Trams, trains and trash
Reporting back on last nights’ Environment and Neighbourhood Committee we discussed extending the Croydon tramlink to Sutton, ensuring that the First Capital Connect trains continue to run to Kings Cross and Luton, and also plans for a new plant for household rubbish that would otherwise end up in landfill.
The Council has been lobbying for a tramlink for a number of years. It appears that our persistence is starting to pay dividends with London City Hall officials recognising Sutton as a priority when it comes to extending the Croydon tramlink.
Trams have proven an extraordinary success in Croydon and Merton and help boost local economies along the line. While officials have indicated that the Crystal Palace extension to the tramlink is their first choice, Sutton are hopeful that they will be next in line for a second extension.
This would bring enormous benefits to Sutton and dovetail perfectly with plans to boost Sutton as a regional shopping centre and a place to run businesses from. A couple of weeks ago councillors heard plans to redevelop the ‘South Point’ land next to Sutton mainline station, and I have previous reported on plans to build a large Sainsbury’s, hotel and retail on the Gasworks / Magnet / Zurich building site which borders on the Sutton North ward.
The most obvious route for a tramline would be through Sutton North coming down Rosehill and the High Street from Wimbledon, possibly going around Throwley Way or straight through the pedestrian end of the High Street towards Sutton station. However the other option is to have the tramline going east to East Croydon and New Addington.
Councillors decided to produce a brochure to stakeholders in order to promote a Sutton tramlink, and I suggested also producing a YouTube video to help create a greater public campaign.
Councillors received an update on the campaign to protect the Thameslink First Capital Connect line from Sutton to Luton via King’s Cross. This line is currently under threat of being terminated at Blackfriars by 2018, which would mean residents changing trains in order to continue their journey northwards. This threatens to adversely affect Sutton’s local economy or at least inhibit future additional investment.
There is currently a cross-party campaign to save the link which is strongly supported by the local Lib Dem MPs and councillors. We recently held a day of action on 18th July which received press coverage and Paul Burstow MP has launched a Save Our Thameslink website.
Sutton Council have submitted a details response to the Department for Transport and we await news on whether the concerns of local residents are taken on board.
Councillors considered a new Transport Policy Review which looked at a number of strategic transport objectives in Sutton borough. One of them is to see a modern fit-for-purpose Sutton mainline station.
The station is an extremely busy transport hub but the station itself is very old fashioned. With plans to redevelop the ‘Sutton Point’ area next to the station for modern offices and a retail extension of the High Street it is highly desirable to have a modern rail station serving the town centre.
Work will now begin on building a case for the redevelopment of the station to take it into the 21st Century.
The Committee formally awarded a contract to Viridor for the processing of non-recyclable household waste that would normally go to landfill.
This issue has been a source of controversy with some residents in Beddington and green campaigners expressing concern over the proposed incinerator.
Viridor propose a plant – not too dissimilar to the one pictured in West London – which would burn non-recyclable waste to make electricity and sell it on to the National Grid. Viridor say their other plants show how residue is also reused for such things as an alternative to asphalt for road-making and emissions are filtered and kept to a minimum.
The company have submitted a planning application, which is due to be heard by Development Control Committee in the near future, and that is an opportunity to hear both sides of the argument, including objections by residents and environmental activists.
I am a member of Development Control and am keeping an open mind. I genuinely do not know whether or not I am in favour of this and if I am sitting on the committee that hears the planning application I will weigh up both sides of the argument without fear or favour.
Last but not least, councillors awarded a contract to Car2go, a car-sharing operation where residents can pay a joining fee and then hire a smartcar for a length of time of their choosing, with hire fees depending on how long they use it for. It is aimed to cut private car use, and studies have shown these type of schemes can reduce private car trips by up to seven times.
With this scheme a GPS tracking system will tell the resident exactly where all the available cars are parked around the borough and they can simply pick up the one closest to them.
All committee members – Lib Dem and Conservative – voted for this. However there were some concerns, not least the impact on parking of an additional 100 cars scattered around the borough. We were told that the scheme would start with 20 cars and the impact would be closely monitored.
I expressed disappointed there was no public consultation and that the two-seater smartcar wasn’t much use for a family or for a trip to Ikea. I added that while I was encouraged that Car2go cars would not be able to park in residents’ only bays, I was noted that this would be subject to a review and my preference was to have it set in stone forever-more that residents’ only bays would be off-limits permanently.
I also sought clarification about the current car sharing scheme, run by Streetcar / Zipcar which is currently based at the car-park behind the Civic Centre. All cars have to be collected and dropped off there, and these are normal family-sized cars. The Committee was advised that this contract was coming to an end next month. I asked whether Streetcar / Zipcar had been invited to bid for the new contract being offered to Cars2go and was advised they were completely separate contracts.
Officers are continuing to talk to Streetcar / Zipcar about whether to extend their contract but they officer added that this scheme was not currently a success. I certainly hope there is competition in this field and that the two companies appear to be offering a different service. We shall see…