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 The Coulsdon Town Blog
 
Cllr  Luke  Clancy
Cllr  Mario  Creatura
Cllr  Ian  Parker
 

Public meeting with Southern Rail
24/05/2016 21:09:00......Posted by Luke Clancy

Had an interesting exchange with executives from Southern Railway tonight at a public meeting kindly organised by Croydon South MP Chris Philp. I have the misfortune of paying to travel on Southern Rail five to six days a week, sometimes seven, whilst it is rated worst in Britain. Commuters from Coulsdon South expressed intense frustration at the meeting that their station is skipped so often in order for the rail company to regulate services. Even the Southern execs admitted that at 1.85% of the time the frequency with which trains skip picking up passengers at Coulsdon South is abnormal.

Cllr Clancy: The company that owns Southern Rail last year made at least £25 million profit, and its chief executive earns more than £2 million per year. Given your low scoring in customer satisfaction surveys do you think that is justified?

Southern executive: We don’t recognise those figures.

Cllr Clancy: I’m quoting from the Evening Standard. Can you then tell us what your profits are?

Southern exec: The current financial year’s figures are still subject to audit and haven’t been released yet.

Cllr Clancy: OK, can you tell us what profits you made in the previous financial year then?

Southern exec: I’m sorry, we don’t have those figures to hand.

For the record here are the reports stating the profits they have made (and pocketed):

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-2995605/Grand-finale-Southern-Railway-annual-profits-soaring-29-3million.html 

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/transport/thameslink-southeastern-and-southern-trains-voted-worst-in-britain-by-passengers-a3166071.html

 

 
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Would Labour apologise to the vulnerable residents it's been letting down?
03/12/2018 23:43:00.......Posted by Mario Creatura

 
 

Tonight the Conservatives put forward a motion for debate at the Council meeting:

This Council needs to do more to protect its most vulnerable residents – and apologises to all those it has let down to date.

A simple question, and you would think they'd be able to answer. Throughout the evening many of my councillor colleagues had raised serious cases of vulnerable people being let down by the Council:

  • Cllr Perry referenced a much-loved South Norwood business, closed because of a Council planning application. They were promised help by the Council, but none came.
  • Cllr Hale described a single mother, forced to sleep with her children in a car, refused Council housing appointments for weeks at a time. Since 2015 the Council hasn't completed one single affordable or Council house.
  • Cllr Streeter referenced the difficulties 98-year-old Shirley resident was having sorting out her neglected waste collections, only able to be helped thanks to the persistence of her neighbours.
  • Cllr Brew referenced a block of flats on the Brighton Road where vulnerable elderly people are living - where their food waste has not been collected since the summer.
  • Cllr Stranack spoke of a widow in his ward, seeking help through the Council system and unable to speak to a real person for weeks at a time.

There were numerous other worrying examples shared, and to their credit many of the Labour Cabinet members offered public apologies for the failure in service.

It's this that made what followed so disappointing. Here was my speech, opening the debate this evening:

Tonight we have heard dozens of examples of this Labour Council failing our most vulnerable residents. 

We’ve heard about small businesses closing saying it’s due to a lack of support from the Council, hurting our district centres and destroying the livelihoods of many of our residents. 

We’ve heard that since 2015 Labour have not finished one, single affordable or Council house – with many hundreds left stranded on the housing waiting list. 

We’ve heard about elderly, vulnerable residents, living among their refuse, left to rot for months on end and when they ask for help with their assisted collection they are ignored for weeks at a time. 

We’ve heard that immunisation of our young people is among the worst in London. We know that health visitors have such huge caseloads that they aren’t able to support the many vulnerable families who need their support. Out of 6000 babies born in Croydon every year, 858 will experience physical abuse, 720 will have parents with mental health problems and 1320 will experience parental separation. 

We all know about Ofsted’s damning children’s services report which revealed in its update just last month that this Council is still suffering from ‘drift and delay’ - leaving vulnerable children in worrying circumstances for far too long. 

Madam Mayor, it’s not just children. We know that when vulnerable adults try to access the contact centre for support, they are often left unaided and unacknowledged. 

