Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Chair’s update on the work of the Housing, Economy & Business Committee

Meeting 29th January 2019 key items of business:

  • Housing Rents and Related Charges 2019/20 Annual council housing rent setting report. 1% rent reduction set by government so no local discretion currently. Have discretion over other HRA items which were generally increased in line with inflation. Recommendations agreed
  • Performance management of the Roundshaw estate by Metropolitan Thames Valley. Concerns were raised about the housing association’s responsiveness to resident concerns and support for Resident Associations.
  • Delivery of phase 2 of the HRA new build programme Positive news of grant of 6.5m from London Mayor to deliver 81 more council homes. Recommendations agreed
  • Council Tax Empty Dwelling Discounts Removal of empty dwellings discount and increased the council tax payable on empty sites up to the maximum amount (premium 100% after 2 years, 200% after 5 years, 300% after 10 years) to deter landowners sitting on empty properties so they are released for people to live in. Recommendations agreed
  • Council Tax Reduction Scheme 2019/20 Agreed to adjust the income banding in line with inflationary increases.
  • Discretionary Business Rate Relief scheme 2019/20 and 2020/21 Local small business relief scheme proposed for final two years of govt funded local discount scheme due to rates revaluation. Also detailed a new small retailer relief scheme announced by Govt. Recommendations agreed

Business for next meeting on 19th March 2019

  • Sutton Town Centre Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan
  • Carshalton Village Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan
  • Housing Revenue Account 30 year Business Plan annual update
  • Council/Sutton Housing Partnership Management Agreement review
  • SHP Annual Delivery Plan
  • Review of Housing Allocations Policy

Other Business outside of formal meetings

Sutton Link

Awaiting analysis of results of consultation. Initial information shows strong support for the Tram over Rapid Bus Transport and a preference for an on-road route.

SDEN – Sutton Decentralised Energy Network Ltd

All but a short length of pipework now laid including over the railway bridge gantry. SDEN is currently responsible for supplying energy to 81 Felnex properties (New Mill Quarter) from a temporary energy centre onsite until the connection is made to take landfill gas via landfill gas turbines, and then from the ERF once fully operational.

Shrubs and trees that had to be removed from a stretch of the land behind Hackbridge station to lay the pipework in Beddington Farmlands are now being replaced with new trees.

It has been confirmed that there is agreement with Clarion Homes to supply around 460 homes at the Lavenders in Hackbridge.

Employment and Skills Board

Sutton Women Mean Business projects in the week of International Women’s Day  Successful Sutton the town centre BID has taken on part of the Women Mean Business project and is hosting an awards ceremony to celebrate successful Sutton Women. There will be a launch event on Friday 8th March and the awards ceremony will take place on 26th September.

There are also School Speed Networking Sessions in March organised by the council and the Girls Learning Trust covering Carshalton Girls, Wallington Girls and Nonsuch schools. This will involve the students getting the opportunity to meet with 30 female ambassadors and quiz them. These women cover police, fire, nursing, management, small business, recruitment, architecture, engineering, voluntary sector, housing and local government. Some are ex-pupils.

In April will also be a Women Mean Business Library Exhibition of 100 Sutton Women – the WMB Ambassadors, and a series of WMB Business Growth workshops (all delivered by local business women).

Next meeting of the Board is Monday 11th March 9.30am – 11.30am.

Beddington Programme

HGV restrictions through Beddington Village are expected to be installed by the end of March. Work continues on improvements to the highway and footpaths and plans continue for a dedicated cycle lane along Beddington Lane.

Sutton Living Ltd

The company is seeking to appoint a design and build contractor to deliver the Wallington Public Hall site.

The company also received permission from the Sutton Shareholdings Board to set up a subsidiary Design and Build development co. so that it can reclaim VAT and thereby reduce costs.

Strategic Planning

The Sutton Local Plan has been shortlisted for the Royal Town Planning Institute’s ‘Excellence in Plan Making Practice Award’ and the Council’s Strategic Planning Team has been shortlisted for the Royal Town Planning Institute’s ‘Local Authority Planning Team of the Year’. The winners will be announced at a ceremony on 24th April.

The Strategic Team are also making representations on the Mayor’s London Plan on behalf of Croydon, Kingston, Merton, Richmond and Sutton contesting the Mayor’s calculations on small site development delivery capacity, amongst other matters.

Following a successful referendum vote the Hackbridge and Beddington Corner Neighbourhood Plan has been officially adopted as planning policy.

Council housing new build

We officially handed over the keys to tenants for the first of the new build council homes at Fellowes Road.

The Budget report notes a slight delay to the delivery of the other two sites, Richmond Green and Ludlow Lodge. Both were expected to be completed in February but in both cases inclement weather has delayed works. At Richmond Green there was also an issue of non-performance by SES Water. Richmond Green is now expected to be completed by May. With Ludlow Lodge the expected completion is now June and is also later than anticipated due to the decision to install a sprinkler system in light of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Ward councillors are being briefed on new proposals for more council housing on sites in their area in light of the £6.5m funding secured from the London Mayor. We hope to deliver a further 81 new homes with this funding, matched with right to buy receipts and HRA borrowing.

