Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Shotfield zebra on its way

004Your ward councillors’ work to get a zebra crossing in Shotfield is nearly complete.

This week notices will be going up to formally consult on putting a zebra crossing in the road opposite the Jubilee Health Centre. You will be able to view the notice from 27th November on the council website under reference T30085 and can register your support or opposition to the scheme by emailing: traffic.postbook@sutton.gov.uk quoting reference T30085.

As the request for the crossing was put to us by a number of local residents who found it difficult to cross the road to access the Health Centre we hope that there will be plenty of support. Cllr Muhammad Sadiq, who took up the campaign from Monica when he joined the Wallington South team said, ‘I think it will be helpful for the large number of elderly people who live in this area and use the Health Centre regularly.’

 

November 24, 2014 Posted by | Information | , , | 22 Comments

Free Business Advice – Friday 21st November 2014

Free seminar

Offers & promotions that win customers!

In celebration of Small Business Saturday

When: Friday 21st November, from 8:00 to 11:00 AM
Where: Holiday Inn  Gibson Road Sutton SM1 2RF

Add to Calendar

You want to take a step forward and grow your business in 2015. You also know that you should be using email and social media marketing to do that, but you don’t know the best place to start. Sound familiar? Then why not attend this free seminar, where we’ll show you exactly how you can get started.As part of an initiative to prepare for and to promote Small Business Saturday in Sutton we invite you to join WSI Waverley Solutions and Constant Contact for a free networking breakfast and seminar on how to maximise your promotional efforts for Small Business Saturday which is due to be held on the 6th December this year. As the holiday season approaches it is important to plan ahead and make the most of the marketing opportunity.
Join us for a full English breakfast, and networking session to meet the other business owners in attendance, then our interactive seminar will cover the following topics -• We’re going to start by making sure you are ready for Small Business Saturday and the Christmas season• Next, we’ll talk about how you can create a Christmas marketing strategy for your business or organisation• Then, we’ll help you think through the best way to create a great festive offer• Our last section is about 5 tips you can use to make your promotion great

Register Now!

This seminar is for business owners and marketing managers who want to make the most of the latest technology to expand their business.
Join us and learn some great new strategies to help you build your next offer or promotion. This event is to help you prepare for Small Business Saturday which is on the 6th December this year.Small Business Saturday is a grass roots campaign that encourages people to ‘shop local’ and support small businesses in their communities, both on the Saturday and beyond. This year Small Business Saturday is being held on Saturday the 6th December where retailers and other businesses will be promoting local business. We want to promote Small Business Saturday to support those small businesses in Sutton who are the lifeblood of our economy.
Contact: David Duncan – Waverley Solutions.Tel: 02083953163  Eml: david@wsigotwebsolutions.com 

David Duncan has been providing Digital Marketing solutions for the last 12 years in Sutton.  He helps his clients to manage their digital presence. Be it a coupon or a Facebook campaign, offers and promotions should be part of every small business’ repertoire. But how can you maintain control of the process—and the profits? This session will tell you what you need to know about successful deals, and how you might use them for your marketing efforts.

November 18, 2014 Posted by | Information | , , , | Leave a comment

Full Council Monday 3rd November 2014

There were two motions put to Full Council on Monday night, one from the Lib Dems calling for more devolution of powers to local areas, and a Tory motion calling for the reinstatement of formal crossings in Hackbridge.

There was an interesting parallel here, as the Heart of Hackbridge scheme is a prime example of power actively being devolved to local people to make the changes they want to their area. However, as sometimes happens, there is disagreement within that community about the safety of some of those changes.

The Tory motion on Hackbridge represented Conservative councillors taking the side of one group of residents, and seeking to override the decisions of other groups.

Our amendment to their motion proposed a more balanced and conciliatory approach. Cllr Whitehead offered the Council’s Highways expertise to seek solutions that would satisfy the concerns of one group, without riding roughshod over the aims and ambitions of the local people leading the scheme. The local councillors have already brought representatives of the two groups together, and the council is willing to step in to help work up solutions to the concerns raised with those groups.

We feel that it is important that having given powers to local people, as has been done with this Outer London Fund scheme, and with Neighbourhood Planning, it is wrong for the council to suddenly step in and impose a different agenda, thereby making a mockery of Localism.

Interestingly comments from the Conservative members speaking on the devolution motion underlined just this point – that you can’t just talk about devolving power and see that as job done, it has to be put into practice. Whereas their own motion on Hackbridge was just such a contradiction!

In contrast, when things get tricky, I believe that you can trust local people to work the solutions out between themselves, as long as they have the right support.

The full text of my speech supporting the amendment is below.

I am speaking in support of the amended motion.

First I would like to welcome the Opposition’s support for the key Liberal Democrat values of empowerment, diversity and accessibility that in Sutton we have enshrined in Council policy.

