Sutton 2031 – planning for our future

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Poster from the LCC’s 2016 mayoral election campaign Sign for Cycling


Here we present Get Sutton Cycling’s response to Sutton Council’s Sutton 2031: planning for our future consultation. Section 1 provides a brief overview of the consultation, and this is followed by the introduction to our response along with a highlighted summary. 

The full version of our response, which was submitted on 7 April 2016, can be downloaded from the link below (noting that this is a slightly updated version, incorporating a correction to a typographical error and including one additional reference):

Sutton 2031: a response from Get Sutton Cycling (April2016) (PDF document | 823 kB)

All images shown in this feature, with the exception of the header and the final two slides, are taken from the documentation supplied by the London Borough of Sutton as part of the consultation. The consultation documents are available from the London Borough of Sutton’s Planning Policy portal at Sutton 2031.

There are very many aspects of the Local Plan, and how cycling needs to feature strongly in all developments of the future, that are not covered in our response. For example, we did not include important topics such as cycle parking in residential areas, or the options for remodelling Sutton’s gyratory system. Nevertheless, it is hoped that our response will provide a good foundation for further discussion.

One thing is certain. Although many of the issues behind delivering the Sutton 2031 vision are potentially challenging, the opportunities are extensive and exciting. 

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An extract from Sutton 2031: planning our future – have your say (LBS, February 2016). The Sutton 2031 consultation is introduced in this very useful, engaging, and well laid out brochure.

In an accompanying post to this feature, Sutton 2031 – is cycling part of the picture?, we consider why many of the illustrations that depict street scenes in the consultation documentation are devoid of cycling infrastructure!


1: Overview

Between 18 February and 8 April 2016, Sutton Council ran a consultation on the issues and options associated with the borough’s next Local Plan, Sutton 2031 Planning for our Future.  The purpose of the Sutton Local Plan 2016-2031 is to set out the council’s long-term aims and aspirations for the borough, and to provide a consistent approach for deciding planning applications.

This first phase of the Sutton 2031 consultation was an opportunity for people to help shape the key planning policies for the borough. It is anticipated that the council will consult again during September/October 2016 on the draft Local Plan, following consideration of the responses to this consultation and further evidence gathering.

There are three main elements to Sutton 2031:

  • The Local Plan Issues and Preferred Option Document – the key principles for future development in the borough.
  • Sutton Town Centre Draft Masterplan – the vision to boost the vibrancy and cultural offer of Sutton town centre and secure its future as a destination of choice. The town centre masterplan will be finalised in June 2016.
  • London Cancer Hub Draft Development Framework – the plans to create a world class campus that will establish Sutton as a centre of excellence for cancer research and treatment alongside a new school that will provide high quality careers and attract investment into Sutton.

2: A response to Sutton 2031: planning for our future from Get Sutton Cycling

Introduction

Due to the extensive nature of the Local Plan documentation, we have focused our response to the consultation on the questions detailed in Section 9 Improving Sutton’s Sustainable Transport Network. These questions relate to Issues I-35 Transport Proposals, I-36 Transport Impact and I-37 Parking.

It is appreciated that the Draft Policy on Health and Well-being features in Section 7 Serving Sutton’s Communities which links to the promotion of healthy lifestyles. We support the council’s intentions to “promote healthy, economic and sustainable alternatives to the car, including cycling and walking”. However, people need to want to cycle to actually cycle! That inclination will be greater if an active lifestyle is enabled as well as encouraged. This is about making cycling feel safe and inviting for all ages and abilities, so that some short day-to-day journeys can have activity built-in (and be fun too).

The Draft Policy on Environmental Protection features in Section 8 Delivering Sutton’s One Planet Targets. Issue I-34 discusses air quality, and it is noted that in terms of pollution, Wallington and Worcester Park are the worst affected areas in the borough. In 2009, the Sutton Guardian reported: “Pollution levels in Worcester Park, which are already running at alarming rates, would be further increased by the Hamptons development, new figures show” [1]. Eight years later, during the first week of 2016, Worcester Park was highlighted as one location of eight across the whole of London likely to exceed nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the coming months [2]. With the predicted population growth of 16% in the borough between now and 2031, this dramatically highlights the challenges that are faced. Action is required sooner rather than later. Given that around half of all car journeys in Sutton are less than 5 km, attractive conditions for cycling would have great potential to help to reduce pollution levels and congestion.

Summary of our response

The role that cycling can play to help meet the challenges in Sutton of delivering new housing, and the infrastructure to support it (including additional schools, employment, improved transport and health facilities) by 2031 is understated across the Local Plan, the Sutton Town Centre Masterplan, and the London Cancer Hub Development Framework.