Regeneration

HEB members visited a Catalyst Housing Association regeneration scheme in Havelock.

Consultation with residents is ongoing about potential regeneration schemes at Elm Grove in Sutton Central and Beech Tree Place in Sutton West. The ward councillors are briefed and involved in the process. Elm Grove is more progressed and viability work is now underway using the feedback from residents on needs and preferences.

Work is being done looking into building housing on garage sites at Alexandra Gardens in Clockhouse. Ward councillors have been briefed.

Ward councillors and officers are also liaising with Benhill residents as their area has been identified in the Local Plan as a potential regeneration site.

Other

The Leader and I met a delegation of the G15 (12 biggest Housing Associations) to discuss their official ‘Offer to Local Authorities’ to collaborate on affordable housing delivery and better ways of working together. I used the opportunity to raise the poor responsiveness to residents of A2Dominion and officers raised issues with Metropolitan Thames Valley. We then gave the delegates a quick visit to see our new council housing and they were impressed by the quality and design.

I have attended meetings at London Councils as Lib Dem Housing and Planning Lead and the London Councils Planning Awards event.

I have continued my work at the LGA on the Grenfell Task & Finish Group and did the welcome on behalf of the LGA at a London event to share learning from the Grenfell Tower fire across sectors.

I attended a visit with the Leader and Cllr James to the Wallington CAB office to understand the impacts of Government transferring funding for Universal Credit support from the council to the CAB.

I attended the Harris Academy Topping Out ceremony with Ruth, Marian and Jenny to celebrate progress with the new build school on the Belmont site.

I attended a South London Partnership workshop on Visualising Good Growth.

I have regular meetings with the MD of Sutton Housing Partnership and the chair and Vice chair of SFTRA to review performance of the ALMO and sit on the regular Strategic Fire Safety meetings.

Along with Cllr Bartolucci, vice chair of HEB, I met with Encompass management to discuss current housing placement pressures and waiting list figures.

 

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February 20, 2019 Posted by | Committee Meeting, Information | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Liberal Democrat approach to Planning

I am shamelessly plugging a publication produced by Wera Hobhouse MP and Councillor Adele Morris the Lib Dem Lead for Planning at the LGA that compiles articles by a variety of Lib Dem colleagues on the subject of town planning.

It includes an article written by me about how we developed our  Local Plan to incorporate the views and aspirations of our residents.

Getting the Balance Right 

 

 

September 28, 2018 Posted by | Information, Liberal Democrats | , , , , , | 1 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:

INTRODUCING SUTTON’S NEW LOCAL PLAN
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.

Consultation
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

Chair’s Update on work of the Housing, Economy & Business Committee (HEB)

HEB Meeting held on 13th June key items of business:

Review of Planning Pre-application Service We agreed an amendment to the rate of charges to introduce an additional category to reduce the fees for smaller developments (1-4 units), formalised notification of councillors of major pre-app proposals, and asked officers to investigate whether we could publish the pre-app advice letter as part of the report to committee as standard practice.

Draft Character Appraisal of the Burton Estates Area of Special Local Character (ASLC) (produced by the Belmont & South Cheam Neighbourhood forum) This was agreed and we would encourage other Resident Associations to undertake their own Character Appraisals of ASLCs to strengthen their influence when determining planning applications.

Management of Housing Stock Review This considered whether we continue with Sutton Housing Partnership (SHP) as our Arms Length Management Organisation, bring the service in-house, or form a shared service with Kingston. On evidence gathered and external consultants’ report we agreed the option to progress with SHP as an improved ALMO. It was noted that this option could deliver the required savings.

Estate Regeneration Resident Engagement Proposals This set out the principles of engagement and transparency the council will adopt with residents in estates with potential for regeneration. The aim is for residents themselves to shape how their areas could be improved and intensified to make better use of space and provide improved communities and housing. It is noted that decisions to proceed with regeneration can only be made when the viability of proposals incorporating the needs and desires of residents has been assessed and shown to be feasible.

Annual Review of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme No changes proposed whilst new income band scheme beds in as it was only introduced from April 2017.

Discretionary Hardship Relief scheme for businesses re rate review Task & Finish Group set up to propose a scheme. This has met and a consultation has been undertaken recommending relief for small businesses (< £200,000 rateable value) facing increases greater than 12.5% of 100% in first year, 50% relief in second year , with businesses in CR4 getting 100% in both years to reflect the disproportionate increase in rateable value in that area. Final decision will be made in light of the results of the consultation at the 26th September Housing, Economy & Business Committee Meeting.

Ongoing business since last HEB meeting

Local Plan The Independent Examination-in-Public is to be held on 12-15th September 2017.

SDEN The agreement has now been signed with Barratts. Contractors have been procured to commence work delivering the pipes and installing them.

