Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Sutton’s Response to the Mayor’s London Plan

This is the covering letter summarising our response to the draft London Plan.

Many of the points are also relevant to the Conservative Government’s proposed revisions to National Planning Policy, described by the Town & Country Planning Association as amounting to deregulated Private-sector-led development model, with little focus on placemaking.




March 15, 2018 Posted by | Information | , , , , | Leave a comment

Sutton’s Local Plan approved

Sutton’s Local Plan received approval at the Council meeting on Monday 26th February meaning that its stronger planning policies can start being applied to new planning applications from today.

This means stronger protection for Areas of Special Local Character and backgarden land, policies to stop our shopping areas being swamped with takeaways, limits to conversion of houses into flats and multiple occupation dwellings, and protection for pubs.

Development and intensification is directed towards town centres to protect the green and suburban character of the borough, and there are high standards of design and sustainability required for new development. We have set out a requirement for those developments to deliver affordable homes, and for delivery of homes for families.

My speech putting the Local Plan forward for approval is here:

I am very pleased to be seeking council approval of our new Local Plan.

It is an ambitious plan.
It is ambitious for economic growth:
• To attract new business and investment as well as helping our existing businesses to flourish and grow
• To be proactive in the development of our life sciences centre of excellence that is the London Cancer Hub
• But it also wants that growth to directly benefit our residents, providing increased local employment opportunities and vibrant town and district centres.

It is ambitious to deliver the range of homes that are needed for our residents looking to move out of the family home, expand their families, or older people wishing to downsize. And we also want to be able to accommodate the predicted growth of our population here in Sutton.

But our plan also aims to retain all that is good in the borough, and improve on it.

Underlying those ambitions to encourage prosperity and deliver housing is our fundamental understanding that the London Borough of Sutton does not belong to the council, or to the politicians, it belongs to its residents.
That is why we underwent extensive consultation on our plan. We made contact with every household in the borough asking them to contribute. We sought out people who would not normally be interested in strategic planning matters to engage them in the process. We put on numerous events in the community, and I am very proud of our planning officers who bravely put themselves at the coalface, interacting, talking and listening to residents about their area.

So what did our residents say is important to them?
Their feedback provided some key themes that we have used as the backbone to our plan:

We learnt how strongly our residents care about our parks and green spaces.
We therefore felt fully mandated by our residents to take a strong line in our local plan to protect and enhance our green spaces. We will not give up our greenbelt, parkland or open spaces to development under anything but the most exceptional of circumstances. And those exceptional circumstances have already been identified, tested and clarified through the groundwork we have done.

Our residents told us that they value the local heritage. We therefore feel obligated to continue to protect and cultivate the boroughs heritage, and we do not see this as a barrier to growth, but as supporting it. For this reason we are very pleased to have had part of our town centre acknowledged as a Heritage Action Zone.

Our third theme is Quality of design, and quality of place. Whilst there is much that is good and valued in our borough, there are also plenty of areas in need of significant improvement. We know that badly designed places can kill off town centres, fracture communities and be a barrier to future development.
I therefore make no apology for the high standards of design and placeshaping our plan demands.

We have also set the principle that regeneration schemes are to be designed with, and around the communities that live there. We have no desire to move people away from their areas, only to improve the space and better accommodate our growing numbers of residents. Therefore it needs to be a joint enterprise.

Our final key theme is sustainability. Sutton has a reputation as a borough that has led the way on environmental sustainability. Our continuing commitment to this comes from our residents’ drive to find ways to tread more lightly upon our planet, and use its resources sparingly.
That is why our plan requires high standards in terms of sustainable development, why we offer connection to a district energy network that the council itself will provide, why we seek to protect local habitats and wildlife, and seek climate change mitigation measures.

Our residents demand this of us, therefore it is embedded in our plan.

As a result of the feedback from the consultations we agreed to direct the majority of new housing development to our town and district centres, to better protect the remaining areas that are essentially suburban, or areas of special local character, or conservation areas, and which are the underpinning fabric of our outer London borough.

