Well if you thought you were bored with politicians talking Brexit, you will hardly be inspired by the thought of those same people knocking on your door and filling your TV screens, asking for your support at the ballot box on December 12th.
And therein lies a
very great danger – if anything, there has never been a more important time to
make sure that you cast your vote and the reality is that there are many amongst
the political classes who really don’t want you to.
I saw a comment on
social media recently about our local Liberal Democrats and their “victory” in
a Council By-Election in Wallington North.
The comments questioned on the suitability of the Liberal Democrat
candidate, the imposition of the Parking Strategy on the area, the Incinerator
and other failings of the incumbent administration – yet the Liberal Democrats
They won because they
got their supporters (representing 12.5% of the total ward electorate) to the
ballot box – congratulations to them for their organisation. That small band of supporters delivered on a
low turnout and it is what “professional” politicians have increasingly relied upon.
Look what happened to that political establishment when they asked for a simple binary choice in the 2016 Referendum 70+% of the electorate turned out to vote and chaos ensued – it is called the silent majority and what a noise they made.
We need you out there again on December 12th – locally, we know that the Liberal Democrat machine will be at work supporting their 55th local Councillor, Tom Brake.
I say that because during the local elections in May 2018, I spent a considerable time convincing a voter that Mr Brake was not a Councillor but an MP.
But should an MP be out canvassing with the Chair of the Council’s Environment and Neighbourhood Committee (who runs his Parliamentary office) on the Council Parking strategy when half the Borough is represented Paul Scully MP, a Conservative?
And if the Labour Group bring out the Haringey Councillor, Emine Ibrahim again, it is a real North London stand-off with Tom Brake having started his political activity as a Councillor for the London Borough of Hackney!
So we are pleased that the Conservatives have gone local with Elliott Colburn – no, not old Etonian but an alumnus of Carshalton Boys who works for the NHS and who perhaps knows more about St Helier than merely as a backdrop for photo opportunities.
Good Luck to them all.
But who ever you like or support, on Friday 13th December, you must be able to look yourself in the mirror and say “At least I did my bit for democracy”.
At last night’s Housing Economy and Business Committee, a draft of the South London Waste Plan was presented with the idea of taking it forward to “consultation”.
document’s summary for the committee starts “ As part of the ambitious for
Sutton vision to make the borough a great place to live and work…..”
When you read on,
there is the exciting news that no new waste sites are planned and it then goes
on to summarise the totals by borough of Croydon, Kingston Merton and Sutton
who make up the South London Waste Partnership separated into Household/C &
I (Commercial & Industrial) and C&D ( Construction and Demolition).
It makes for an
interesting summary, especially if you bring in a split of Sutton / Beddington
North. Measured in tonnes
Croydon 32,883 48,474
Kingston 35,642 0
Merton 213,179 150,183
Sutton (excl Beddington) 17,212 2,728
Beddington North 647,429 40,297
So there you have it,
their numbers not mine – Beddington North a waste receptacle taking more waste
than the four boroughs put together.
To the eco-protesters
worried about the progress on Beddington Farmlands earlier in the evening –
what chance have we got for an ecological nirvana when we are dismissed so
readily by this travesty of a waste plan.
Included in the numbers is the new SUEZ plant so readily given planning permission in spite of a flawed travel plan that the London Borough of Croydon are still in dispute with and promoted because of “extant planning permission”. In spite of the site not being occupied since 2011, in 2014, inspectors for the Planning Department decided that the presence of incomplete kerbstone fitment and tarmac on the site deemed construction had started and site allocation for waste was secure. That is planned for 305,000 tonnes of waste.
Ambitious for Sutton?
As long as the ruling group can ignore Beddington North. And they are starting at an Emergency Full Council meeting on Monday when they will “debate” proposals for changes to Ward Boundaries.
Not wanting their image tainted by waste, Beddington South, with 3 Liberal Democrat Councillors, is planned to be renamed Wallington East.
Beddington North – well that becomes just plain Beddington, waste capital of the four boroughs.
