Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Things are happening in Sutton Town Centre

Exciting things are happening on Sutton High Street as some of the council’s projects and work to promote the town centre come to fruition.

Look up at Market Place Sutton to admire the improved frontages

Check out the new pubs

Our green wall looking succulent

Planters brighten up Trinity Square

Times Square renamed and refurbishment almost complete

TKMaxx reopening 15th June

Painting the Carshalton College ‘Live Art’ mural

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The award-winning entrepreneurs market

The Empire Cinema is also undergoing refurbishment and a big brand retail outlet is planning to move into Sutton.

With the additional development bringing housing, a new hotel, and new retail units around the station, and the new Sainsburys, flats and restaurants at the north end, Sutton certainly feels like it is booming.

May 29, 2017 Posted by | Information | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sutton wins Small Business Friendly Borough Award 2017

Heather Evans and Sarah Lomax from the Opportunity Sutton Team with Cllr Amy Haldane

I was very pleased to hear that Sutton was joint winner with Lambeth for the Small Business Friendly Borough Award presented by London Councils and the Federation of Small Businesses.

Our award was for the ‘Best Programme of Support’ by our Opportunity Sutton Team for the Pop Up Sutton Entrepreneurs Market.

Pop Up Sutton is an initiative to enable entrepreneurs to get a foot on the business ladder.

Over the course of the 18-month programme participants are able to access a series of workshops and one-to-one advice sessions designed to guide entrepreneurs through the process of setting up and running a business. Once a month a free pop-up stall is also provided to give entrepreneurs a platform to showcase their products or services to a ready made audience in Sutton town centre.

The scheme has been developed by Opportunity Sutton as part of its remit to stimulate and support new business in the borough.

We have had excellent feedback from participants in the scheme saying how much they have learnt that has enabled them to establish their business and develop their product lines.

There were 18 nominations for this category – the highest number of nominations, with 9 shortlisted, so congratulations Sutton for this achievement.

 

April 4, 2017 Posted by | Information | , , , , | Leave a comment

What is Sutton Council delivering for you?

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 Apprenticapprenticeship-hub-sutton-surrey1eship 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 apprenticeshipsapprentices

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.

img_0056Working 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 entrepreneurspopupmarket

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 careersicr_lch_1a

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.

Measuring success

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.

October 29, 2016 Posted by | Information, Liberal Democrats | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Support your local small businesses on Saturday 5th December

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Small Business Saturday is an initiative that supports small local businesses by encouraging their communities to ‘shop local’. It is an opportunity for small businesses to showcase themselves and to grow by demonstrating the quality and value that it can give to its customers and how it differentiates itself from its larger competitors.

This year to support Small Business Saturday Sutton Council is offering free parking in locations throughout the Borough to encourage shoppers to shop locally and support their local high streets including Gibson Road, Wallington Library, Carshalton High Street, Kingsway Road Carpark Cheam.

There are 7,400 SMEs in Sutton and they rely on your support. Show them some love on Saturday 5th December.

And if you are a small business looking for help and advice the Sutton Chamber of Commerce run 121 Business Clinics offering just that. See their website for more details. Or check out the Council’s Opportunity Sutton website for details of its Business Rate Relief scheme for small businesses and other support and information.

November 27, 2015 Posted by | Information | , , , , | Leave a comment

New serviced office space and meeting rooms available in central Sutton

I wCitySkylineas very pleased to be shown around the new serviced offices in the St Nicholas Business Centre, Sutton by James Hale, the Managing Director of City Skyline.

City Skyline are a boutique operator of high quality fully serviced office centres with established suites in Epsom and New Malden. They have now refurbished 9,000 sq ft of Chancery House to provide high quality contemporary office suites  in a prime Sutton town centre location.chancery house 2

This not only represents a positive new business venture for Sutton, but provides a great offer for new or established businesses looking for a professional and hassle-free environment.

November 8, 2015 Posted by | Information | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sutton employer? Find out more about apprenticeships

Apprenticeship network

July 6, 2015 Posted by | Information | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wallington booming and blooming

IMG_0284 (1)There are a few things that indicate when an area is on the rise: one is the presence of cranes overhead, the other is estate agents Barnard Marcus moving into town. We have both of these in Wallington as work on the redevelopment of Wallington Square continues, and Barnard Marcus has moved into one of the units at Canon House.

