Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Tuesday 2nd June 2009 7.30pm

Beddington & Wallington Local Committee

The main agenda items for this meeting were the results of the Butter Hill traffic management trials, decisions to be made on public realm project funding, and an update on local safety scheme proposals.

 There was an excellent attendance of around fifty residents at this meeting.

The meeting got off to an awkward start as we had a number of questions on non-agenda items submitted at the last minute. These were around the issue of a planning application outside of the committee’s area, but which was considered to have a potential impact on the area. The residents submitting the questions had been advised that we didn’t have an officer at the meeting who would be able to respond to the question and so they would be offered a written reply. They had said that they were happy with this as their main aim was to have their concerns publicly aired and minuted. It transpired that the main concern of the residents was the lack of school places in the area which they felt would be made worse by the proposed development. I had only sketchy knowledge of the actions the council was taking to address this issue, although I was aware that it was a problem that officers were looking at, and no detailed knowledge at all of the planning application. However Cllr. Richard Bailey, an experienced member of the Development Control committee, was able to advise the residents on how to raise their concerns about the application with that committee and the residents left the meeting apparently content that their concerns were formally noted.

 Cllr. Ruth Dombey, Deputy Leader of the Council came to talk about an idea she had for using the new Sustainable Communities Act to Sutton’s advantage. Her proposal was to lobby for the decisions on planning appeals to be made locally, rather than the current system whereby the decision is made by an independent Government inspector with no local knowledge of the area, and who could come from anywhere. It was felt that if decisions were made by an independent but local body the outcomes would be more sympathetic to our area. Essentially: local decisions should be made locally. There was strong support expressed for this proposal, especially by some of the committee’s community representatives. Cllr. Dombey would love to hear further from residents on this issue and she can be contacted via the Sutton council website.

 We next heard from one of the council’s principal engineers, Paul Tugwell, on the results of the Butter Hill Traffic Management trials. His full report was attached to the circulated agenda. Neither scheme had been entirely successful and at busy times had become disruptive. The traffic light controlled trial had caused problems because of the length of time they took to change to allow cars to complete the narrow stretch. This had caused drivers to become impatient and act inconsiderately. The temporary lights had also been repeatedly vandalised. It was concluded that the main reasons for the failure of the schemes were drivers failing to obey the signals and driving inconsiderately.

I asked Colin Quemby of the Cycle Touring Association to provide his feedback on the schemes as he had written to me previously with his concerns. He felt that both schemes put cyclists in danger because of the narrowing of the road below guideline widths. It was brought out through discussion that most of the danger arose again as a result of inconsiderate driving.

 I asked the residents in the audience who were from that area if Mr Tugwell’s report was an accurate reflection of their experience of the traffic management trials. Various tales were told of unpleasant incidences all of which backed the conclusions of the report. Next we needed guidance from residences about how they wanted to take the matter forward: we could pursue one or other of the schemes to see about getting them put in permanently; we could look into a one way system, or we could leave the area as it is. What became apparent from the comments from residents was that they wanted the council to continue to pursue a solution, with the traffic light controlled system coming out as most popular. It was noted that drivers didn’t like any of the trials, however the aim was to improve the safety of pedestrians on the narrow pathways. The residents said that if drivers behaved more considerately in the first place then the problem would not be so bad, so they did not think that the impact on motorists should take priority over the safety of pedestrians and local residents.

 The problem of the traffic queues backing up into the main road was noted and it was agreed that the Wallington North ward councillors would pursue an acceptable solution with Mr Tugwell in consultation with the local residents.

 There followed a presentation by Igbal Hussain, Cultural Services Manager, about Sutton’s Stay Active Campaign, which had been extended this year to include events at both Sutton Arena, and the Phoenix Centre on 17th October. Mr Hussain was looking for input from local people about the type of activities to include in the event and ideas about involving the local community.

The next item looked at our public realm projects and two projects were ready for decisions to be made on whether the committee should release funding.

 First we discussed two proposals for improvements to recreational facilities on Roundshaw Park. From the results of the extensive consultation with young people from the area by Elevate – a local charity which organises events for young people – we were able to form a good idea of the activities young people were most keen on pursuing at the park. Football came out top with skating/blading and bmx not far behind. Basketball also featured quite strongly. As a result of this, and after discussions with local ward councillors and the police, the plans for a skatepark had been revised to encompass a wheels and ramps park suitable for skateboards, blades & bmx bikes, together with improvements to the existing tennis facilities, the provision of five-a-side football courts, and an improved basketball area. The two schemes had some variance on the amount of facilities given over to each activity, and a slight difference in cost. Agreement was sought from the local police about the necessary improvements to sight lines and lighting to ensure the safety of the area. The original suggestion to provide additional seating for young people was dropped as the police felt that this might result in an increase in anti-social behaviour in the area.

The decision was made to go ahead with option two which retained and improved both tennis courts as these were well used, and to provide a single five-a-side pitch as well as an improved basketball court with additional netball markings, alongside a new wheels and ramps area.

 It was also agreed to revisit the youth seating proposal after a period of time with the new facilities in place.

 Next we were asked to release the funding set aside for the EcoLocal Cycling project as the organisation had now secured the revenue funding we had required.

The project is to provide an off road cycling scheme to enable young and disabled people to enjoy the benefits of cycling. The capital funding input by the Local Committee was to be used to purchase the specially adapted bikes and storage facilities.

 As this meant that the project was sustainable for the next three years it was agreed that the funds could be released to allow the project to go ahead.

 Time was getting late as we had spent a lot of time discussing previous items so we did not have time to discuss the local safety scheme proposals for the area as planned. I apologise to both officers and those residents who came specifically to hear this item. I stated that I would ensure that they were involved in the ongoing consultation on the plans.


July 17, 2009 - Posted by | Committee Meeting

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