Apologies to “Little Britain” but I was looking for some way of putting into words the double standards of local politics – never mind the shenanigans at Westminster. I have been quiet for a while – I had a delightful 10 days at the end of August in Vancouver for a pal’s daughter getting married but came straight back into things on the home front with a BANG.
Within 24 hours of
landing, I was at a residents’ meeting about the proposed development of Sheen
Way Playing Fields. An impressive
turnout and an enthusiastic attitude driven principally by residents mystified
that anyone could think that putting 240+ SEN children at the end of a cul de
sac and next to a railway – no access to public transport and “protected” from
the railway by closed, tinted, non-opening glass and artificial ventilation!
Barely a trace of nimbyism – just oceans of common sense and passionate advocacy for the children lead by Councillor Jillian Green.
What a contrast on
Tuesday night when there was a Planning Committee meeting about a proposed
school at Rose Hill. Long opposed by
local Liberal Democrat Councillors Dombey (yes, the Leader of the Council),
Penneck and Herron.
Just to put the
matter into context – they had objected to the site before and the Council had
been authorised to spend a fortune acquiring Sutton Hospital land as part of Councillor
Dombey’s favourite vanity project, the London Cancer Hub and land – deemed inadequate
by an expert report – was set aside for a school. Some people, perhaps unfairly, have claimed
this was to protect her and her colleagues’ electoral prospects.
Nevertheless, Rose Hill was allocated for development as a secondary school and adjacent Special Needs Annex within the Local Plan – yes, that plan that was voted in with Liberal Democrat unanimity in February 2018.
On Tuesday evening, in front of a partisan public audience, a proposal for the school to be built and funded by the Department of Education (DfE) was rejected on design and other “planning” grounds.
The tone was very different to the Sheen Way Residents meeting – Cllr Steve Penneck spoke of concerns about Parking, the Traffic Plan and Traffic Congestion but of course, the major concern was design. I pointed out in questioning that irrespective of design, his three other concerns prevailed so his principle concern could not be design!
There was only one Liberal Democrat Member, Cllr Andrew who articulated any real concern over the fact that next year’s intake of 200 – 300 Secondary School Children would be without a guaranteed place – but when it came to the vote, design was the key.
So a Liberal Democrat Council allocates a site for a much needed secondary school, imposes parking constraints on residents and then uses parking as a reason to refuse – makes no attempt to improve infrastructure or public transport and uses traffic congestion as a reason to refuse – closes down cultural facilities in the Borough yet uses architectural aesthetics as a reason to refuse. Refuse not just Planning Permission but this Borough’s children’s educational opportunities – very sad.
In other news, the same Planning Committee had, 6 days earlier, via the voting of the Liberal Democrat majority on the Committee – one abstention and yes, it was the thoughtful Cllr Andrew again – agreed the building of another waste transfer facility on Beddington Lane. I asked the representative of SUEZ, the waste company involved when their last fire was at the Merton Plant that they are vacating –May was the answer.
Irrespective of the fact that it is only a matter of weeks since a fire at the Viridor plant blew toxic fumes all over Beddington and Croydon and the fact that the fire investigation remains incomplete. Irrespective of the fact that there are objections from our neighbours in Croydon over the routing of HGV’s and a suspension of an HGV ban in Beddington Village it all passed the critical litmus test for Liberal Democrat approval – “It’s Beddington – they’ve even got Croydon postcodes, who cares?”
In the South London Waste Plan – introduced in 2012 (yes it is that out of date) – reference is made to impacts of this site on the local school which was Beddington Primary 1.06km from the site. Since then, they have built Hackbridge Primary 1.2 km from the site but they took no notice of the approval to build an incinerator less than 1 km away in the Air Quality Report for that school, so another major fire risk nearby did not even warrant a mention in the SUEZ proposals.