I also appreciate that my Conservative colleagues may wish to distance themselves from some of the less inclusive statements made by their Parliamentary representatives recently.

So starting on the issue of empowerment, here we are in agreement with the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, to put the power to change the local environment into the hands of local people.

For the Heart of Hackbridge scheme is one of the Mayor’s Outer London Fund projects, one of the few schemes bid for and led by a third party organisation – in this case BioRegional.

BioRegional are managing  the scheme, with the implementation  overseen by the Hackbridge OLF Delivery Board made up of representatives from BioRegional, the Hackbridge Neighbourhood Development Group, local businesses, council officers, and developers of the Felnex site, as well as a local councillor.

Now I will be the first to point out that, whilst fully supporting local people finding local solutions,  the experience for those involved is time consuming, and often difficult to achieve consensus across all issues. People engage at different times, and with different agendas, and often we are asking people to manage issues that professionals find difficult to navigate. That is not to say that we shouldn’t support locally-led schemes, just that the bodies devolving power in this way need to be aware that the people involved should be properly supported.

 The aims of the Heart of Hackbridge scheme extend well beyond the traffic scheme, and the Delivery Board has been very successful in delivering a significant uplift to the local economy in Hackbridge, in the form of new business, employment, apprenticeships, and business grants as well as reducing carbon emissions from shops. Unfortunately these achievements have been overshadowed by concerns over the safety of the new road scheme.

I would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank BioRegional and the local people who sit on the delivery board both for taking on this task to improve their area and for those achievements that have received rather less publicity and criticism.

***

I would now like to turn to the issues of inclusivity and accessibility.

The traffic scheme was designed to address local residents’ existing concerns about safety at Hackbridge Junction particularly with regard to traffic speeds, and near misses at the zebra crossings. It is important to note here that these existing formal crossings were deemed so unsafe that many pedestrians didn’t use them and would weave in and out of stationary cars instead.

The scheme as it stands was designed by award winning architects and engineers following input from local residents and traders.  The scheme was also approved by the GLA’s design team and Transport for London.

The Hackbridge Delivery Board did consult with Guide Dogs for the Blind who confirmed that the scheme complied with national design guidance.

So we must accept that the Delivery Board felt that the scheme they were implementing satisfied disability issues given the guidance they had received from various sources including the Mayor’s own departments.

However, we are aware that campaigners for people with visual disabilities do not agree that the national design guidance is adequate in respect of shared space schemes.

Therefore, as we do seek to be an inclusive borough and as Cllr Whitehead has confirmed, the council will be working to help find a solution to ensure that people with visual impairments feel that there are safe places to cross at the Hackbridge junction.

Our amendment seeks to show that rather than riding roughshod over the decisions originally devolved to and agreed by local people, instead the council is offering its expertise to help find a way to reconcile the aims and concerns of those people with an interest in the area.

It is on this issue of inclusivity that I especially welcome Cllr Crowley’s belated U-turn to upholding the rights of the visually impaired. For previously in this very chamber he took a completely opposite stance when we wanted to enable visually impaired residents to be able to navigate the renovated Wallington town centre, instead supporting a businessman who expressed no consideration for the mobility needs of the blind.

In contrast the Liberal Democrat group has demonstrated a consistent and continued commitment to listening to and working with our disability groups to find solutions that work across many council projects.

So in light of what appears to be a mutual aspiration to ensure that all people are able to feel safe navigating the Heart of Hackbridge, I trust my opposition colleagues will be able to fully support the motion as amended.

November 5, 2014 Posted by | Committee Meeting | , , , | 7 Comments

Walking out of Darkness – Fundraising for CLASP

2013-12-08 16.15.33

On Saturday October 11th I will be participating in the Walking Out Of Darkness  10 mile walk around the London Thames Path fundraising for the charity CLASP.

CLASP raises awareness, support and funds for those suffering the stigma surrounding mental and stress related illness and suicide. The charity states that suicide is preventable with help and support.

I have set up a JustGiving page and any support for this worthwhile cause would be very welcome. There is still time to help me reach my target of £300.

I have been fitting  my training around my council work as best I can.

This is an excellent cause and very timely with World Mental Health Day on Friday 10th.

I am also very proud that Lib Dem-run Sutton Council has launched its Our Place! project which seeks to turn Central Sutton into a ‘mental health friendly community’ in which professionals, businesses and residents all have a role in supporting people with mental health issues.

The Council has a range of activities scheduled to mark World Mental Health Day in Sutton.

UPDATE 18TH NOVEMBER 2014

I successfully completed the walk in under three hours, and have raised a grand total of £626 for CLASP. Thank you so much to everyone who donated, your money will go towards supporting people with mental illness and suicide prevention work.