Earlier this year Council had to pay out thousands of pounds to ‘a young man with complex needs’ for ‘failure to provide suitable respite care’ which caused him and his carer ‘extreme distress.’ 

Throughout the complaint, the Social Care Ombudsman was ‘concerned by the Council’s lack of engagement’. It took a total of 12 weeks for the Council to respond to his enquires. Then when the Ombudsman drafted a report, the Council failed to respond to that! He said: ‘this was particularly concerning given the significant failings identified by the investigation and the resultant injustice to a young man with complex disabilities and his carer.’

This is not an isolated case. There were 226 other complaints made this year alone.

Now, this motion asks Labour to accept what they have already accepted via the Ombudsman – that they must to more to protect our most vulnerable residents – and it asks that they apologise to those they have let down to date. 

I hope – I sincerely hope – that the Labour speakers following me are going to be humble, that given the mountain of evidence presented this evening, that they will accept that an apology isn’t an unreasonable request, and that it’s the least our residents deserve. 

Madam Mayor, I sadly support this necessary motion and hope Labour does too.

Cllr Newman, the Labour Leader of the Council, was next up to speak - at least in theory. What followed was a shouted and intensely negative set of ad hominem attacks. An angry, rambling rant the likes of which I've never experienced in my over four years of being on the Council. He was incoherent, he was illogical, he was frankly embarrassing. Despite Labour Cllrs Collins, Butler and Avis apologising to varying degrees during the meeting, despite all the factual evidence listed throughout the evening by my colleagues and by me (including the legal pay-outs demanded by the Ombudsman), Cllr Newman and his Labour councillors seemed incapable of accepting themselves culpable for the shocking service they are offering our residents.

Labour voted against our polite, considered and factually accurate motion. A tremendous shame.

I'll post the link to the footage as soon as it's up so you can see for yourself and make your own judgement about how the debate progressed.

With a temper tantrum like the one we saw tonight, and the denial that seems to be gripping our Labour Council, I fear that our most vulnerable residents are far from getting the support and the services that they deserve.

 


 

Superb scouting send-off for Steve
16/11/2018 22:44:00.......Posted by Luke Clancy

 
 

Great send-off tonight for Steve French, District Scout Commissioner at Royal Russell School.

From Christmas 2018 Steve is stepping down from role and Greg Cook takes over as DC in Croydon. 

Steve says the role has been challenging but very rewarding over the past 10 years and trusts everyone will continue to give Greg all the support that was previously given to him.

You can find more about what the famous and well-regarded scouting movement does locally here: www.croydonscouting.org.uk

 


 

Coulsdon Town paint markings
13/11/2018 17:56:00.......Posted by Mario Creatura

 
 

The worn paint markings in the town centre have been causing some concern, and I've been on a mission to get them re-painted. As ever, never an easy process...

Some years ago a decent investment in the public realm of Coulsdon high street was made, and the standard tarmac approach to road maintenance was forgone in favour of some nice granite stone slabs. The standard road markings were applied using the usual paint, but the two do not work together as well as in other parts of the borough. This has lead to much easier than expected wear and tear, so the point where road markings are barely visible. In the case of the zebra crossing outside Tesco's, this is clearly dangerous, but it also affects driving and parking behaviour up and down the road.

The Council is recommending using a sprayed on paint as opposed to the usual thermoplastic paints – something that they use extensively in Westminster. The Council is working hoping to do a test initially to see how effective the treatment is and are intending to use the forthcoming closures in Malcolm Road to facilitate this – the entry point adjacent to Waitrose. This will likely take place 19-23rd November.

Hopefully this trial will be a success and the markings can be re-applied soon after.

 


 

Remembrance Sunday
11/11/2018 22:54:00.......Posted by Luke Clancy

 
 

"In war, there are no unwounded soldiers."

The Remembrance Service at Croydon Minster and the wreath-laying in the Town Centre was very well-attended event this year, at the centenary of the ending of the First World War.