On other matters, by now you will have all received the letter about Consultation on the Parking Strategy. Please respond and if you know a neighbour who perhaps is not au fait with computers please help them – a Councillor from the other side of the Borough received a note from the Council Officers that indicated an absolute minimum of effort is being put in to facilitate paper copies and we need to make sure everyone gets the opportunity to have their say.
progress – as Chair of the Conservation and Access Management Committee for
Beddington Farmlands, I have managed to get two “proper” community
representatives on board – from Hackbridge, Stephen Debourde, and from
Beddington, Tom Sweeney. The scientists have
done a cracking job on the ecology so our focus is on public access and we will
ensure that local interests have a voice and an exemplary restoration job is
If you have any other concerns about Beddington North be sure to email us:
been a while since I wrote a blog, apart from dealing with individual residents
problems the big project is the proposal for developing a Special Educational
Needs School on Sheen Way Playing Fields in Wallington. There is not one resident I have spoken to
who is against the building of a new SEN school, it is badly needed but the
selected site is so unsuitable.
Time and again Council officers and developers say “well it was voted for in the Local Plan”. Two things spring to mind here, before I became a Councillor I didn’t even know about a consultation on the Local Plan or indeed what the Local Plan was and I’ll bet not many residents did either. Secondly I was not aware of Local Committee where the Local Plan would have been discussed so how is this a democratic decision. It was probably no coincidence that the two Liberal Democrat councillors for Beddington North lost their seats at the local elections because they voted for the Local Plan without even consulting with those the Sheen Way proposal will affect so badly.
The plans have now been submitted for comment and the first thing that strikes me is how the devil are they going to get the traffic around the roads of the High View Estate. They are narrow and the plans include bringing cranes in to site those horrible containers for the project offices.
I hope compensation when properties become damaged has been written into the budget. Just supposing they decide to put double yellow lines everywhere, the outcry will be louder than that for the CPZ, speaking of which are those proposals going to be “dead in the water”?
Another thing that strikes me, Councillor Dombey recently refused to back plans for a new high school and SEN school on Rose Hill Recreation Ground which is in her ward, saying that the designs were not very good and the children deserve better. Well I can tell you the Councillors for Beddington North and the residents affected by the Sheen Way proposals have been saying the same thing.
Is it good for children with special needs to be put into classrooms that are 12 metres from a railway line with at least 8 trains an hour plus the noise from the small industrial estate that runs along one side of the field? The designers tell me that it will be alright because the classrooms will have triple glazing with darkened windows which won’t open so fresh air will be replaced by air conditioning, lovely……
The field is also a flood plain taking water away from the railway line, it is no coincidence that after the ten hours of rain we had recently the line kept running whilst other local lines were affected by flooding, plus the fact that the houses were also safe.
everyone seen a copy of the Council’s environment strategy where they say they
want to preserve open spaces and establish more? This summer the Sheen Way Playing Field was
left uncut for a period of time and IdVerde cut swathes of pathways through
it. It was magnificent and there were so
many butterflies, bees and other forms of wildlife it is sacrilege and goes
against the Council’s strategy to concrete over it. The strategy also calls on reduction in air
and noise pollution. How’s that going to
work for the residents of the estate when there will be air and noise pollution
from the traffic? It has been estimated
that there could be as many as 60,000 extra traffic movements a year and that
is without the traffic from parents dropping their children off at High View
July over 60 residents of the High View estate came together for a community
picnic. We hope to hold more events as
it is so important in this day and age of divisions in society to bring
communities together. The vision for the
field would be to make it a community space with more tree planting, again in
the Environment strategy, an allotment, a proper wood chip pathway and a dog
free area for kiddies playground. So
many people are now walking around the field for exercise either singly or in
groups, families are playing ball games, this all goes to aid health and well
being, something the Council wishes to promote.
urge everyone to respond to the Parks and Open Space consultation which can be
found on the Council website? This
closes in early September and I find it amazing that if responses on
consultations reaches 5,000 out of 200,000 residents the Council considers that
acceptable. I for one think it is time
to have a rethink on how consultations take place. I complain time and again about the phrase
“it can be accessed on line”. Surely
Local Committees can be utilised more effectively regarding consultations as
well as engaging with residents associations and voluntary community groups.