The owners of Wallington Square decided the time was right to invest in IMG_0301 (1)redevelopment following our own investment into improving Wallington town centre. This is part of a borough-wide initiative, Opportunity Sutton, the council’s programme of work aimed at growing and supporting the borough’s existing businesses and attracting new  investment. A key part of the programme is investing in key areas, like Wallington, to make them more attractive to shoppers and therefore boost local business.

IMG_0337 (2)One of the other things that make Wallington attractive is the hanging baskets and flower troughs that local people have championed and the council funded through its local committee public realm funding scheme.IMG_0328 (2)

As well as Barnard Marcus there have been other new businesses moving into Wallington including Byrnes Pie & Eel Shop, Paddy Power, a new florist in the Square, the Cactus Grill, Sue Ryder, Cox’s Pippin, a new cake shop in Stafford Road and the Wallington Arms which has taken over from the Jon Jackson. The pub is a particularly pleasing addition as it is a very welcoming community pub which also puts on live music and good food.

Since the town centre improvements local people have told us that they have returned to shop in Wallington, the parking is plentiful and the shopping area is particularly good for people with disabilities to navigate.

Richard Mark Menswear who are located in Wallington Square are keen to highlight that they are open for business as usual whilst the redevelopment work is ongoing and they will remain a key store in the square once it has been redeveloped.

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May 25, 2015 Posted by | Information, Liberal Democrats, Opinion | , , , , , | Leave a comment

London Resi Conference: Who are we building homes for?

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Yesterday I attended the London Resi Conference where housing developers, investors, land managers, the GLA and other industry professionals gathered to discuss how to deliver housing to address the shortfall of provision in London.

I gained some useful insights into the issues faced and forecasted growth areas.

However the ‘Bright Young Things’ ideas session left me with a heavy heart. We had the usual railing against the planning system and stories of local councillors playing politics because of their ‘nimby’ residents. The proposed solution was to take major planning decisions out of the hands of local authorities and have them all decided by the Mayor’s office. The belief that this would take the politics out of the equation and see speedier resolutions of applications was naive to say the least! The certainty is that there would be less transparency and democracy.

But most of all this debate made me want to shout, ‘Who do you think you are building these homes for?’ Those local people who often object to developments in their area are also the families who would like to be able to afford a larger home, the young adults looking to move out of the family home, or older couples looking to downsize. And often the reason they object is because of the poor offer these developments will make to their area.

We have the simple problem of trying to use a system that relies on the private sector to deliver the housing that is needed in the capital. That housing won’t be provided if there is not a profit to be made on the development. However the type of housing that local people want for their area, together with the investment in the infrastructure necessary to support that development, does not produce the dividends that drive investors. That is why we see the endless pressure to build as densely as possible, and battles over s106 contributions and affordable housing. Indeed one of the bright young things wanted the space standards relaxed so they could build even smaller homes. Are we really proposing to house the next generation in cupboard-sized apartments akin to some of the worst examples seen in Japan? And when those new homes are built, they are unaffordable for local people, so they are sold to better-off commuters who may well spend all day in central London and contribute little to the local economy.

All local councils, local planners and local people want is good quality development that works for their area. Felicie, one of the more progressive thinking Bright Young Things captured it well, suggesting that the offer needs to be quality spaces designed around people and their needs. She talked of flats that would be suitable for families if they were well thought out, and suitably located near the facilities that families require.

A couple of examples of the issues drawn from my area:

A large residential development specially designed for older people was proposed for a site. We thought that it was too large and overbearing for the site, especially compared to what it was replacing, and that there would be objections from the locals. In fact there was widespread support for it because, as lots of residents said, they aspired to live there once they retired. It was an attractive offer.

On the other hand we have a legacy of a large housing development of over 600 properties in a self-contained area in Worcester Park. This development has no inter-relationship with the surrounding buildings or community either physically or in design terms. It has placed considerable strain on the local transport network clogging up a key through route, and created discord and disharmony. This estate and its attendant problems are now a permanent part of the landscape, but the investors will no doubt be long gone having made their money and it is the local council and residents left to deal with the consequences, out of taxpayers’ funds.