It was great to see so many members of the armed forces and uniformed groups who marched from North End, and the wreaths that were laid to honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

 


 

Pay-to-use cash machines
30/10/2018 18:24:00.......Posted by Mario Creatura

 
 

I've sent versions of the below letter to the CEO of both Govia Thameslink Railway and Network Rail after learning that there is apparently to be a network-wide rollout of pay-to-use cash machines at stations across Croydon. I've also sent on to the MD for Cardtronics UK. I'll update with a reply as soon as I received one.

I am writing as a councillor in the London Borough of Croydon, for the ward of Coulsdon Town.

Over the last few weeks cash machines in stations across the borough have started to charge residents for the withdrawal of funds - £1.99 per withdrawal. These include those at East Croydon station and South Croydon station.

Govia Thameslink Railway have reportedly told commuters that the decision was taken by an organisation called Cardtronics, and that all cash machines on all stations will be pay-to-use by the end of October 2018. Croydon Council has informed me that these machines are on land owned by Network Rail.

It is reported that Croydon has more pay-to-use cash machines than any other London borough. These machines particularly affect those on low-incomes as they are likely to have a relatively small amount of money in their account. The news that this is to become standardised across the network is therefore deeply concerning.

Those on low incomes rely heavily on cash to manage their finances. The Citizens Advice Bureau revealed that despite a third of all cash machines in 2011 being pay-to-use, ‘almost 97 per cent of UK cash withdrawals at UK cash machines were made free of charge, demonstrating our understandable reluctance as a society to pay to access our own money.’

In January this year the Government introduced rules which say that all surcharges for using credit and debit cards should be halted.

With this in mind, I would appreciate your answers to the following:

  • Was Network Rail consulted by Cardtronics about the change to charge for cash machine use on your property?
  • If you were, could you please outline what has changed recently to warrant now charging for this service? If you were not, what is your position on the fee change?
  • Given the well-documented detrimental impact of pay-to-use machines on those on low-incomes, could you please outline why Network Rail felt this change was necessary?
  • Is Network Rail benefiting financially from this decision?

I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Kind Regards,

Cllr Mario Creatura, Coulsdon Town

And to Cardtronics:

I am writing as a councillor in the London Borough of Croydon, for the ward of Coulsdon Town.

Over the last few weeks cash machines in stations across the borough have started to charge residents for the withdrawal of funds - £1.99 per withdrawal. These include those at East Croydon station and South Croydon station.

Govia Thameslink Railway have reportedly told commuters that the decision was taken by your organisation, and that all cash machines on all stations will be pay-to-use by the end of October 2018. Croydon Council has informed me that these machines are on land owned by Network Rail. Statements from Cardtronics say that this hike is due to rental increases, but LINK claim this only accounts for 1.5p per transaction, significantly lower than the £1.99 being charged.

It is reported that Croydon has more pay-to-use cash machines than any other London borough. These machines particularly affect those on low-incomes as they are likely to have a relatively small amount of money in their account. The news that this is to become standardised across the network is therefore deeply concerning.

Those on low incomes rely heavily on cash to manage their finances. The Citizens Advice Bureau revealed that despite a third of all cash machines in 2011 being pay-to-use, ‘almost 97 per cent of UK cash withdrawals at UK cash machines were made free of charge, demonstrating our understandable reluctance as a society to pay to access our own money.’

In January this year the Government introduced rules which say that all surcharges for using credit and debit cards should be halted.

With this in mind, I would appreciate answers to the following:

  • How did you consult consumers about the change to charge for cash machine use in your machines?
  • Could you please outline in detail your position about why the change was warranted?
  • Do you envision that these charges are permanent?
  • Do you believe the information supplied by LINK is correct? If it is, how can you justify to customers the blanket fee increase?
  • Given the well-documented detrimental impact of pay-to-use machines on those on low-incomes, what is your message to those on low incomes who rely on cash machines like yours?
  • Given the information supplied by LINK, is Cardronics benefiting financially from this decision?

I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

 


 

The mystery of the missing fireworks banner...
29/10/2018 16:35:00.......Posted by Mario Creatura

 
 

Councillors from just across the borough border in Chipstead recently put up a banner advertising a nearby charity fireworks display on the fence leading up to the Cane Hill estate in Coulsdon.

