parliamentarians are lobbied by big business, by special interest groups, by organisations with vested interested, but this only presents one side of the story, often quite a selfish side. There is always another angle, and local authorities are the other side of the story, with less of a vested interest, as their role is to act across a range of interests for the greater good of their residents. But local government is a body that is often the last one to be listened to by ministers. It is a good cash cow for cuts and scapegoat for the pain delivered by those cuts, but rarely is it seen as a source of good advice or feedback.
The planning relaxation proposals went out to consultation. I know that very many councils and the LGA responded stating why the proposals would be harmful. In Sutton we submitted a very strong case as to why the proposals would not work and evidence of how they could escalate some of the existing difficulties faced by planning authorities. The fact that the Planning Minister Nick Boles is still pressing his own Conservative MPs to vote through his proposals in the face of backbenchers’ own concerns about them proves that the consultation was a sham, that Ministers will pick and choose who to listen to, and dismiss reams of good advice purely to save face and not be seen to do an about-turn.
Today will be a test of whether MPs really do understand the principle of localism they claim to have bestowed upon us. For the sake of Sutton’s residents I hope that practical common sense prevails amongst the MPs that vote today, and they vote for local decision-making over centralised dogma.
When neighbouring landowners hired subcontractors to remove some dead trees from an area near Dower Avenue in Wallington, residents were furious that the subcontractors got over-enthusiastic and decimated all the trees on an area of undesignated land which marks the entrance to their road. The Dower Avenue residents had been informally looking after this piece of land by litter-picking and tidying it up and appreciated the screening it gave the avenue.
Not only had the contractors removed all the trees, they failed to clear away the debris. The Dower Avenue residents turned up at our next councillors surgery in force, seeking help. After myself and council officers met residents on site to consider the state of the area a number of actions were taken.
First council officers chased the landowners to get their contractors to remove the trees and debris left on site, and managed to obtain compensation of £100 to go towards acquiring replacement trees for the land. Our Arboricultural Officer, Ben Morris, offered a number of hazel whips that he could obtain, if residents would help with planting them. These and the elm trees that had been cut down would eventually grow back and provide a pleasant aspect to the entrance to the road once again.
At the meeting a number of other issues were pointed out which I have also got sorted, including new street signs, and tarmacing of the corner. A new litter bin has also been requested.
And on Monday this week Ben arrived with the whips and I joined him and a number of residents in Dower Avenue, on a very cold morning, to help plant the new trees. We soon warmed up and with the help the work was done in no time.
Caroline Pidgeon, London Assembly Lib Dem Group Leader has given us early notice of the London Mayor’s decision to downgrade the Wallington Police Station Front Counter to a ‘Contact Point’, which will now only be open to the public for just three hours each week.
Obviously the concerns raised by local residents at the ‘Consultation event’ held by MOPAC, or the responses to the survey carried no weight with the Mayor. Details of the decision relevant to Sutton can be found here.
I suppose we can be grateful that the Wallington station isn’t being closed altogether, but the downgrade of the front counter is just one of the outcomes of the consultation that we are unhappy with. As Caroline says: “The Mayor is going ahead with his plans to cut our dedicated and valued Safer Neighbourhood teams to only one Police Constable and one PCSO per ward. The other ‘neighbourhood policing’ officers will be for each Borough and will be allocated by the Borough Commander. They will also all have a new investigative role, moving away from the traditional problem solving and intelligence gathering role that has seen confidence in the local police increase. My concerns are that this plan is a return to the bad old days of policing I remember when first elected a Councillor in the 1990s. The Mayor is planning to decimate dedicated Safer Neighbourhood Teams and return to ‘sector’ policing which failed so many communities across London.”