Not only do the Sutton Conservatives appear hopelessly confused over the school sites issue, they apparently enjoy worrying residents unnecessarily, and are quite prepared to use confidential information in order to do so. They have been aided by the Sutton Guardian’s horribly mangled story about Rosehill, which followed the previous week’s speculation that the Croygas Sports Club in Wallington was the preferred site.
To clear matters up here are the facts:
Meeting medium term need on the Sutton Hospital site in Belmont
The Education Department at the council predicted the need for a new secondary school over two years ago, before work on a new Local Plan (Sutton 2031) started. An initial look at sites in the borough capable of delivering a secondary school showed only two possible locations – the ex-Sutton Hospital site at Belmont, and Rosehill Park.
Rosehill Park is Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) and is therefore protected against development except in ‘very special circumstances’. In planning terms this means there must be no alternative non-MOL site.
We were therefore very concerned to learn that the Sutton & Cheam MP Paul Scully declared Rosehill Park the Conservatives’ preferred site, and following that the Government’s Education Funding Department showing an interest in that site.
With a suitable brownfield site available in Belmont it was a very real risk that any secondary school proposed for Rosehill Park would not get planning permission.
The Lib Dem administration therefore agreed that the new secondary school should go on the ex-Sutton Hospital site and started work on making that happen.
The Conservatives either didn’t like or didn’t understand that there are rules and procedures that have to be followed in these matters and instead put out all sorts of misleading claims, including that the site was too small.
The lie in this has been proved with the council ensuring the delivery of the new school by purchasing the site, preparing detailed plans and securing the Harris Federation as the school provider. This all means that there will be school places available for secondary school students when the need arises.
Planning ahead to 2031
The Council’s Local Plan sets out planning policies to manage development in the borough over the next 15 years. It requires a huge amount of evidence and information to predict population numbers and housing and employment need over that period, which then informs the policies and site allocations in the Plan. The first stage of this work setting out the issues the council faces and how they might be addressed was consulted on as ‘Sutton 2031’ earlier this year.
This work showed that over the 15 year period at least two secondary schools will be required. With the site for the first school already secured in Belmont, the Local Plan work helped in identifying a suitable second site.
The Rosehill Park site unsurprisingly remained an option as it had already been identified as of a suitable size for a secondary school. However the consultation feedback on the Local Plan confirmed that borough residents greatly value their parks and open spaces, so that was a double reason to ensure that officers had looked at every possible alternative site before allocating a park for a second school.
Sadly the evidence now shows that there is no alternative brownfield site available, and indeed the only alternatives were other parks.
Less green space lost at Rosehill Park
However, there is some good news, as there has been a change in ownership of the Sports Village, which is located in Rosehill Park, since the original site search. The new owners have indicated that they may be willing to work with the council to ensure the new school is contained within the all-weather pitch and share their facilities which means that there would be less take of green space out of the park than when the site was originally considered.
In the meantime the Conservatives have used leaked evidence-gathering information in order to speculate about other sites like Croygas, that has upset residents and caused harm to local businesses unnecessarily.
The Sutton Lib Dems know that you can’t pick a school site out of a hat, nor are we prepared to lose part of a well-loved park without robust evidence that there is no alternative. And it certainly wasn’t going to be our first choice for a school when a brownfield site, presenting excellent opportunities for our young people due to its co-location with the London Cancer Hub, was available in Belmont.
Next round of consultation
Given the lack of alternative sites for the second school, it is expected that the December Housing, Economy & Business Committee will recommend the allocation of the Rosehill Park site for a secondary school in the draft Local Plan. This draft of the Plan will then go out to public consultation early in 2017 so residents can review the evidence for themselves and feed in their views.
The annual Poppy Planting Ceremony will take place in front of Wallington Old Town Hall on Woodcote Road, Wallington at 9.25am on Saturday 12th November. It will be attended by the Sutton Mayor & Mayoress, Deputy Mayor, Deputy Mayoress & Madam Deputy Mayor.
