The Green Party

Monday, July 16, 2007

Carshalton Conservation Area- Green response to the Consultation

Sutton Greens welcome the Council’s Draft Character Appraisal of Carshalton Conservation Area,

insofar as it once again sets down some of the reasons why this area was designated a Conservation Area some 40 years ago.

We note however that in the time that Carshalton Central has been a Conservation area (CA) there appears to have been relatively little in terms of ‘value added’ to show for it, and as the document itself acknowledges the CA has deteriorated in several aspects. Examples of this are:

· The poor quality of additions to St Philomena’s school, adjacent to a very significant listed building

· Poor quality shop fronts on the High Street

· UPVC windows and other unsympathetic treatments which have gone on continually all over the CA but particularly of course in residential areas such as the Mill Lane area. The terrace north from Rochester Road is an outstandingly ugly example.

Of particular concern is the fact that powers that the Council already possesses in terms of building control both inside and outside CAs do not appear to have been applied in the past. We recall that in the mid 1990s Sutton Green Party submitted a planning brief for the Mill Lane area prior to redevelopment drawing attention to the Conservation opportunities in terms of both open space and the built environment offered by the BP site; but this was wholly ignored in favour of the unsympathetic housing development that is now criticised.

Apart from (i) the sloppy drafting of the document with several typographical errors and less than satisfactory phraseology, and (ii) the apparent prejudices of the appraisers against buildings of particular styles and ages, we do not find the draft document per se very controversial. Without the determination to apply a set of appropriate policies to prevent further loss of character, and to encourage the upgrading of the CA, however, this document will be worth little.

On the specific point regarding the poor and deteriorating (to use the phrase from the document) [visual] quality of some of the housing within the CA, we note that several local Authorities (for example, Southend-on-Sea; Derby; Worthing) offer Conservation Area grants to encourage residents to reinstate or conserve features which add to the overall character of the CA- sash windows in particular. Will Sutton follow this lead and put some money towards enhancing the borough’s Conservation Areas?

We note the fact that the impact of traffic, particularly in the High Street and in West Street, continues to be very severe. We would further add that the proliferation of street furniture, including a sharp increase in signs, particularly around the ponds, detracts from the visual quality of the environment, and little attempt seems to have been made to minimise this. It is not even referred to in the document.

We give credit to Sutton Council for barring parking from in front of the Grove offices. We think that something more positive could now be done to the former driveway from the Coach & Horses entrance to the Grove alongside East Pond, and we regret that the chance was not taken to improve the High Street environment by removing some parking spaces immediately fronting the High Street when the car park was considerably extended. Will there be any commitment to prevent further loss of front gardens to car parking within the CA?

Summary: We await the evidence that Sutton Council is prepared to take the enhancement of its Conservation Areas more seriously by determined implementation of the exiting planning powers alongside any future management plan for the Carshalton CA which might arise from this document.

Annexe: proposed changes to the criteria for designation of Locally listed buildings

We welcome the proposed addition of a criterion of ‘groups’ of buildings contributing to the street scene in the CA, and also the inclusion of building materials and techniques. The use of local listing might be appropriate to apply to more humble buildings which taken together enhance the character of the CA, as in the Mill Lane area and West St Lane. We consider that the Sun public house is an obvious candidate for local listing in view of its prominent contribution to townscape and the patterned brickwork.

For Sutton Green Party, Bob Steel, chair.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


You know those questions which start with “Where were you when (such and such famous event occurred)?”

Well……I came across one of those occasions on a working visit to Dublin during June.

Wednesday the 13th of June 2007 will be remembered as the day when the Green Party in Ireland took the historic decision to enter Government.

On the previous evening there had been several media interviews with members of Bertie Ahern’s Fianna Fail party and the Irish Green Party to try to discover whether the Greens were likely to vote to enter a new coalition-led Government.

Current Green politicians had voted to do so – but the final say was left with those party members who attended a convention in the Mansion House in Dublin.

I was lucky enough to be in a bar directly opposite the Mansion House when the members filed in past TV and radio crews. And also past several demonstrators with placards referring to, amongst other issues, the dangers of a Government continuing to allow US troop-carrying military planes to stop over at Shannon Airport and against a new motorway near the Hill of Tara.

The result of the vote was acceptance of the coalition proposal by 441 votes to 67 out of the 510 attending members. This well exceeded the two thirds majority required by the Green constitution.

Party Leader Trevor Sargent received lots of respect by honouring his earlier promise that, if the Greens decided to enter Government, he would resign as leader. It was however Trevor's hard bargaining with Bertie Ahern which enabled the deal to be signed and he was reported as saying that the vote “marks the proudest day of my life”.

What this means for the Greens in terms of positive commitments is:

- 2 full junior ministerial Cabinet posts (now confirmed as Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government and Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources)
- A carbon tax and targets for the reduction of 3% a year in greenhouse gas emissions
- The establishment of a climate change commission
- Setting up a commission on taxation
- New building standards to reduce the energy demands of houses
- Accelerate growth in renewable energy sources
- Reform of local government with a directly elected mayor for Dublin by 2011
- Establishment of an independent electoral reform commission which will examine the financing of the political system.

Objectives not achieved were:

- An end to the use of Shannon Airport by US military
- The abandonment of plans to build the M3 motorway near the Hill of Tara
- A ban on corporate donations
- An end to the plan to build co-located private hospitals on public land.

The coalition will also be supported by at least 3 Independents who agreed their own separate deals with Fianna Fail.

The mood amongst many of the Irish people (as far as I can gather from watching TV, reading newspapers and listening to Dublin taxi drivers!) is that this could be a really positive move for the country.

There were of course several Party members who, when interviewed, felt that the party had sold out on its fundamental principles (a la Germany in the ’80’s), but the resoundingly overall view was that this was indeed a historic day when Greens can start to have a lasting influence on Government policy.

George Dow