 

October 8, 2014 Posted by | Information, Liberal Democrats | , , , , | Leave a comment

Delays due to accident this morning at Mollison Drive/Stafford Road Wallington

7.25am 8th October 2014

There has been an accident at the junction of Stafford Road with Mollison Drive (near Wilsons School) which has led to road closures. This will disrupt the morning commute and motorists are advised to seek alternative routes to work.

The road is now open.

The Sutton Guardian has more information here.

October 8, 2014 Posted by | Information | , | Leave a comment

Sutton’s response to the Technical Consultation on Planning

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) issued a Technical Consultation on Planning in July this year.  The consultation seeks views on proposals to amend the process for Neighbourhood Planning, further extend Permitted Development Rights, changes to the way Planning Conditions are made, changes to engagement with Statutory Consultees,  raise the environmental impact assessment screening thresholds and amendments to Development Consent Orders.

I and my colleagues at Sutton have spoken out on a number of occasions against the extension of permitted development rights, both because it erodes the ability of local people to have their say on how development affects them, and because in practice it does not succeed in delivering its intended aspirations.

The letter accompanying our formal response to the consultation sets our position out clearly:
Date: 26 September 2014
The Rt Hon Mr Eric Pickles MP
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Department of Communities and Local Government

Dear Mr Pickles
RE: TECHNICAL CONSULTATION ON PLANNING (July-September 2014)
The London Borough of Sutton has submitted a schedule of responses to the above consultation from a technical standpoint but I would like to register the London Borough of Sutton’s and my disappointment at the overall policy direction of these proposed changes.

First, many of the proposed changes appear to run contrary to the Government’s own Core Planning Principles as set out in Paragraph 17 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). For example, the proposed changes to make prior approvals for larger extensions permanent and for larger arrays of solar panels will not “secure high quality design”, as stated in the fourth bullet point of Paragraph 17. The proposed permitted development rights for various commercial and retail uses to convert to residential uses will neither be “promoting the vitality of our main urban areas”, as stated in the fifth bullet point, nor will “promote mixed use development”, as stated in the ninth bullet point.

The London Borough of Sutton is concerned that these proposed changes to national planning policy, read in conjunction with the NPPF, are failing give a clear indication of the Government’s overall planning strategy. As a result, these mixed messages are producing uncertainty within the development industry and, consequently, hindering economic development.

Second, the council is concerned that the prior approval/permitted development right process is not producing the right sort of development for the borough and further prior approval/permitted development rights will have a similarly detrimental effect. In common with other south-western London boroughs, the permitted development right for offices to convert to residential uses is having a ruinous effect on the local economy. As of 1 August 2014, the council had granted prior approval for 52 conversions (a potential 64,096sq m loss of office floorspace) and 29 of the conversions were occupied or part-occupied offices.

Furthermore, approximately 70% of the housing units being created, many of which are sub-standard in terms of size and design, are one-bedroom market units when the greatest need locally is for one-bedroom affordable rented housing (starter houses) and 2-bed and 4-bed market housing. As I am sure our neighbouring boroughs (Richmond, Kingston, Merton and Croydon) will also attest, the policy may be suitable for some areas of the country but not for this part of outer London.

Third, the technical changes make no effort to deal with the housing affordability crisis. There are no incentives to provide affordable housing, which is so badly needed in London. Indeed, the proposed expansion of the prior approval/permitted development right regime will result in fewer affordable housing units being delivered than at present. Given the constraints of large existing housing estates and Green Belt, there is little available land in the borough for the Government to build its way out of the housing affordability crisis and so interventions in the housing market, rather than construction, are the most effective solutions.

However, the council does not wish to be totally negative and suggests that the Government could easily solve the issues outlined above with a greater devolution of powers to local authorities and allowing local issues to be solved at a local level. The council already has a pro-growth agenda but would like more powers to implement its agenda fully. Through the council’s economic renewal and regeneration programme, Opportunity Sutton, the council is providing an unambiguous signal that the borough is a place to start and grow businesses. The council’s Development Plan, adopted in 2009-2012, identifies the vacant offices as site allocations for mixed-use development and promotes the modernisation of other offices so that local companies can remain competitive and recruit staff. The council is also establishing a development company to provide affordable family housing – a product the free market seems unable to deliver. These actions show that local problems are better solved by local authorities and that local authorities, such as Sutton, could be more pro-active with even more powers.

Therefore, the council would like to suggest that the Government should stay true to its word regarding localism: stop issuing top-down diktats about planning minutiae, give local authorities the powers to address local issues and return powers to local residents so they have a say about how their area should develop. As we have seen with the office to residential conversion situation, what suits one part of the England may not suit another. What is suitable for Sunderland or Suffolk may not necessarily be successful in Sutton.
Yours sincerely,
Cllr Jayne McCoy
Chair of Housing, Economy and Business Committee

October 7, 2014 Posted by | Information, Opinion | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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