The Civic Act of Remembrance Service will this year take place at Holy Trinity Church, Maldon Road, Wallington at 10.30am followed by a service at the War Memorial on Wallington Green at 11.30am on Sunday 13th November.
All the work the council does and the decisions it makes are in the public domain and largely accessible through its website. However as this is often embedded in committee reports and paperwork you need to know what you are looking for or put in an FOI.
So in an attempt to make it simpler I thought I would do a series of posts setting out current activities in the areas covered by my committee portfolio – the Housing, Economy & Business Committee.
I have previously posted about Housing, so now it is the turn of ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
All the council’s work to boost the local economy is badged as OPPORTUNITY SUTTON and is overseen by the Opportunity Sutton team.
This area of work is huge so I will have to break it down into parts on separate posts.
EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING
Partnership working for better jobs
The council works closely with JobCentrePlus; local training providers such as Carshalton College, Sutton and District Training, JACE Training, Sutton College and Orchard Hill College; local business representatives including the Sutton Chamber and Successful Sutton; MENCAP; Epsom & St Helier University NHS Trust and SHP, bringing these partners together with council departments covering Education, Revenues and Benefits, Housing Services and Public Health. Together we work at improving the employment opportunities for people living in the borough. As a group we are called the Sutton Economic Support Taskforce which I chair.
Making apprenticeships easy
The Council paid SENSE Communications to set up and run an online Sutton Apprenticeship Hub bringing together information and apprenticeship opportunities all in one place. The Hub is useful for students looking for apprenticeship places, for businesses looking for apprentices, and is full of information about apprenticeships useful to businesses, students, teachers and parents.
Offering council apprenticeships
Sutton Council aims to lead by example by offering a number of quality apprenticeships at the council. It currently employs 12 apprentices and is recruiting for a further 2. We were very proud to see one of our apprentices working in the Opportunity Sutton team achieve the ‘Apprentice of the Year’ awarded by London Borough Councils.
Improved training for local jobs
The council’s Sutton Skills Match programme brings together local businesses, schools and training providers so that employers can advise of the skills and training that is required for them to offer employment to local people. As a result of this relevant information the training providers have adapted their training programmes to better meet the local need, and businesses are working with schools to talk about career pathways. An excellent example of this work is Sutton & District Training taking over the Building Lives program which offers training in construction skills that offer a direct route into work with local construction firms.
Working with schools
The council works closely with local schools helping them with work experience placements and providing special courses to help students be work-ready.
Annual Careers Fair
Each year the council organises a careers fair for young people aged 14 to 24 with the help of the partners above.
Supporting disabled and disadvantaged residents into work
Through the Our Place scheme helping people with mental health conditions and the new DWP Work and Health Programme the council offers targeted interventions to help and support people with barriers to employment get into the workplace. Last year it successfully completed an EU funded scheme to help a number of lone parents into work. The Our Place scheme has now placed 30 people with mental health conditions into paid work with 4 recently achieving a full year of employment.
Developing budding entrepreneurs
The council employs Successful Sutton to provide business training and advice to people thinking of or just getting started with new businesses. Together they are running a special project called POP UP SUTTON providing free monthly stalls in Sutton town centre accompanied by a programme of business advice and support for entrepreneurs wanting to try out their business ideas and products.
Working with local boroughs for a wider employment offer
Sutton is part of the South London Partnership which also includes the boroughs of Croydon, Kingston, Merton and Richmond. Sutton is leading on a programme of work to improve residents’ skills across the five boroughs, drawing on our local experience. This also involves supporting the area based reviews of further education providers. Cllr Ruth Dombey takes the lead on this area in the South London Partnership.
Skilling up residents for London Cancer Hub careers
Together with our partners the council is working to ensure there are opportunities in place offering health, science and social care training so that there is a pool of talent within our local community that the London Cancer Hub can draw on. The potential careers that the London Cancer Hub can offer will be huge and wide ranging and we want local people to be able to get the maximum advantage from having this illustrious campus on their doorstep.