This was a comment I made to the Leader of Sutton
Council at the reception for the new Mayor of Sutton a couple of months ago.
It wasn’t well received and with recent events, I
think we have a real gap opening up between our politicians and the public that
they claim to serve.
There was a recent Full Council meeting held on 22nd
July. Within the agenda was a petition delivered
by Extinction Rebellion seeking declaration of a climate emergency and carbon neutrality
in Sutton by 2030. Alongside that was
another Motion proposed by a Lib Dem Councillor that equally sought declaration
of a climate emergency but a later date, 2045 for carbon neutrality
Some days before that meeting, we received an
email from Cllr Penneck, a key Lib Dem strategist asking if we felt the two
should be combined into one debate. The
Conservative opposition were vociferously against that and wanted two separate
When the petition came up, the content had been
revised into a set of officer recommendations with options of 2030, 2045 or no
The Leader of the Tories, Cllr Tim Crowley quite
rightly demanded that there should be a straightforward vote on the content and
context of the original petition. After
consideration by the Mayor, this was allowed and, with absences on the Lib Dem
benches, three votes for the petition as well as two abstentions from the
ruling party, and the petition was carried.
Let’s be clear, that meant that on a
free vote, the elected representatives of the residents of Sutton voted for
carbon neutrality by 2030.
Then we have a “debate” about the very same
subject which, with the unanimity of the Liberal Democrat majority (including
those who had voted for the earlier
petition as well as those who had abstained) was carried against the abstention
of all opposition members, Conservative and Independent.
A call came from the rather dumbfounded opposition
to the Mayor and Chief Executive of the Council
“Which one counts – 2030 or 2045”
to which the ambivalent answer came
Earlier in the evening, I had posed the question
to the Leader of the Ruling Group about the make-up of the Scrutiny Committee.
Like every committee, apart from Audit & Governance, it is made up with
members in proportion to the overall party representation in Council.
Audit & Governance occupies a unique position
of neutrality as it has equal numbers of the ruling group and opposition as
well as an independent member of the public.
I quoted the Constitution of the London Borough of
Sutton wherein there is a whole section about “The Purpose of the Constitution”
– in section 1:3, it states:
that no on will review or scrutinise a decision in which they were
I suggested that the handling of public petitions
by the Committees who had originally agreed a policy that the petitioner(s)
were appealing against should be reviewed as well as the make-up of the
Scrutiny and Planning Committees.
Nobody who believes in democracy can dispute the
right of a winner in an election, to establish the agenda and, through cabinet
or committee, seeking to implement that agenda.
However, there needs to be a system of public
scrutiny / accountability to ensure that the public we are here to serve have a
transparent perspective of decision making.
For example, the Housing Economy and Business Committee
(HEB), chaired by Cllr McCoy the Deputy Leader of the ruling group establishes housing
strategies. Some of these are
implemented by the London Borough of Sutton’s wholly owned property development
company, Sutton Living. All LBS owned
companies come under the oversight of the Shareholding Committee lead by Cllr
McCoy, who, although not on the Planning Committee is the ruling group’s “Lead
Member on Planning”
Planning applications deriving from all sources
including HEB strategies as well as development plans from Sutton Living are
considered by the Planning Committee. As
is emphasised at every opportunity, this is a quasi-judicial committee – so why
does it need a majority of ruling group members and a chair from the same party?
How can we know that all decisions are dispassionately arrived at?
I believe in democracy and I believe in fairness –
to bludgeon policy through to legislation by use of a majority without
effective oversight and scrutiny is not democracy, it is a bullying dictatorship.
This is not a fight against the current ruling
group – I am sure there are Councils run by parties of all persuasions who will
seek to drive their own agendas through.
No, this is all about fairness to the people we seek to serve.
