Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Easter Winds

I had a bit of a wander round on Easter Monday afternoon to see what damage may have been done after the strong winds of the previous 24 or so hours. Luckily the damage wasn't as bad as the recentish great storm of October 2013, however for a few unlucky people there was a bit of damage about.

This car in Woodlands Avenue (above) was lucky to escape major damage from this fallen tree which blocked the pavement and also brought down the telephone lines (left).

Another home (not saying where) had most of their back fence (and a rosemary bush) blown down.

Monday afternoon was itself still very windy as this bit of video below shows. I was getting a bit worried about this traffic light (opposite Pizza Express).

Hopefully not too many others were affected.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Moggie Needs Meds

I have been informed about a cat out there that needs to be found before her medication wears off. Details below:

Name: Zoe or Zots
Description: Black small female cat with nick out of right ear, shaved patches on each of her sides, her stomach and her front left paw.
Last seen: Monday 28th at around 2pm, Washington Road, high street end.
"Please could you check your sheds and garages, she needs medication and never misses meals."
They we have only had her for about 6 months and are getting a bit worried. Please contact Patt Foad: 07743 226 652 or Leo Foad: 07707 585 394 if found.

Update (31st March)


Zoe has been located and brought safely back home. According to her owners:
"She was in an empty house with a catflap that wasn't locked properly so it allowed her in but not out again. She has had her medicine with her food today and is scheduled for the vet tomorrow for her treatment. 
Apart from a couple of pounds lost she is no worse for wear and we would like to thank everyone who shared the blog post and looked for her, it meant so much to know that we weren't the only ones looking. 
It makes us very happy to live in Worcester Park."
Thanks everyone who helped. It's nice when something works out well in the end.

Bigger Issue

At a recent WPRA (Worcester Park Residents Association) meeting, the issue was raised about the new plans to convert the old Bank Chambers at 2-4 Green Lane into flats. Whilst most people were relived that this suggested the plans for the Place of Worship would not be going ahead after all (the owners having fought tooth and nail against the community to gain permission for it) some were worried that after the building was extended, they might realise the permission for a Place of Worship and create and even bigger one. If the already bad parking and traffic issues in the immediate vicinity would get worse with a limited place of worship, a bigger one there would create problems off the scale!

As Chair of the WPRA, I asked local councillors to look into this possibility and Cllr Hookway organised a meeting for himself, Cllr Marston and me to discuss the possibilities with council planning officers. Please feel free to read a more detailed account of this on the WPRA website.

The good news that came back from this meeting is that building flats on the site automatically revokes the permission to turn the site into a Place of Worship. The other good news (in case the flats don't happen) is that there is no automatic permission for a Place of Worship granted after the 4 year temporary permission is up - a whole new planning application would be required for it to continue as a Place of Worship. People can breath a sigh of relief about both of these things.

Now this process all began before we knew the site was being put up for sale which may add yet another dimension to the long saga. As it happens, the auction is tomorrow (Wednesday 30th March). The planning decision for the flats is not expected until after that. So the new owner (assuming it sells) may or may not end up with planning permission for flats but could conceivably turn it into a Place of Worship for the next three and a bit years...

Update (31st March)

Well it seems we're back where we were. A message from Allsop says:
"Please note the above property did not sell in yesterday’s auction and is now available at £700,000."
For anyone interested in this rather well known site, the message added:
"If you are interested in this property please do not hesitate to contact / 0207 344 2614"
As it happens, the site was also refused planning permission for the conversion to 5 flats. And so we wait to see what happens next...

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Vic House Petition

Yesterday several local volunteers spent a short while across the road from Victoria House gathering petition signatures against the proposed new development of Victoria House.

This might come across as a bit of an anomaly, given the state of the current Victoria House building. But whilst it would be easy to accept any development as being better than what is currently there, we don't want to end up with another awful situation for the next 50 years and unfortunately the proposed new development (left) which will be there for many decades to come, is not nearly good enough for the local area for several reasons.

Firstly, as a collection of tower blocks it is an ugly design that is completely out of keeping with the art deco architecture on the three other corners of this major North Cheam intersection.

Steve O'Connell letter about parking from Croydon AdvertiserSecondly and perhaps more importantly, with 90 residential units and only 55 car parking spaces (of which 10 are shared with the public), the new design does not offer anywhere near enough car parking for the number of people that will be living there. People generally do not just give up their cars when moving into a place without dedicated car parking and so it is expected that additional cars will be parked in the surrounding streets. Our London Assembly Member, Steve O'Connell put it rather well in this letter (right) from the Croydon Advertiser on February 19th about a similar issue in Croydon.