Creating new jobs
Opportunity Sutton is working to attract new businesses to Sutton, and offers help and support to existing businesses so they thrive and grow. In both cases this leads to new job opportunities for local people.
The council reviews its progress in ensuring its residents can find work or training as part of an Economy Watch document that it publishes quarterly. I am pleased to report that Sutton has higher than average economically active residents at 82% of the population, and increasing. The number of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance is on a downward trend across all age ranges, and there is an increasing number of business start ups.
Your Wallington South ward councillors have recently been in receipt of a number of anonymous letters asking us to deal with a particular local issue.
Whilst we appreciate the reason for anonymity is from fear of reprisals for providing information, unfortunately we are unable to act on anonymous information. Anonymous letters do not provide us with the validity to take up the matter as casework.
We can provide assurance that we will not pass on the details of anyone who contacts us to report an issue without their permission, either to the council or to people who may be affected as a result of the information provided.
As elected members we have a duty to respect the confidentiality of residents we engage with on casework matters, and as part of our role we are often privy to sensitive and personal information.
We hope that this provides assurances to residents seeking our help and would hope that the letter-writer in question feels able to provide their address and contact details so that we can take up the issue on their behalf.
A resident alerted me to this appalling flytipping in Ross Road that took place around 2.30am on Sunday 9th October.
The Police and emergency Sutton Council staff had tidied the waste up to keep the road accessible to vehicles. Unfortunately the contractors the council normally calls on to get flytipping removed at weekends were busy elsewhere.
Talking to local residents it was clear that if the flytip stayed where it was there would be traffic bedlam along Ross Road on Monday morning. Ross Road is already a nightmare with all the local movement of parents dropping their children at the nursery, people trying to get to work, businesses, employees and commuters parking in the roads, and the ever present problem of obstructive parking.
I have pressed the council and been assured that they will send out a team first thing Monday and hopefully have it cleared by 6.30am.
Sutton Council is promoting apprenticeships as good value for local businesses and offering great opportunities for young people.
Last year it launched the Sutton Apprenticeship Hub which brings together information, apprenticeship opportunities and people seeking apprenticeships all in the one place.
The site is currently listing 270 vacancies in the local area and highlighting a number of success stories to inspire.
And leading by example the council has a great track record of taking on apprentices, employing 12 at present, with another 2 just being recruited.
We are also extremely proud of the recent success of one of our apprentices working in the Opportunity Sutton Team, who won the London Borough Councils’ Apprentice of the Year Award seeing off stiff competition from across London.
Delivering an Apprenticeship Hub was in the Sutton Lib Dem 2014 manifesto so we are delighted to see it launched and bringing businesses and job seekers together to improve local skills.
I was very pleased to be invited to the launch of the 2017 Wallington and Carshalton Marie Curie Calendar, raising funds for the charity to provide care and support to people with terminal illnesses.
This calendar is extra special as the photographs are of Carshalton scenes taken by popular local fine art photographer Julian Heath.
The Wallington & Carshalton Marie Curie Fundraising group hope to sell enough calendars to meet their target of £1,000 which would cover the cost of 50 hours of nursing care in the night sitting service for the terminally ill.
Calendars are available from the Marie Curie Charity shop in Wallington.
Update 7th November 2016:
Calendars are no longer available from the shop but will be on sale at the Yule Fest in Banstead Road, Carshalton on Friday 2nd Dec 2016
Springfield Church in Wallington is offering a free Money Management course running for three weeks starting on 6th October.
The CAP Money Course will teach you budgeting skills and a simple cash based system that works. In just a few weeks you will get to grips with your finances so you can budget, save and prevent debt.
Springfield Church is running its next Money Management Course from the Phoenix Centre in Mollison Drive, Wallington 7.30 – 9.30pm from Thursday 6th October 2016.
To book on this free course contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8647 3410.
You can find out more information about the courses on the CAP website.
Poppy Day in Sutton takes place on Saturday 29th October.