We have all seen the performances in the Houses of Parliament, in recent months, the apparent gap between the perceptions of politicians and those of “ordinary people”. Factional, internecine warfare amongst the politicians in Westminster has seen day to day issues that they should be involved in stalled – is it a strong Opposition holding an errant Government to account – no, they are all embroiled in presenting what they think may get them elected if and when the next election comes around.
And sadly, the same can be said of Local Government – when one attends a Full Council meeting, “debate” amounts to Opposition critique of the ruling Liberal Democrats who riposte with “Government Cuts”. Other debates bring forward side issues like Single Use Plastics or pledges around Anti-Bullying week.
All the while, we have noises off from the Carshalton and Wallington MP, Tom Brake directing and interfering because he knows that his Parliamentary career could be damaged by unpopular local Lib Dem policies.
The Parking Strategy is a typical example – poorly
conceived, appallingly communicated, it created a massive backlash from local
residents. A Council meeting at
Carshalton College was attended by 100’s of residents and, confronted by real
people, Standing Orders and procedural matters were shown for their irrelevance
in the real world.
In a panic reaction, you had Mr Brake pontificating
and canvassing, followed by Social Media Posts by Liberal Democrat Councillors claiming
“victories” on behalf of their residents when some changes were made.
It was their policy in the first place, did they
not have any appreciation of local residents’ lifestyles or needs?
The process of a Traffic Management Order (TMO) is in progress with the well defined Controlled Parking Zones (CPZ) of the initial questionnaires, replaced by a delightfully vague concept of Permitted Parking Area (PPA) – vague in definition, vague in signposting and of course vague in communication.
In Beddington North, we have yet to even
experience Stage 1 of this comedy of errors that is the London Borough of
Sutton’s Parking Strategy (Revised) but sadly it is likely that our residents
may fall foul of the system before it reaches us.
Visiting a friend in a PPA, an electrician called
to a job in a PPA or organising a caring visit to an elderly relative in a PPA? All could get you a fine.
That TMO that would tell you all about the PPA’s –
it will be on the LBS website, if you can find it. They will make it legal by publishing it in
the Sutton Guardian, if you get access to a copy or find the paper online.
Is any real effort made on behalf of the community?
Oh – the single use plastics – you’ll be pleased to know that the coffee machines in the meeting rooms have been replaced by flasks. And bullying – an even bigger farce.
Anti Bullying Week was 12th-16th
November 2018 and this coincided with a Full Council where there was unanimity
amongst the Councillors of every persuasion against bullying. For PR purposes,
a pledge was produced on card – a bit like one of those winner’s cheques in
competitions – and Councillors were invited to sign their name on the board.
The minutes of that Council meeting say that the
pledge would show on Councillors’ individual profiles on the Council website.
I am not into political PR and declined to sign – the board, well that could be seen leaning up against a wall in the Members’ Area in the Civic Offices, apparently as an invitation to sign it.
Did the Council put the pledge on Councillor
profiles – with their normal inimitable efficiency they did so on 10th
June 2019 – 7 months later – to coincide with follow up training on the
At the end of that training session, I observed
that the exclusion of anti bullying references on some Councillor’s profiles
inferred their support of bullying and was counter intuitive as many of those
Councillors who had the pledge on their profiles had not even attended the
Immediately I was surrounded by a hectoring collection
of Lib Dem Councillors telling me I only had to sign the pledge. History records all sorts of unpleasant organisations
that sought similar compliance!
Anyway, I have since made my point vociferously to Committee Services and suggested that they remove the “Pledge” with its signatures from the debris of the Members’ Area to a to a public display – maybe in the main entrance alongside the picture of all the Councillors so that residents can compare their actions, say on parking issues, with the words!
But we are keeping focussed on what our residents tell us – the new bus service – Go Sutton – isn’t a lot of good because it doesn’t Go Beddington! That is unlike the X26 that at least goes through Beddington, we are still lobbying to get it to stop there!
