Saturday, 17 December 2016

Victoria House Saga Continues

As many people are now aware, new plans have been submitted for the re-development for Victoria House up at the North Cheam crossroads. When I say 'new plans', actually the proposal looks almost the same as the previous plan, which was withdrawn without explanation earlier this year. The main difference seems to be the retail units having been made a bit bigger.

So we're finally going to lose the eyesore that has blighted the crossroads for years. Yes that's one good argument. However how is the new plan going to affect the area?

The new plan - shown above right, is effectively a group of tower blocks - almost the ugliest possible design, universally known as the greatest attractor of antisocial behaviour. It doesn't fit in with the art deco design of the buildings on the other three corners of the cross roads or other buildings in the area.

Perhaps we could 'get used' to this design on our doorstep - all 10 storeys of it. But could we also get used to the over-spill of cars? This building is to have 90 residential units, a mix of 1, 2 and 3 bed-roomed affairs. How many car parking spaces would you think are needed to cater for 90 such flats? If you think fifty or less you probably don't use local public transport very much. But guess what - the answer is indeed 50! In fact it is closer to 45 as five of those spaces are for the retail units.

Now to compensate there are around 150 bicycle parking spaces. I seem to remember another recent planning application in Green Lane where we were told that 'everyone would arrive on bicycles' and so we needn't worry about the chronic shortage of parking spaces. Perhaps this plan has been put together by the same people? Just one question - are they deluded about the number of people who own/use cars (perhaps vs those who only cycle) or is this their attempt to socially engineer a little portion of North Cheam into a anti-car paradise?
PTAL map of Worcester park / North Cheam - click to enlarge

So what does it take for people to want to ditch the car?

Not very far away there are indeed areas where few people own cars. Areas where I would quite happy live without a vehicle. This area is called Central London. The reason we don't need cars there is a) the plethora of excellent public transport to get you to nearly anywhere local quickly, and b) nearly every type of shop imaginable within walking distance.

The relative convenience of public transport has all been nicely mapped out and corresponds to a number of 'PTAL values' (I promise not to get any more technical than this). There are nine values basically going from 0 (being almost nonexistent public transport) up to 6b - being transport so convenient you'd prefer it to using a car. (See the full London PTAL map here). The whole of central London is either PTAL 6a or 6b - indicating the most convenient public transport possible. Sections of Worcester Park are 0 (worst possible) most of the area is 1a (really awful) with areas mostly around main bus routes being around 2 (not quite as awful). There happen to be a couple of small islands in the area of PTAL 3 (which on an exam might almost scrape a pass). Victoria House happens to sit just inside the smallest of these.

I don't think you need to be a genius to work out that the best way to get people to use public transport is to increase the convenience of public transport to the point where it is preferable to car use. Deliberately discouraging car use by limiting car parking spaces to around half of what is needed without offering a genuine alternative is not 'visionary'. It's just stupid and will result in people looking for other places to put their cars. Those other places will be the very few spaces around North Cheam that still exist in side streets and around the shops. That means that a) other people who live in the area will have even less space for their own cars, and b) the people who currently shop in North Cheam and use their car to get there will soon realise that trying to park in North Cheam is a pointless exercise and will go elsewhere, leading to fewer customers in the shops there. This means that instead of reinvigorating North Cheam, this development will be an additional (if not final) nail in it's coffin.

A counter argument might be the parking available in the Sainsburys car park - and I'd agree that more needs to be done to let the public know that they can easily get to the North Cheam shops from here but it's not like parking just at the shop you want to visit. And it's existence hasn't been enough to make North Cheam a vibrant shopping area. Making the parking situation even worse isn't going to somehow fix the problem.

Now it's easy to say that this plan is better than the eyesore currently on the site (you may agree or disagree with this statement). However the point is, it's not merely one or the other. We have already seen a far better plan put forward for this area.

On the left here is the proposal put forward by Stonegate Homes. I personally knocked on doors with a petition in favour of this development (so this is not just a knee-jerk reaction against any local development.) Yes, this was still a tall development, and bigger than we would have liked, but it was generally in keeping with local art-deco design and crucially it had enough parking space for residents plus extra space for shoppers during the day and then for visitors in the evening. Also it wasn't a group of tower blocks. In short it would have improved the area, not diminished it.

For these reasons two local residents' associations have joined forces to fight against this latest proposal. Chapra RA (Church Hill and Priory Road Residents' Association) and the WPRA (Worcester Park Residents' Association), which I currently chair, have organised a leaflet which we are delivering to homes near the site and also a petition.

As this is a new proposal, all previous comments/objections (or letters of support) are no longer relevant and only comments specifically based on this new proposal will be taken into account by the planning department.

So if you would like to object, comment on, or even write in support of the proposal, the planning application number is A2016/75951 which can be accessed on, or by using the following direct link.

You can also write directly to:
The London Borough of Sutton Planning Division
24 Denmark Rd
Surrey SM5 2JG
Remember to quote planning number A2016/75951.

The petition is being held in Steve's Card Shop on the North West corner of the crossroads - opposite Victoria House if you'd like to go in and sign it.

We also have a small number on volunteers out delivering leaflets and also door knocking to gather petition signatures. Please contact Simon Densley at the WPRA - if you'd like to join them and they'll get you some leaflets or petition sheets and allocate you some roads to do. We need to be quick though - the deadline is at the beginning of January.