However, we cannot achieve the aspirations of our local plan without the accompanying infrastructure improvements. The need for improved transport links, flooding mitigation works, green infrastructure, sewerage capacity, health and education provision, is all captured in our plan, and will not be deliverable without it. We have been very clear about that, and again it is something that was highlighted by our residents.

I therefore commend to you, our ambitious Local Plan that seeks to unlock the growth potential of our borough and ensure that Sutton continues to be a highly desirable, vibrant, healthy and sustainable place to live, work and raise a family for generations to come.


February 27, 2018 Posted by | Committee Meeting, Information | , , | 1 Comment

Stop the Labour Mayor’s plans to concrete over the borough

The London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has published his draft London Plan which proposes to deliver thousands of new houses. That ambition is great, but the way he wants to do it is not, as he expects outer London boroughs like Sutton to deliver most of the housing, and that would mean turning suburbs into intensively developed estates. For Sutton this would make us look more like Croydon or inner London. You can view the Mayor’s plans and submit your comments here.

Sadiq Khan overruling our Local Plan

Our own Local Plan has just been through its Examination by the Planning Inspector and is to be approved at the Council meeting on 26th February. Our plan was drawn up after extensive consultation with residents and sought to balance the ambition to provide new homes to meet local need with keeping all the things we love about the borough, particularly its historic and suburban character. Our plan proposes:

  • Delivering 427 homes per year, with 35% affordable (the Inspector made us reduce this from our original plan for 50%)
  • directing development to town & district centres to protect our suburban areas
  • restricting backgarden land development
  • ensuring supporting infrastructure like schools, health centres and transport links
  • tighter limits on takeaways
  • greater protection for pubs
  • strong protection for our green spaces
  • greater protection for heritage assets
  • minimum parking standards for developments

The London Mayor wants to overrule all that and is proposing Sutton delivers more than double our number of homes – he wants 939 per annum, and he says that back garden developments and infilling is how we are expected to deliver most of this housing. That would mean an urbanisation of our borough, making us look more like inner London, or Croydon, which we know from our consultation, is exactly what you didn’t want to happen. Wallington South is one of the areas that would be particularly at risk, as we know that there have been many proposals for squeezing blocks of flats onto back gardens and in residential streets that we have fought hard to prevent. The London Mayor’s plan would give all these applications the go ahead.

We need you to fight for Sutton’s future, and tell the London Mayor that you do not accept his plans to change the character of our borough.

The consultation on the draft London Plan is open until 2nd March 2018.

Chapter 2 includes the expectations for outer London boroughs:

If London is to meet the challenges of the future, all parts of London will need to embrace and manage change. Not all change will be transformative – in many places, change will occur incrementally. This is especially the case in outer London, where the suburban pattern of development has significant potential for appropriate intensification over time, particularly for additional housing.

The key section of the London Plan is Chapter 4 Housing, which includes the table 4.1 showing Sutton’s expected 10 year target of 939 homes pa, and tabel 4.2 showing how the majority (79%) are expected to be delivered on small sites.

It states:

To deliver the small sites targets in Table 4.2, boroughs should apply a presumption in favour of the following types of small housing development which provide between one and 25 homes:

  1. infill development on vacant or underused sites
  2. proposals to increase the density of existing residential homes within PTALs 3-6 or within 800m of a Tube station, rail station or town centre boundary through:
    1. residential conversions
    2. residential extensions
    3. the demolition and redevelopment of existing buildings
    4. infill development within the curtilage of a house

February 4, 2018 Posted by | Information | , , , | 1 Comment

Planning for school places

rosehill-site-preferred-by-conservativesConfused Conservatives

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.london_cancer_hub-1024x725

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.

planning_for_sutton_s_future_2031_logoNext 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.

November 8, 2016 Posted by | Information | , , , , | Leave a comment


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