We continue to battle on behalf of Highview
Residents and pupils of Carew Manor – if the London Borough of Sutton had done
the job they were supposed to do and conducted a proper search for the BEST
site for a SEN school there would be a Plan B. There isn’t one, according to LBS, they will
have to stay at Carew Manor if they cannot move to Sheen Way!
The Planning Application submitted has not yet
even been validated and LBS have let down Orchard Hill Trust, the staff and pupils
of Carew Manor, the Department of Education who have committed funds and of
course (as always) the residents.
A good start on Beddington Farmlands – finally appointed as Chair of the Conservation and Access Committee, I have proposed inclusion of community members to the group and we have a road map to measure progress. The support of Councillor Jillian Green on that committee is another bonus voice for the people of Beddington.
Still no sign of the TMO to ban
lorries in Beddington Village although we now have a very pretty bit of
signwriting on the wall outside the Village Hall to ensure that you know where
Interesting how the Council can suspend the TMO
process when it suits them – bet they won’t delay on the Parking!
Sadly the next meeting of the BNNF clashes with
Full Council so you will miss our smiling faces but we will prepare proper reports
to keep residents up to date.
“Bonkers” describes the outcome of the Planning Committee on the application by Prologis to build a warehouse in front of the incinerator.
No problem with the design, the concept but rather the usage proposed because it will deliver more HGV and LGV traffic onto Beddington Lane. As we have already identified, another huge application will shortly be up for consideration with SUEZ looking to transfer their operations from the ecological disaster area they have left in Mitcham over to Beddington Lane.
Croydon Council have already tabled their concerns on that application, concerns that had been placed on the planning portal for the Prologis application.
A little background to this application – Thames Water owned the land that was designated Metropolitan Open Land (MOL). Well known property agency Saviles lobbied the Planning Inspectorate to re-designate the land for industrial use and this was incorporated in the Local Plan. The only Councillor involved with that process was the Lead Member for Planning, Cllr Jayne McCoy, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Council.
We were approached by Prologis immediately on our election in May 2018 but declined to get involved as we had concerns over the project and did not want to influence any subsequent planning application.
At the Planning Committee last week, when the applicant was given opportunity to speak a number of people stepped up – Prologis representatives including a Director, their Transport Consultant and a representative of their agency – Saviles!
During their speeches, the Director of Prologis emphasised that they had not had any part in the re-designation of the site which I questioned saying that my understanding was that Saviles had lobbied the Planning Inspectorate. After a moment’s embarrassed silence, the young lady from Saviles said “That wasn’t us, if was another branch acting for Thames Water.” I observed that it must have been “the other Saviles”.
In spite of the flawed traffic plan, the concerns of the London Borough of Croydon and the impassioned objections of Cllr Mattey the plan was approved with the majority Lib Dem representation on the Committee all voting in favour.
My concern over this over-rides the obvious – it is the number of people impacted who live and work in this Borough who use Beddington Lane and who understand its inadequacy of a thoroughfare.
And if that wasn’t enough – a letter was issued this week by Highways – you will recall the promise to put a 7.5 tonne limit on Hillyers Lane/ Beddington Lane through Beddington Village – go on, you remember the removal of the traffic light controlled crossings, the new road markings etc? Well it is still “in consultation” as the letter shows.
It is my intention to voice my ongoing concerns about the planning to the GLA but please, if you live in the area, use Beddington Lane or are just concerned for the health and welfare of those who live and work in the surrounding area, make your concerns heard on the application for the SUEZ development – application DM2018/01865:
Since our election last year, Cllr Green and myself have been pushing for information and progress on the Conservation and Access Management Committee (CAMC).
The CAMC was established to have oversight of the restoration of the landfill site at Beddington and its formation was a Planning Condition for the incinerator.
After some tough meetings with LBS Planning as well as correspondence with Viridor Managing Director, Phil Piddington, yesterday saw an “extraordinary meeting of the CAMC” with Dan Cook, Group Head of Sustainability for Viridor’s parent company, Pennon, in the Chair.
