Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Answering Your Questions - Part 3

What are you going to do to redevelop the eye sore that the run-down North Cheam crossroads has now become?

Chris Dunlop, the Councillor for our area to date, had worked for many years to encourage the owner of Victoria House to develop the site. Planning permission was given in October 2006 but is due to lapse shortly. Originally there was a problem with ownership of part of the site. As part of their manifesto development, the Conservative party is seeking professional advice from a leading real estate advisor on landmark buildings such as Victoria House. This is the first thing that visitors to Sutton see when they come along London Road and it needs immediate action. However, it is privately owned. This means that we need to work with the site’s owner to piece together a solution that is acceptable to all.

What are you going to do to stop big corporate organisations such as Sainsburys, MacDonalds and Tesco taking over our local high streets?

My first real encounter with the Council was when I led a group of residents in objecting to Sainsburys locating in Central Road. I addressed the planning committee, predicting the effects of increased traffic and local traders. Although the store is convenient, many of these predicted knock-on effects have come to fruition. These conglomerates come into areas such as North Cheam when there is lack of an alternative vision. If no-one asks residents what kind of area they want to live in, shopping areas build up piecemeal rather than as part of a wider strategy. That strategy needs to be backed up by robust policies that can be relied on when the Council defends Worcester Park against inappropriate planning applications. We need a strong lead on this and that lead comes from the representatives you elect.

What are you going to do to improve facilities for teenagers so they have something to do in the evenings rather than just being noisy, which never really does anyone any harm. Moving the children's swing park and updating it is superb, but does it give teenagers anything to do - No. What about a skate/bike/board park in Fairlands Park?

You are right that the teenagers need something to do. Two of my 4 children are in that age bracket. In the last couple of years we have seen the closure of Club 21, Club Constellation and a number of voluntary sector youth groups. The very expensive Sutton Life Centre is not, in its current format, going to provide the ongoing youth work that our young people need either. Engaging with teenagers as they grow up is not so much about places but a long term commitment to dialogue and activities they enjoy and provided by people they can relate to. As a result, I support our Parliamentary Candidate, Philippa Stroud, as she works with national voluntary sector youth charities to see them establish really effective youth work in the Borough and to ensure that the vision of the Sutton Life Centre is expanded from just a one off experience to being a credible venue where community groups can provide great ongoing weekly activities for our young people.

What are you going to do about the racist element that has crept back into our local community and are now running functions in our local bars under the banner of supporting our troops or celebrating St Georges day? Trust me I'm a staunch supporter of both but I don't have to shave my head and stand with lookalike people to show it.
Sutton’s demographics are very different from some of its neighbours. Sutton is a Borough of contradications. The biggest issue in this policy area is disillusionment of white working-class males. There are increasing numbers of households where there is no-one at work and a worrying number where more than one generation has never worked. The economic climate that we find ourselves in provides fertile ground for racism and extremism. There will be a BNP candidate in this forthcoming election. It is important to get across the message that they are not a normal mainstream party but stand for some sinister values and policies. It is not enough to say “I am not racist but…” The BNP will be defeated on this occasion through their opportunism and lack of substantive local policies but we should be concerned.

So in a nutshell - Why should I change the habit of a life time and vote for a Conservative, why should I vote for you, what difference will it make?

I ask you to vote for me on this occasion because I am a local man, with a passion to improve our area together. I have a track record of action in this regard as a resident. This vote will not change which party controls the Council; This election is about purely our area and which single representative replaces the Conservative councillor Chris Dunlop.

I am aware of the issues that our community faces. I live on a rat-run where people avoid Central Road. I know that recycling and waste collection can be improved further. I do not have all of the answers, but I will champion the area and seek practical, cost-effective solutions.

In all of this, we need to appreciate the values that this community wishes to live by. The hopes we have for people growing up in our area: their education, their rights, their boredom & how that mix expresses itself in “anti-social” behaviour or, alternatively, in opportunities the community could provide.

We need to assess and agree on what we value in our environment in the widest sense & how we seek to influence this, from national chain shops, via run down high streets, to redeveloping Victoria House and retaining leisure facilities in the area. Although I have my views on these as a local resident, it is not for me to dictate to those whom I seek to represent. Communication is vital in working together to achieve change. As well as the normal channels of communication, I have set up a blog at http://changenonsuch.blogspot.com to open up a conversation with residents and to chart my progress over the coming weeks.

Please do let me know if there is anything else that I can help clarify. You will see plenty more of my thoughts as I am sure that you will from the other candidates. I hope that you will be able to put past loyalties aside on this occasion to help achieve more for the area.

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