This disappeared within a week or so and so far enquiries have drawn a blank.

Croydon Council has said that it was not removed by them.

If you have any idea where the banner is, or who might have removed it, then please do let me know by emailing mario.creatura@croydon.gov.uk!

 


 

Air pollution concern at Coulsdon South station
28/10/2018 17:44:00.......Posted by Mario Creatura

 
 

I've taken up the case of a resident who noticed that a number of drivers waiting to pick up passengers at Coulsdon South station appear to be leaving their engines running.

There's no real need for this, particularly if the wait for for a decent length of time, and the resident is concerned about the air pollution in the local area.

I've written to Network Rail who manage the site to ask if they'd consider a sign similar to that used in Kensington and Chelsea to advise drivers that it is not permitted to have the car stationary and still running.

I hope to update with progress soon.

 


 

Evolving the suburbs
15/10/2018 08:25:00.......Posted by Mario Creatura

 
 

Today is the deadline to respond to the Council's 'Evolution of the Suburbs' planning document, a piece of work that will provide the framework for a significant number of buildings and developments across Croydon.

Residents have until tomorrow to feed their views into the process - my submission is below. You can find the full document here and email your views to ldf@croydon.gov.uk.

___________

To whom it may concern,

I am writing as one of the elected representatives for Coulsdon Town ward, please accept this as a submission on the SPD2 Document that is currently out for consultation.

I have a number of concerns about the language used in the paper, not least that it appears to be a subjective document that raises significantly more questions than it is supposed to clarify. The report should be more of a definitive piece of work, instead it appears to allow a substantial amount of interpretation which could have detrimental effects on the character of Croydon.

There appears to be scant suggestion about developing the infrastructure needed to support significant population growth – was this not considered to be something merited in the document? Will there be a supplementary paper outlining the plans for increasing capacity on roads and services to cope with the residential increase? My fear is that the impartiality of the Planning Committee necessitates that each application is considered on its own merits, but that this does not factor in the wider implications of many applications sequentially being considered for the same area over a period of months. Put simply – if 10 applications are considered and approved in the same area over the period of 12 months, what guarantee is there in SPD2 that commensurate infrastructure improvements will be developed and progressed to aid in the increase in parking, sewage and other vital requirements for a good standard of living?

A good example of this is contained in paragraph 2.30 on car parking – an issue that is plaguing my ward in Coulsdon. Multiple blocks of flats are being erected, without commensurate car parking spaces. Residents moving into the properties, knowing that parking space on the street is limited, still bring their vechiles. They feel it will be the job of others to abandon their cars. Coulsdon is on the edge of the North Downs and is quite hilly. Whilst public transport is well-connected, the train service quality is intermittent and most modes do not reach out into Reigate, Banstead and wider Surrey in way that means cars lose their value. The increase in population due to the density of the new developments means there is a huge volume of vehicles needing parking space, causing traffic gridlock most mornings and evenings. Parking is not a luxury, it is a basic necessity to support the sustainability of development and communities.

Has the recently rolled out amended waste service programme being accounted for in paragraph 2.31? If not, then this will have implications on the ability for officers and councillors to interpret the report.

Whilst I am fully supportive of the need to develop new housing opportunities, these can and must be done in line with the reasonable support of the local residents already habiting in the area. Paragraph 4.2 details the papers support for ‘character’ but then details the three residential extension approaches of subservient, innovative and seamless. Can a development policy simultaneously respect the existing ‘character’ whilst being ‘subservient/innovative’? I am fearful that good quality affordable housing that fits into the local community aesthetic will not be a red-line in the document, meaning anything can and will happen to my residents.

In paragraph 2.7 and 2.8 the three types of approaches to character is described as ‘sympathetic and faithful’, ‘innovative and original’, ‘contemporary reinterpretation’. Surely any application, development or scheme can apply to any of these? Isn’t the scope for interpretation so large that this set of descriptions is legally meaningless? How can it be measured and enforced on each application? What happens if it can be easily justified (due to its lack of definitiveness) that a scheme has breached this criterion?