Pleased to say that we put the position forward very clearly and, as Councillors, we were looking to future access and development of the Farmlands as an asset and emphasising that a level of trust had been lost and needs to be restored – most demonstrably by progress.
A road map to help measure that progress was put in front of us:
We then went on a brief tour of the site and saw the new bird hides under construction that will be accessible when the Permissive Path becomes useable when SDEN’s builders finish.
Just a note on that Permissive Path – a question was asked at Local Committee on Tuesday evening about cycle use and we are pleased to confirm that it is being adapted for exactly that use!
The next meeting for the CAMC has been set for June 13th and we will publish timely minutes of all future meetings together with action points.
Okay, hands up who attended the debacle of a consultation at The Change Foundation last Thursday? Were you as disappointed as me in its organisation? Councillors had warned the organisers, I assume Kier, to expect at least 400 residents from the High View Estate let alone parents, children, teachers and other interested parties so they put it in a small hall which became so crowded you couldn’t get near the display boards, so noisy you couldn’t hear yourself think and each table staffed by a youngster who had no knowledge of anything and couldn’t answer any questions. This was certainly not my idea of a public consultation, was it yours?
A proper public consultation in my view is where you visit a, let us say, large hall, with the displays round the walls and audience seating in the middle. At a certain time the audience takes a seat and faces a panel of “experts” who can answer all the questions put to them.
Forgive me if I am cynical but I have asked for copies of all the questionnaires as I don’t trust the “independent” body responsible for collating it and publishing the data. Whether as your democratically elected Councillor I get to see them is anybody’s guess but I will press them again.
I am sure someone said that a leaflet would be coming round with a link to a website where those who did not attend could leave their comments. Well I’ll go the foot of our stairs, we got one today (Sunday) but it seems it was not put round all the houses on the High View Estate. Tim Foster who lives off Croydon Road got one. I will definitely be contacting Keir and Department for Education tomorrow. I might even send them a copy of this blog!!
I was approached on Thursday by some parents who are angry that I am not supporting the project. Phrases such as “you think it will lower the tone of your neighbourhood”, “why can’t families play in their back gardens”, “you only want it to walk your dog” and “it’s near Mellows” were levelled at me.
Let me make this very clear, I absolutely support the need for a new school but I think the children deserve better than being bussed into an estate with narrow streets and receiving their education next to a railway line, industrial units and residential housing is the wrong thing to do. Some parents do not wish their children to have to attend the proposed new school because of increased journey times and as one of the pupils said “Mum it looks like a prison”.
The children, staff and parents deserve a much better open site with easy access via roads and public transport.
Since July 2017 when I first got involved in this, I have vehemently opposed any form of development on the playing fields. The developer who built the estate in the 1920s and 30s left the space for the residents of Highview Estate and their children and the only building allowed was a sports pavilion.
Sheen Way Playing Field is a flood plain, it takes water away from the houses that back on to it and the railway line and to build on it is madness. The Council did not look specifically for another site because Councillor Jayne McCoy, Lead Liberal Democrat on Planning, decided through her task and finish group that it would go on Sheen Way.
Before I was elected, as a simple local resident, I went to the meeting where they agreed the lease, subject to planning. Cllr. McCoy’s attitude to the residents was, as seems to be the Liberal Democrat mantra these days vis a vis the Controlled Parking Zone Strategy, one of utter contempt and we were told we will just have to get on with it. Do they realise that they lost their two Lib Dem Councillors in Beddington North because of this attitude?
My concerns from Thursday are many including have the Council, DfE or Kier built into their budget compensation claims from those affected by noise, air pollution vibration and flood damage? Have the Council considered reduction in Council tax for those seriously affected by this proposal i.e. the residents of The Chase, Capel Avenue, part of Godalming Avenue and Headley Avenue? We all know the Council wishes to get rid of polluting cars because they are concerned about air quality so I suppose part of this plan will be the single and yellow lines all over the estate but where are residents going to park?