Anyone who lives anywhere near the proposed collection of tower blocks knows that there is very little scope for additional parking in the area. One of the nearby streets, Wellington Avenue, which a council report suggested could accommodate extra cars from the development already has controlled parking areas and yellow lines and is in no way in a position to accommodate more cars. Lingfield Road is in a similar position.

It so happens that McMillan House, the large building on the left as you approach the North Cheam lights from WP, has been undergoing conversion from offices to residential accommodation and several hundred people are expected to move in here. This will also add to the number of cars needing somewhere to park in the local area.

McMillan House, being a direct conversion from office space to residential was not subject to development control is the same way as many conversions require as there were no planned changes to the exterior or structural work. It therefore falls under permitted development, which makes it harder for the council to insist on addition parking space or other alterations.

So with a large number of extra cars expected in the area, a large development that greatly contributes to that additional number, needs to provide at least enough parking to accommodate it's own share of the increase. The new proposal simply doesn't do this.

Ideally, given Victoria House's position at North Cheam cross-roads, in the middle of a retail area, it should also provide car parking to help shoppers shop locally. The previous planning application did exactly this which was one of the reasons I supported it. It offered time limited parking for shoppers which reverted to unlimited parking in the evenings for guests and visitors.

This new application, which can be seen on the council website, does provide 10 public spaces but with only 45 spaces provided specifically for the residents, it is expected these spaces will be almost constantly taken up by either residents or employees of the retails shops on the ground floor. There are planned spaces for 3 motorbikes and a whopping 96 bicycles, and while I am all in favour of cycle parking and encouraging people to cycle, I suspect that the 96 spaces might include a large dollop of wishful thinking.

Given that we will be stuck with whatever is built there for as long time, it is important enough to get the design right to make the call when it just isn't good enough. (It's even worth repeating things I wrote in my blog post from two days ago...)

For those who would like to sign the petition, Steve in Steve's Card Shop is looking after it so you can just pop in and sign next time you are passing by.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Launching Campaign With A Splash

Many Worcester Parkers enjoy a wander up past Green Lane School and through (between) the fields of horses down to Sir Joseph Hood Memorial Park. There is a good children's play area there as well as other facilities for the little'uns which currently include a paddling pool which opens for six weeks during the summer.

It's a rather old pool, build in the 1930's and the council can't keep up the maintenance costs which can be over £10,000 per year. Friends of the Park have been pleading with the council to keep it open for one more year whilst they try to raise funds of £270,000 to replace the pool.

The council are backing the project but say they will only donate 10% of the funds if the remainder can be raised. The Splash Pad has been fully costed and surveyed and would be ready to be built on receipt of the funds. The new Splash Pad would be more efficient, cleaner, safer and benefit from a remote facility to turn the water jets on giving the community more flexibility of opening times.

The council in question is Merton council - slightly confusingly, this is the one bit of the local area not in either Sutton, Kingston or Epsom & Ewell. Technically it's Motspur Park (so not actually WP) - and a short walk from Motspur Park station.

Back to the main issue now - Today therefore sees the launch of the campaign to raise the funds for the new Splash Pad. The 'Splashdance' campaign launch (beginning at 2pm) will feature local West End Choreographer, Lizzi Gee, who will be teaching the community a “Splash Dance” in the disused paddling pool. Organisers will be inviting members of the community to show their support for the pool by learning the “Splash Dance” and teaching it to their friends. SWL TV will be filming the event and there will be prizes for the most enthusiastic community Splash Dancers. There will also be other goodies and attractions to entice you (and the kids) down (or is it up?)

Friend of Sir Joseph Hood Memorial Playing Fields, Sarah Thorne said:
“We would love to see all the people in the surrounding boroughs who have ever made use of this wonderful facility come together to take positive action. We have already had a petition with over 1000 names for the council to fund a Splash Pad here, but as we are utilised by other boroughs outside of Merton, it seems the council do not want to fund the Splash Pad here. This park is surrounded by numerous schools, youth groups, families with young children not to mention those who have used the pool for generations and now have grandchildren of their own who want to use it. If we don’t act now then the pool will inevitably close and be filled in. This will be one less facility to draw children into the open-air keeping them active, alert and engaged. We want to show people that we aren’t going to just give in.
The Community can continue to show the council and potential funders that we need this facility by joining in our Splash Dance campaign. If they can’t come to the event then they can Like and share our Facebook page where they will also be able to learn the “Splash Dance” if they miss it live. We want to get people to demonstrate that we need this facility and this seems like an active and fun way to get some further engagement. At the very minimum we hope to persuade the council to re-open the pool for one last Summer to remind people what we will be missing”
So if you want to see the aquatic facilities continue, or even if you're just at a loose end this afternoon, please pop down and support the cause for local children.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Not Amused At New Proposal

Just over two week ago, Home Group submitted the formal plans for their multi tower block replacement of Victoria House to Sutton Council. As I have said before, I'm rather less than happy with the design - it certainly hasn't changed much since in the year since they first unveiled their plans. So much for listening to local opinion.