This fear for the respect of the local residents and existing character is not eased when I read paragraph 2.2 which details the overarching principles for development: to provide the right mix of homes in the right location, improve or positively contribute to local character and minimise impact on neighbouring amenity. How is this monitored and maintained? Is this rhetoric or are there tangible figures and targets that can be applied to what is a laudable aim? What is to stop someone ignoring this piece of guidance? To what extent are the views of the local people and their representatives taken into account on inappropriate developments that do not fit this nebulous aspiration?

This subjectivity and lack of clarity also exists in figures 1.3a, 1.3b and 1.3c which detail the evolution of the different types of suburbs, but are open to interpretation.

I believe that SPD2 requires a substantial reworking to address the concerns I’ve outlined above. These are very real, practical fears that I know many of my residents feel. Each time they attend a Planning Committee meeting to comment on a scheme they leave disheartened. I hope that by engaging with some of my concerns that this may be limited in the future.

Croydon badly needs good quality, affordable family homes. I know my residents would support them if they are proposed, and this plan is vital in making that happen.

Kind Regards,

Cllr Mario Creatura, Coulsdon Town

 


 

Response to local planning consultation SPD2
14/10/2018 17:59:00.......Posted by Luke Clancy

 
 

Documents setting out planning guidance for the borough and how the Council will engage with stakeholders are available for comment. Below are some of the points from my response to the consultation on Suburban Design Guide Supplementary Planning Document (SPD2).

Figures 1.3a, 1.3b and 1.3c are used to justify expected development patterns including ‘backland development’ in the suburbs over a period of 10 – 15 years, “so that change is gradual and can be managed to ensure that the benefits of such growth are optimised.” But the examples given of the types of development expected are not defined in sufficient granularity and are too scattergun to give an objective sense of whether what is being proposed would be acceptable.

In terms of how acceptable a development might be to existing residents, the bullet points provided in paragraph 2.2 will be key, in particular emphasis on two of them: whether a proposal improves or positively contributes to local character; and how the impact on neighbouring amenity can be minimised as far as possible. Much will depend on how sympathetically these policies are applied.

Para 2.3.2: “Smaller suburban proposals providing up to 9 dwellings should also seek to maximise the number of dwellings with 3 or more bedrooms.” It would be helpful if this could be expressed more accurately, perhaps setting a target or requirement for three bedroom family units in developments of 9 dwellings or less.

Para 2.3.6: “A development proposal that seeks to deliver a scheme that could form part of a larger potential development on the same or adjoining land will be assessed as an application for the larger development potential.” Whilst the intention of this policy might be laudable, I have concerns that in borderline cases this could result in developments being tipped over the threshold because more studios, one- and two-bedroom units are built at the expense of larger three bedroom properties which would be suitable for families.

Paras 2.3 & 2.4: “Optimising sites building across boundaries.” Whilst in economic terms this makes sense, in reality the developments that result from such consolidation may not be sympathetic to an area if they create ‘mega’ blocks. The schema in Figure 2.4a is an alarming example of the type of over-development that could result.

Paras 2.6.3 and 2.6.4: ‘Minimal necessary car parking will be the starting point for all development proposals and the borough will encourage lower parking provision in areas of PTAL 4 and above.’ I can see why the Council may want to do this. The Croydon Local Plan currently seeks to reduce the need to travel by concentrating development in areas with a higher PTAL rating. As such, from 2011 to 2014 the majority of new homes (58%) were in areas with a PTAL rating of at least 3 - typically areas that have already undergone a degree of intensification. Only 10% of homes were built in areas with a PTAL of 4. The proposals therefore seek to increase density in less urban areas. But this ignores the fact that areas with PTAL ratings of 4 can have quite patchy access to public transport. Also, that residents in those areas will still aspire to owning a car. Any policy should seek to balance these challenges in part by ensuring sufficient provision of more public transport and other sustainable methods of transport, as is encouraged in 2.6.8.