Have they considered that the children may be stuck in their vehicles for ages if the Purley Way is blocked and we are told they will not be able to come down Plough Lane and along The Chase. Of course drivers will ignore this instruction if they have very upset pupils to deal with and they will then get tied up with the traffic from Highview Primary.
The thing that has upset me the most was seeing our elderly residents on Thursday evening crying because the stress and worry is destroying not only their quality of life but that of the whole estate. The Liberal Democrats keep spouting they are a green Council but just pay lip service to their residents. I promise you all this, seeing my neighbours in tears because of this ill conceived and ill thought out plan I and my fellow Councillors will fight this with every means at our disposal.
In amongst the excitement of the Planning Committee and the Pre-Application Consultation on the Sheen Way Playing Fields, I spent an hour with a Council appointed consultant who is conducting a review of the Council’s Constitution.
Concerned residents will already have come across the vagaries on this document whether attempting to address the Local Committee about Sheen Way or Full Council about the Parking Strategy. “Standing Orders” are quoted and open debate denied whereas the real objective of any Constitution should be to protect the integrity of the whole process of local government.
But where Moses needed just 10 Commandments – the London Borough of Sutton needs nearly 250 pages and then does not do the job properly.
For example, with the recent increases in Councillor Allowances – 5 leading members of the ruling Liberal Democrat group receive in excess of £30,000 per annum where the base allowance is just £11,164. Are there proper job descriptions in the Constitution, performance and attendance criteria? No, just some very loose guidelines.
And why bury the Nolan Principles of Public Life on the back pages – these should be the very foundation of our Constitution?
BUT I am pleased to say that communities are beginning to understand that they cannot leave things to chance. But beware of how the system can be turned back against that “people power”.
Up at St Helier, the hotbed of the movement established to counter the ill conceived and appallingly administered Parking Strategy. The residents, brilliantly lead by Sandra Ackland appear to have forced a rethink. I say appear, because the content of that “rethink” comes in the form of a Lib Dem Focus Leaflet together with emails from Cllr Abellan, Cllr Andrew and even Cllr Dombey.
They have even had Tom Brake out delivering the leaflet and it invites opinions from residents to be returned to the Lib Dems.
But please note – all of this is done in the name of the Lib Dems NOT the London Borough of Sutton.
When the Beddington North Focus Group emailed residents on the Highview Estate saying that they could only support the building of a SEN school if access came through Morrissons – I wrote to Cllr Dombey and asked if this reflected a new policy.
She stated that this was just the view of the local Liberal Democrat Group! But it did not stop Tom Brake MP repeating the claim to another resident via email!
And talking of Tom Brake, he was one of four senior Lib Dems to put in an appearance at Cricket for Change last Thursday for the presentation of outline plans for a new SEN school that they wish to impose on Highview Residents on the former Playing Fields at Sheen Way.
With Lib Dem Councillors from as far afield as Worcester Park, the local MP and the prospective Conservative candidate for Mr Brake’s seat – this is clearly not just another plan, it is a political hot potato.
When you consider that Orchard Hill run Carew Manor because of the appalling OFSTED report when the London Borough of Sutton ran it, that would flag a concern.
But add to that the 2018 report by OFSTED that found “significant areas of weaknesses” in the SEND services provided by the Council and now the ongoing battle about the EHCP process, it explained the attitude of some of the parents from Carew Manor School who felt that the Council just did not want to invest in SEN schooling.
“They will build new primary and secondary schools but we have to wait for the DoE to fund us.”
We believe that those involved from the Department of Education, the contractors Kier as well as those Councillors bussed in to support the plan were left in no doubt as to both the passion of the local residents and the irrational nature of a plan to construct a Special Needs School at the end of a narrow cul de sac, just 12 metres from a railway line and on a flood plain.
As for traffic – a quick calculation shows if the school becomes operational, twin daily peaks of over a half kilometre of traffic feeding in and out of the site.
When discussing the plan with the previous Chief Executive, he described the plan as “Bonkers” and even his bête noire, Cllr Mattey would surely have agreed with him!