Above is the latest picture, available of the Home Group website. This is as wonderful as this building will ever look. And while this is better than the awful eyesore that currently resides on this corner, the bar is very low and the improvement, marginal. After half the foliage has died and and the litter built up I fear this building will soon etch itself on the local psych as the 'building that could have been'. It will come be seen as the ugly blot whose only redeeming feature was the fact that what it replaced was even worse.

Not only does it look awful, but there are several other reason why it is not suitable for the local area. Now before anyone starts saying I'm just against any major proposal here, I was all in favour of the Stonegate proposal; in fact I joined local people in gathering petition signatures to ask to council to approve the plan at the time. It wasn't perfect but it was a good compromise which broadly reflected the local art deco architecture and crucially it had a decent amount of off street parking.

But to get back to those other reasons (one of which I have already hinted at), I will hand over to Alan Plant, chair of the local CHAPRA (Church Hill, Abbots, Priory) Residents' Association who has set out his personal objections as:
  1. Insufficient parking for residents of the development within the Victoria House Site
  2. Insufficient or no parking for employees of retail establishments on the Victoria house site
  3. Insufficient or no  parking for shoppers to the 4 new retail outlets on the Victoria house site
  4. Is there parking for Artisans white Transit vans , who may reside in new development?
  5. The height of the building is out of Character with the rest of North Cheam’s architecture. Maybe 4 to 6 storeys would work and that would help with the parking.
  6. With a potential of 282 occupants coupled with those from other developments in the immediate area, Office/shop conversation existing planning permission etc. you are looking at a population increase of about 1000 within two years within a half mile radius ,which could be as high as a 10% increase . When there is only one NHS GP surgery within ½ miles radius of the development not a potential 12 as indicated in supporting documentation, most of these being near Sutton and unlikely to take patients from North Cheam, apart from being an inconvenient distance when one is ill . Coupled with overloading other infrastructure, will have an adverse effect on the amenity of existing residents and an over-development of the area within current infrastructure facilities.

The near 1000 extra people in the area refers not only to this development but also the nearby Mc Millan House development in Cheam Common Road and several other smaller local developments. All these people are going to need parking, health and education facilities nearby.

Alan has organised a petition against the proposal and will be hosting a stall with some helpers on the pavement outside Steve's Card Shop on the opposite corner tomorrow (Saturday) morning (9:30 - 1:30). They'll be offering more information and the chance to sign the petition. Please go along and show your support. (I am planning to pop down to offer some help too.)

Please feel free to object to (or support) this application by going to the council planning website and making your feelings known. Alan and the helpers will be on hand tomorrow morning to help explain the process too if necessary.

For those who get excited by the smell of detail, Alan has included some additional information to substantiate his objections about the parking (points 1-4):

  • Erroneous Parking provision survey, which suggest 18 parking places in Lingfields when there is only 9 sensibly.
  • 23 parking places in Wellington Ave when it is a residents parking street just to mention two.
  • Church Hill road is deemed a main Distributor road by Sutton Council with in service bus in one direction 24 hours a day and out of service 93,151 and 213 in both directions, yet it is seen as an overflow parking facility. When in fact parking will cause delays to public transport, deterioration of the atmosphere due to traffic congestion, and an adverse effect on the amenity of existing residents. Not a very practical solution, which should be tackled within the V H site.
  • The application of a PTAL 3 rating to North Cheam which only has bus transport and nearest mainline station has 1.3Miles away, whereas Cheam Village has a lower PTAL 2 which is serviced by buses and a mainline station. This would appear to be incorrect or applied so that a less than one parking place per flat is the guide in North Cheam instead of a minimum of one.
  • Furthermore it was stated by Richard Green Planning manager in a letter of 27th October 2015 that there is limited capacity in the surrounding streets, with a suggestion to enter an S106 agreement. Has this been done? I do not see it ?--As included in the supporting documentation, although not presented in a very orderly way.
  • In the transport statement I wish to highlight the note 6.1.5 : "Planning permission will be granted for development proposed with limited or no parking provided the Council is satisfied that this will not result in an increase in on street parking which would adversely affect traffic flows, bus movements, road safety, or the amenity of local residents or the environment" ---which it clearly does.
  • I disagree with the statement 6.2.16  final paragraph. In the transport statement, (this may not be the only one I disagree with).