Para 2.7.2 refers encouragingly to some areas within Croydon “being defined by the predominance of certain types of homes”. This aspiration may give hope to residents that the Council will extend protection to what is perceived to be the character of their areas on those grounds. But the three approaches to how to respond to local character in the design of new developments that the Council goes on to endorse in Para 2.8 would appear to allow a very broad interpretation of what is acceptable in any area, if interpreted loosely. A braver and more specific interpretation of what is acceptable would be welcomed in the SPD.

Para 2.9.9: “Where there is a concern that a development would appear overbearing to a neighbouring property and/or create a poorly designed streetscene, they will not be supported.” This is to be welcomed.

Para 2.15.2: “Proposals which span plot boundaries may seek to achieve this through stepping form to create a link element between two main building forms located on each of the original plots.” I am not convinced that such designs necessarily reduce sufficiently the sense of massing created by developments that incorporate links.

Para 2.23: A prohibition on materials that are proven not to weather well or provide longevity is to be supported.

 


 

Labour threatens U-turn on free bulky waste collection
14/10/2018 12:23:00.......Posted by Luke Clancy

 
 

Last week at a meeting of Croydon Council’s Streets and Environment Scrutiny Sub-Committee, I challenged the Cabinet Member, Cllr Stuart Collins, when he said that Labour is looking to renege on a manifesto pledge to run a free bulky waste collection service.

The meeting was webcast here: http://webcasting.croydon.gov.uk/meetings/4215

Labour only made the pledge after the Conservatives had come up with the idea earlier this year. We put the policy to tackle the fly-tipping plaguing Croydon’s streets in our manifesto ahead of May’s local elections. We were pleased when Labour later also recognised the soundness of the idea by copying it.

It would be cynical of Labour to steal this policy only to drop it once they got re-elected.

The free bulky waste collection service is extremely popular, but Labour now says it is expensive to run and creates a too much of a financial pressure on the Council's budget.

At the meeting, Cllr Collins claimed the free bulky waste service was always intended as a “trial” to see what effect it would have on fly-tipping. But when he was challenged to demonstrate it was only intended as a trial - and not introduced to residents as a more permanent measure - he could not do so.

Even Cllr Collins’ Labour colleagues on the Committee then went on to express their concerns that a review of one of their manifesto pledges was taking place so soon after this year's election.

The Conservatives will continue to hold Labour to account over the withdrawal of a key policy to tackle fly-tipping in the borough.

 


 

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 Older Blog Posts
08/10/2018
Bid for funds from our Community Ward Budget
04/10/2018
Shredded litter
07/09/2018
Coptic Church - Coulsdon
06/09/2018
Residents' Associations - Stewards Night
31/08/2018
Details to re-register for a doctor following the closure of Dr Khan's surgery
30/08/2018
New waste regime - impact on those with mobility issues?
02/08/2018
Impact of potential House of Fraser closure
27/07/2018
Bourne Society Blue Plaque
25/07/2018
Purley & Coulsdon Clubs for the Elderly (PACE)
13/07/2018
Labour push through unwanted traffic scheme at Woodcote High
13/07/2018
Pedestrianised Zone - Dunsfold Rise, Meadow Rise and Fairfield Way
05/07/2018
Dust on Cane Hill
28/06/2018
Traveling Council
21/06/2018
Progress with Aldi
21/06/2018
HADRA AGM
19/06/2018
Travellers on Lion Green Road
18/06/2018
Getting ECRA access to Coulsdon South station
14/06/2018
East Coulsdon Residents' Association AGM
13/06/2018
Opposing Reddown Road plans
11/06/2018
Questions...
30/05/2018
Meeting with Croydon's Director of Education
26/05/2018
Coulsdon Town's Safer Neighbourhood Team
15/05/2018
Community Engagement
15/05/2018
The fish that got away...
05/05/2018
Portnals Pipe update
01/05/2018
CQC replies about the Coulsdon Medical Centre
01/05/2018
Burst sewage pipe on Portnalls Road
27/04/2018
Leaking pipe on Portnalls Road
27/04/2018
A second letter to the CQC about the Coulsdon Medical Practice
26/04/2018
Pigeon mess back under Coulsdon Town bridge
 
 
 
 
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