To bridge the discordant priorities we need public investment. In Sutton we are showing our willingness to do this by setting up a council-owned housing development company which will allow the local authority to take advantage of preferential borrowing rates to invest in the housing market across all tenures. We will need to work with private partners but our stake will enable us to have more say over design and standards. And for our partners our investment will de-risk projects and provide the wriggle room to be more flexible about affordable housing and densities.

My top tips for developers are to seek early engagement with the council and residents, and be willing to flex their plans in line with feedback from all parties. People understandably object to having things ‘done’ to them. Allowing them to be involved in the process and shape the plans not only assuage the fear factor, it also leads to better developments. Think about place making, not just unit numbers. Resident engagement may be time-consuming, but if the result is a first time granting of planning permission it saves costs that might otherwise be incurred in redrafting and resubmitting plans and fighting an appeal, never mind the costs associated with delayed construction and twitchy investors.

I would also like to see a change of attitude towards CIL and s106 contributions. Both of these ‘taxes’ have the aim of ensuring investment in the local infrastructure to support a new development. That investment can be for education and health facilities, transport infrastructure or public realm improvements. All of which increase the attractiveness of the development to potential buyers/tenants. And a development that enhances an area ensures that local property values remain buoyant.

We have positive testimony from partners who have worked with us in this way: CNM Estates, Subsea 7, Affinity Sutton, Schroders.

And finally a defence of local planning officers who took a bit of a hit in the conference debates. These are professionally qualified, highly skilled people, who are under-resourced and underpaid. They work to nationally-set time scales for dealing with planning applications, and are only allowed to recover costs at rates also set nationally. Rates that do not actually cover the cost of the planning service. In their work they are pitted against highly rewarded asset managers, architects, planning lawyers and transport consultants whose job is to make money for their investment backers. Most planning officers want to see quality developments in their area as much as residents, and delays are frequently more about staff shortages or lack of resources than the obstructive mentality they are frequently portrayed as having.

In Sutton we have a pro-growth agenda, Opportunity Sutton. We welcome new development to deliver the housing and economic growth our borough needs. Our ask is for good quality, sustainable design that works with the local area, and reflects our residents’ needs and aspirations. To help we aim to work in a joined up way across services to facilitate progress through the planning process and are investing in improving our planning service offer. We are refreshing our Local Plan to make it simpler and clearer for developers to understand what our vision for the borough is, and what our expectations are, whilst leaving room for innovation and quality.

And in line with another issue raised at the conference, we have brought businesses together with training providers so there is an understanding of the skills gaps and as a result many more construction training courses are being provided by our local colleges, and school children are being encouraged to look at careers in the construction industry.

It was interesting to hear Tim Craine of Molior London talk about feeling the need to be a bit more ‘socially conscious’, in particular when negotiating affordable housing. This was refreshing, and perhaps another way of thinking about it is to understand that we are building the homes, and the London, both for ourselves, and for our children. If we want people to work in the city then we need to provide the housing for those people. And everyone wants to live in a nice home that meets their needs where they can feel part of a community and have access to the services they need. I don’t know of many people who aspire to rent a cupboard.

Sutton Point, CNM Estates

 

March 19, 2015 Posted by | Opinion | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Free weekend parking for Christmas in Wallington

santa parking

Parking your car in Wallington will cost nothing in the weekends leading up to Christmas.

From Saturday 13th December the car parks at Shotfield, Wallington Library, Melbourne Road and Wallington Public Hall will be free at the weekends however long you stay.

Once again Opportunity Sutton’s ‘Open for Business’ programme is offering this period of free parking to encourage shoppers to shop locally for Christmas bargains and support their local high streets.

There will also be an early start with free parking on Saturday 6th December in support of Small Business Saturday, a national campaign to encourage people to support their local businesses.

There will also be free parking places in Sutton town centre, Cheam and Carshalton. See the Sutton Council website for more details.

November 27, 2014 Posted by | Information | , , , , | Leave a comment

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