We hope that with two local residents' associations working together, our combined voices will be heard loud and clear. Yes we want the existing building removed, but we want it replaced with something that will enhance the quality of the local area - not something that in 10 years time might be as hated as much as the exiting Victoria House is now.

So please make your voice heard by emailing or writing to Sutton's planning department and please feel free to get in touch to either deliver leaflets or to knock on doors to get petition signatures. And yes if you completely disagree with me about all this, that's fine - you can write in to support the application.

Hopefully though we'll get the sort of development we need at the North Cheam cross roads. We've waited many years for a proper development. I'd say a couple more years to ensure we get the right one will be worth the wait in the long run - especially when we're looking back at what we did about this particular proposal.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Green Trees

Have you got your Christmas Tree yet? If not, this Saturday is your opportunity to both fill that gap in your life (and your lounge-room) and support a local school!

As the sign says, Green Lane Primary School will be selling trees from 10 'til 2 this Saturday (10th December). Like last year Ross Fruiterers will be supplying the trees and donating a large percentage of the profits back to the school.

As Tanya from Green Lane told the blog:
"The trees range in price from £22.50-£39.00 so come and pick yours! You can also reserve your tree by emailing The school's Christmas tree has also been kindly donated by Ross."
So you get a tree and the local kids get a better education - well that's the sort of idea anyway...

Monday, 5 December 2016

Flick O' The Switch

Sticking steadfastly to Christmas themes... The Great Hamptons Christmas Tree Light Up is taking place this Saturday (10th December) at 5:30pm at the top of the hill in the Hamptons (That's Mayflower Park to those in the know...)

This year the lights are being switched on by Paul Scully, our local MP and there will be free mince pies and mulled wine for all (wow!), sponsored by Waitrose and Ivygate, plus carols and festive music.

Everyone from the Hamptons and the whole of Worcester Park is welcome, if not out-rightly encouraged to be there.

The tree is a 25ft Norway Pine sited on the Viewing Circle at the top of Mayflower Park. When lit, it will be visible to most of Worcester Park.

Brighten up your Christmas at The Hamptons on 10th December!

Update (a week later)

Well the rain almost held out and many people turned up for the great light up.

As promised there was plenty of mulled wind, mince pies and others mini gastronomic delights to enjoy.

This year the countdown and switch on was down at Maple Lodge due to the unpredictability of the weather - which worked out well as it was close to the supply of aforementioned gastronomic delights.

Local MP Paul Scully did the honours after getting the children (with everyone joining in) to do a countdown.

The lights went on according to plan. People ooed, ahhred, clapped and made their way up to the tree which can now be seen from many parts of Worcester Park.

The Picture here on the right of the tree with the moon directly above was taken by local Hamptons photographer Michael Leonard. You can see much of his other work adorning Maple Lodge and other places including a couple of large pictures in Natwest in Central Road!

Christmas Late Night

Worcester Park's famous Christmas Late Night is coming up this Friday (9th December). And whilst this is our traditional night for Christmas festival atmosphere and fun it's worth remembering that this was first set up to allow people to have a night when they can shop locally and do their Christmas shopping without having to go off to Kingston or elsewhere.

We've recently had a few new shops open (I'll get round to covering these soon...) so the high street is surviving but we've had few higher profile places close as well. The high street needs your support to survive and thrive. This night is our local shops trying to make Christmas more convenient for us. Let's return the favour by spending our money locally and helping to keep the area thriving!

This year's event will be a bit scaled back compared to the last few years. Tracy from Cycle Power and Brendan from Pet's Place who have more or less organised it between them for the last few years wanted to step down this year and asked for other volunteers back in the summer to help run it. As nobody stepped forward, it looked as if it might not happen. However they have manged to find the time to still put the event on. As Tracy told the blog:
"Traders are staying open late, we have a choir (maybe 2), funfair and the Christmas arcade. Waitrose are sponsoring the annual colouring comp. Cycle Power have a competition going. Prizes will be handed out to the best times on the Tcax turbo trainer against the virtual velodrome."
It should still be a pretty good night and most importantly, it's a chance to support your local businesses while getting your Christmas shopping sorted out. And given that it's all been organised by local volunteers - it's better than not having anything at all!

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Fairs And Tree Sales

As we hurtle towards the silly season like an out of control sleigh, the succession of Christmassy things to keep us occupied continues. Tomorrow is the Dorchester Primary Christmas Fair and on Saturday, the 4th WP scouts are having their Christmas Fair and tree sale. Cheam Santa is also out and about - tomorrow is the evening he visits roads between Central Road and Browning Avenue. Tonight was from Ruskin Drive through to Boscombe Road (in Dorchester Road when I went past)... previous report undated to reflect this...

Next Friday (9th December) is the famous annual Worcester Park Christmas Late Night with the Saturday (10th) being the Hamptons Christmas Tree Lights Switch On. More info to follow...

Father Christmas Out And About

If you live between Central Road and Browning Avenue, head out to see Father Christmas (aka Cheam Santa) tomorrow evening (Friday 2nd December) and help raise money for Cheam and Sutton Rotary.

He starts at around 6pm and should be going 'til about 8:30.

For other area, keep an eye on their facebook page...