Everywhere you turn nowadays, there are politicians telling you that they know best then demonstrating with their actions that they don’t. In the current crisis, it is ordinary people who make the difference and so it has proved in the past couple of years in Sutton
On Thursday evening, the London Borough of Sutton Planning Committee “met” to consider an application to build a new school on Sheen Way Fields on the Highview Estate.
It was a meeting of these strange times with everybody conversing via computer screens and was streamed live, for public viewing, on Sutton Council’s You Tube channel.
The Department of Education (DfE) and their agencies had put in the application last June and in April this year, frustrated by progress, or rather lack of it, had bypassed the London Borough of Sutton and gone straight to a Public Enquiry with the Planning Inspectorate.
That meant that by June 3rd, the Sutton were required to revert to the Inspectorate with their position – hence the urgent need to put together a Planning Committee.
There are 183 objections to the application on the Planning Portal – residents recognising the need for the Carew Manor School to get new premises but knowing that the narrow roads of the Highview Estate, already congested because of the Chase being used as a rat run, could not support construction traffic or the large number of vehicle trips generated by a SEN school – in this case 25 minibuses and 59 cars each way each day!
If they were concerned about the application, they were incensed when the news of the current situation was broken, not by Council information to locally elected Councillors but via an email to local supporters of the ruling Liberal Democrats.
As it turned out, they need not have worried because the outcome was a vote against the application by 7 votes to 3. It is only round one, because we still have the enquiry but one hopes the final outcome will be that the London Borough of Sutton does what it claimed it had already done (but didn’t) and that is find a properly suitable site that is accessible and is future proofed in offering space to grow with the increasing need for more SEN provision.
Last night, two people spoke eloquently for the residents – Independent Councillor Jillian Green and Lizette, a long-term resident. Backed up by others watching on You Tube and a cascade of Facebook comments and likes, these two local ladies delivered.
If it sounds familiar – look at the last couple of years and the changes that ordinary people are making in this Borough. The Council decide to impose an unfair and ill-conceived Parking Strategy and what a shock they got!
And while Beddington North’s Independent Councillor Nick Mattey has been fighting for the truth about SDEN pricing for ages, the strength of purpose and drive for change accelerated with New Mill Quarter residents, who are living with the reality, getting involved.
I believe that the broadcasting of last night’s Committee opened up some residents’ eyes about just how unremarkable some of those ruling their lives really are – but it won’t change unless more people get involved.
Here in Beddington North there are three ordinary residents who stuck their heads above the parapet and got involved – we are Independent Councillors, we are not politicians, we only care about one thing, doing our best for the people we serve – the ones who elected us.
If there is going to be a new normal and real change, it won’t come from the top, it will come from you – let’s get involved and change Sutton!