The full plans and document can be seen here (to which much of this refers to), but you'll need to tick the agreement box and proceed once you hit this page. There are numerous documents to wade through and no easy way to find what you're looking for (although hovering over each document icon will at least give you it's name) but that is unfortunately the nature of planning proposals.

We have lived with the current Victoria House eyesore for decades. In the grand scheme of things a couple more years won't matter if means we end up with the right replacement building here, not the wrong one, as this clearly is. It is going to be a local landmark for a long time and have a major effect on the local area. So it's important to get it right.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Kicking Off The Easter Celebrations

Easter is a couple of weeks away now and Wandgas Football Club (Cromwell Road, KT4 7JW) have contacted the blog to let me know about their Great Wandgas Easter Egg Hunt on Easter Monday (28th March).

It all 'kicks off' at 10:30am. Non-members are very welcome. It costs just £5 for a family ticket and every child is guaranteed an Egg!

This is more than just an egg hunt though. With bouncy castles and food for sale this might almost qualify for the first local fair of 2016...

Wandgas Footbal Club are an FA Community Standard Club and teams play in the a variety of leagues ranging from the Surrey Youth League to the Kingston & District League Premier Division for their Saturday 1st team. The club currently boasts 13 Youth Sides, 3 Football for All Sides, 3 Senior Sides and 3 Vets sides. They also offer a "lively and enjoyable social club" as well as cricket teams and coaching throughout the summer months.

So if you're in that part of Worcester Park, pop along and have a look...

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Going, Going, Gone?

It's certainly been going on a long time, but the possibility of 2-4 Green Lane becoming a place of worship is looking more likely to be gone come 30th March.

It seems the old Bank Chambers is to be sold at auction at the end of the month, and that the owners who spent so much time and effort gaining planning permission for a place of worship there are, for whatever reason getting shot of the building instead.

As reported here about a month ago, the owners of the building applied for planning permission to turn it into flats, having only just last year achieved planning permission for a place of worship on appeal despite a huge amount of local community objection to the traffic and parking it would bring.

While there was some initial confusion over whether the new planning was being sought by the existing or a new owner, a number of people noted that the architectural drawings showed that the client was 'Golfrate Property Management Limited' and a few enquiries found that the director of Golfrate is one Mr Haroon Aziz. (Thanks to those who spotted this and let me know.) So it seems it was the same Mr H Aziz responsible for both applications.

There was some concern raised at the recent WPRA meeting (which I chair) about the possibility of the Place of Worship permission becoming permanent after the four years temporary permission, and after the building had been extended, and it then being converted into an even larger place of worship. I am scheduled to have a meeting with councillors and council officers later this week to discuss this possibility, however the building being auctioned at the end of the month does make this possibility much more remote.

This has not been the sort of saga where chickens can be counted before hatching and so, like I'm sure many others will be, I'll also be watching to see who buys it and what they plan to do there. For any potential buyers reading this, I understand this is most probably a business investment and you're not going to spend the money unless it looks like a good investment with a decent yield. If it looks likely to be of benefit to the local community, I will be happy to support it. If it looks likely to cause problems in what is already a badly affected area for traffic and parking, I won't.

May the best buyer win...

Gas Central Leaking

Yet another hole was dug today in Central Road. Today's hole (luckily only in the pavement) was brought to you courtesy of SGN, the gas people after a gas leak was discovered in the Sean Hanna Hair Salon. The workmen were trying to locate the gas pipe that connected the mains which run underneath the road itself to the shop and had to dig a bit of a trench to find it. Ordinarily their gas sniffer devices would help them but these were not giving any indication of the whereabouts of the illusive pipe.

If you're at all interested in the intricacies of gas pipes, once found, it seems that replacing the pipe comes with it's own set of difficulties. The old pipes are steel but cannot be replaced with steel. The new pipe must be plastic but only up to the property. New pipes within the property must be copper and the plastic must be joined to the copper in box at the edge of the property. Instead of digging up the entire property however, there does seem to be a solution, in that they can thread the thinner plastic pipe through the old steel pipe, using it as a sheath. There - I hope you found that as interesting as I did!

Being a gas leak, the work is being treated as an emergency and they are hoping to get it finished as soon as possible.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Drug Dealers Jailed

About a week and a half after the people of Worcester Park were celebrating the first rejection of a place of worship in the Bank Chambers at 2-4 Green Lane, a major drug bust was happening up the road behind the North Cheam Post Office.