Tramlink Transport for London have allocated funding of £70m from the Mayor’s Growth Fund for the Sutton Tramlink, but this still leaves a significant funding gap. However it very much feels like it is back on the table with TfL keen to find ways to plug the gap either by saving costs or finding alternative funding mechanisms.

Sutton Economic Support Taskgroup (SEST) Quarterly meeting with Council post-14 Education Services, local colleges and training providers, JobCentre plus, and business representatives to discuss employment and training in the borough. Agreed to refresh aims for coming year and focus on engagement with businesses.

Meeting arranged with Children, Families and Education Directorate staff in August to discuss joined-up working across SEST & the Post 14 Progression and Employability Board.

Sutton Town Centre Masterplan Delivery Oversight and work with ward councillors continues in respect of delivery of the STC Masterplan. Includes North Sutton Gateway Scheme and estate regeneration work.

Jayne gave a presentation in July to open an Investor Tour event for investors and businesses expressing an interest in Sutton. Officers also gave presentations on the opportunities and sites in the town centre and at the London Cancer Hub and took them to visit the actual sites.

Open for Business Board Chaired by Cllr Wales this board is under the remit of Opportunity Sutton seeking to support local businesses. Last meeting looked at future of the Pop-up Sutton programme and will be seeking ways to build on its success.

Beddington Programme Consultation now out on various transport improvements along Beddington Lane in respect of the £7m awarded by TfL as a Major Scheme. https://www.opportunitysutton.org/beddington-gets-moving/

Sutton Housing Partnership Since the HEB agreement to continue with SHP as its ALMO in improved form Jayne has continued to meet with officers and SFTRA reps. Recent discussions focussed on governance improvements and oversight of the changes to sheltered housing support.

Business Improvement Districts (BIDS) Jayne was invited to provide an update on the Town Centre Masterplan at an event to celebrate the successful Sutton Town Centre BID renewal vote.

Work is also ongoing with traders to establish a BID in Worcester Park.

Sutton Living Ltd New plans are being drafted for the first of the company’s developments on the site of the old Wallington Public Hall.

Grenfell Tower fire local implications Jayne has been attending regular Fire Safety Briefings with Sutton Housing Partnership and Sutton Council senior officers and the local London Fire Service team to ensure that all council-owned residential properties in the borough have adequate fire safety measures in place and to respond to the latest advice and information following the Grenfell Tower fire.

Council Housing new build Work has commenced on the first council house new build, previously the Ludlow Lodge site. HEB members and ward councillors attended a ceremonial ground-breaking event at the Ludlow Lodge site and met with the building contractors Kind & Co a smaller construction company who impressed us with their commitment to award-winning build quality and consideration for neighbours.

August 18, 2017 Posted by | Committee Meeting, Information | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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

The importance of trees in urban spaces

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I was searching through some old files and came across this extract taken from ‘Greening the Concrete Jungle’ a Policy Brief produced by the Woodland Trust that I thought deserved a wider audience.

The importance of trees in urban spaces

The beauty of towns and cities arises from a mix of good architecture and design, and the landscape of public spaces. There is strong evidence that improving green infrastructure and the urban environment helps promote inward investment by creating a more attractive environment for businesses and their staff.

Trees are a vital element in providing structure and texture to green infrastructure, and yet this has been eroded in many places. Maintaining what we have, ensuring future generations of trees to replace those that are being lost, and imaginative creation of more places rich in trees is central to making towns and cities places people want to live in, visit and do business in.

Health and Wellbeing

Trees and woods are vital to health and wellbeing. There is a strong relationship between the quality of urban green space and people’s health and wellbeing.

Increasing tree cover mitigates some of the effects of a warming climate, reduces the impacts of poor air quality, and increases the opportunities for people to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Green space, and trees in particular, provide both direct shade and reduce the temperature through the cooling effect of evaporation from the soil and plant leaves. One mature tree transpires up to 450 litres of moisture a day – equivalent to five room-sized air conditioners left on for 19 hours.

Trees improve air quality by absorbing pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and ozone, intercepting harmful particulates from smoke, and dust and of course release oxygen through photosynthesis. This helps to alleviate the problems caused by chronic respiratory disease.

Each year, 24,000 people in the UK die prematurely from air pollution. Research by the British Lung Foundation suggests that one in every seven people in the UK is affected by lung disease, almost 8 million people. The UK also has one of the world’s highest rates of childhood asthma, with about 15 per cent of children affected and a higher prevalence in lower socio economic groups in urban areas.

There is evidence that trees not only provide physical benefits but can also be important to mental health.

Trees and woods can have a restorative and therapeutic effect on the mind. Studies have looked at the beneficial effects of natural surroundings on children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Trees have been found to enhance mood, improve self esteem and lower blood pressure. The quality of natural features and trees in the city helps reduce mental fatigue and stress, and has important benefits for child development.

January 29, 2016 Posted by | Information | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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