On a Thursday evening, 13th December 2012, a local resident saw two men hanging around a block of garages behind the Post Office in Cheam Common Road. Thinking they were acting suspiciously, the resident called 999 to alert the police.

As the sound of police sirens neared the area, two other residents, a couple having just bought a kebab from a shop in Cheam Common Road after a party, saw the two men disappear down an alleyway nearby. They also thought they looked suspicious and as one of them carrying a hold-all and thought they may have been burglars and also called 999 to report it.

The Police arrived and enquiries led the officers to a flat above a shop in Cheam Common Road. They had to make a forced entry and a subsequent search yielded a hold-all containing six large bags of white powder, two blocks of a brown substance and a large amount of cash. More cash was found in a chest of drawers and in a kitchen cupboard. In total £22,622 worth of cash was found stashed at the property and was seized.

Police estimated that the street value of the two kilos of cocaine seized was between £99,000-£198,000 and the one kilo of MDMA was worth between £32,250 and £53,750.

One of the suspects - Luke Marshall, now 28 of Kingshill Avenue, Worcester Park was arrested inside the address. The other suspect - Myles Bradley, now 27 of Washington Road, Worcester Park was arrested a short while later.

Fast forward to January this year and the two culprits were both found guilty at Inner London Crown Court of possession with intent to supply cocaine and MDMA, and acquiring criminal property - the £22,622 worth of cash. On Friday, 5th February they were each sentenced to five years imprisonment for the crime. The Judge ordered that the money be forfeited under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. An order that was unopposed by the defendants.

Det Chief Insp Rachael Porter, of Sutton Police Station, said:
"I would like to thank our witnesses in this case. Without their help, we would not have been able to build a case against these two men. One of the witnesses took time out from his work to attend two ID parades and Crown Court four times - twice at the Inner London Crown Court. He also identified one of the suspects and provided other valuable evidence including CCTV."
The witnesses should indeed be thanked and so too should the police. They have done a great service for the local community helping to rid the area of crime. Good work!

Cars Damaged

Residents of three roads in the area suffered a spate of vandalism to their vehicles a couple of weeks back. The damage occurred overnight on Tuesday the 16th February and affected people living in Lower Green Gardens, Marl Field Close (both just past the station) and in Lynwood Drive.

Car wing mirrors were smashed and bodywork was deliberately dented in the incident.

Police have been investigating the crime and two men aged 20 and 21 have been arrested for criminal damage. However police are still appealing for witnesses to come forward. If you happened to see anyone acting suspiciously in the area or if you have some CCTV footage that may assist with police enquiries, please contact Sutton Police station on 101 quoting ref no: 4001829/16.

Always call 999 if you are aware of a crime taking place.

Let's hope the culprits get seven years of bad luck for every mirror they broke.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Talk About Long Term

Out the front of the now closed HSBC building this morning will be a council display showing Sutton council's long term plans for the next 15 years.

There will be council officers to speak to and they are offering local people to chance to have a look and comment on the plans as they currently stand.

The idea is that once the plans have been approved by the council, they will become something that can be cited by the council planning department when advising on, and deciding whether to allow the various planning applications that will be lodged over the next 15 years. Plans that chime with the council's plans will be more likely to be granted than plans which go against them.

Part of this is to help identify areas that could be turned into residential housing as apparently all London boroughs are being asked to increase housing by a rate 1000 homes per year.

So this is your chance to have a look and have your say on how things might develop in the area over then next 15 years.

The display will be there for two and a half hours from 10am 'til 12:30pm. Go along and have your say. Because when things start to change, it will be too late to go back and complain if those things were part of this plan all along.

Update (Same Afternoon)

The display tent looked rather busy with lots of people wanting to have a look and ask questions. Which is good because that's what it's all about!

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

The Yellow Lines Are Coming

There have been a few areas around the place where local people have been after some yellow lines to stop people parking in, shall we say, a more flamboyant style, particularly where they inconvenience others or may be causing a possibly dangerous situation.

A more typical car to space ratio during school run time.
One such place has been the first bend in Buckland Way where The People's Front of Buckland Way has been campaigning to get something done about the problem. The extracurricular parking normally occurs here between 8:30 and 9am and then between 2:45 and 3:15 pm on School days. Coincidently Dorchester Primary School is just at the top of the Road... Now I must put my hand up here have used this very parking space in the past to pick up or drop off young WP Junior at the said school - although I always did so with proper consideration for the law and local people.

Other local areas being affected include Boscombe Road, Browning Avenue, Buxton Crescent, Church Hill Road, Killester Gardens, Sparrow Farm Road, Moreton Road, Priory Crescent, Priory Avenue and Wordsworth Drive.