The Local Plan, and supporting documentation, makes little reference to either the borough’s Sustainable Transport Strategy (June 2015) or the Cycling Strategy (November 2015). The illustrations provided in the Sutton Town Centre Masterplan look exciting and spark the imagination, but at the same time are devoid of any cycling infrastructure.

All new developments, whether housing, retail, office, industrial, need to be seen as major opportunities for sustainable travel. The Cancer Hub development in Belmont, for example, could offer the potential to develop Brighton Road into a boulevard with fully protected cycle tracks.

Parking has been identified as a key issue when it comes to improving Sutton’s Sustainable Transport network, and parking is also a key issue directly linked to cycling provision. Re-thinking parking, in terms of quantity, quality and location will be required if efficient use of contested space is to be achieved. In essence, people will only want to cycle if there is safe space for cycling. At the moment, unchallenged use of the public highway for private parking can be detrimental to the ability of providing that space. There are ways to provide space for parking and space for cycling. It can be done. The degree to which these issues are addressed now, will inevitably determine how we choose to travel in the future.

Unless cycling becomes something that Sutton’s residents want to do, then many of the issues outlined in the Local Plan will only become worse over the next fifteen years.

Some context

In March 2013, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, unveiled his vision to make cycling in London safer, more popular, and more normal [3]. He declared that “Cycling will not be treated as niche, marginal, or an after-thought, but as what it is: an integral part of the transport network, with the capital spending, road space and traffic planners’ attention benefitting that role”. Now, three years later, and in reference to his achievements in starting to make this vision a reality, he writes: “My single biggest regret as Mayor is that I did not do it sooner. Our original painted lanes were revolutionary at the time. But knowing what I do now, we would have blasted ahead with our new segregated cycle lanes from the beginning.” [4]. Regret not doing it sooner, is not something that we can afford to say in 2031.

One outcome of this cycling vision, in relation to some outer London boroughs, has been the ‘mini-Holland’ programme. ‘Mini-Hollands’ are multi-million pound schemes to build high quality cycle tracks, reduce rat-running and make it feel much safer and far more enjoyable for people of all ages and abilities to walk or cycle to the shops, school, or just for fun. Our neighbours in the Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames are already benefitting from substantial ‘mini-Holland’ funding, with cycle track construction starting on Portsmouth Road this year, 2016. So that is happening right now, in 2016. Clearly, for such programmes not even to be included in a vision looking ahead fifteen years, especially for a borough that claims it wants to be London’s most sustainable suburb, would be a travesty.

It is also worth noting that many more people are choosing to cycle in central London, where a third of all vehicles on the road during the morning rush hour are now bicycles. Targets for increasing cycling mode share in our borough were set in the Sustainable Transport Strategy. In the short term (2017) the target is 2.2%, rising to 4% in the longer term (by 2025). All from a baseline of 1% (2009-2012 average). We belief the longer-term target for Sutton (4% by 2025) is not aspirational enough, as set out in our response to the cycling strategy consultation in 2015 [5].

In conclusion

Many transport and health issues can be solved by increasing cycling. Establishing conditions where cycling is safe and appealing is about creating a cleaner, greener, healthier London. If more people were able to cycle it would benefit us all, not just those who currently cycle, or want to cycle.

We would like Sutton to have more inspiring and vibrant public spaces, where communities across the borough can come alive and thrive. A borough where different modes of transport work together to create an environment that is good for us and good for Sutton, free from congestion, as well as air and noise pollution.

From Beddington to Worcester Park, and from Belmont to Rosehill, by 2031 Sutton could be a borough where it’s normal for everyone to travel more sustainably every day, and the culture of sustainable travel is celebrated.

[1] Mayor’s Vision for Cycling in London (March 2013) GLA

[2] Human Streets: The Mayor’s Vision for Cycling in London three years on (March 2016) GLA

[3] Hampton plans would increase Worcester Park pollution levels, report says (Sutton Guardian), 2 April 2009: http://www.suttonguardian.co.uk/news/4255388.Hamptons_plans_would_increase_Worcester_Park_pollution_levels/

[4] London takes just one week to breach annual air pollution limits (The Guardian) 8 January 2016: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jan/08/london-takes-just-one-week-to-breach-annual-air-pollution-limits.

[5] Time to make the case and rise to the challenges (September 2015) Get Sutton Cycling https://getsuttoncycling.org.uk/2015/09/15/time-to-make-the-case-and-rise-to-the-challenges/

The response concluded with two slides taken from the Sutton Cycle Summit 2014 presentation. These were included as a reminder of a Supplementary Planning Document “North Sutton Sites Draft Planning Brief” from May 2012 (the development of which is now currently underway), and how the caveat “where possible” can be (and all too often is) thrown into the mix. Sutton 2031 needs to be seen as an exciting, not to be missed, opportunity for cycling. Sutton 2031 needs a can-do approach.  

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Sutton 2031 – is cycling part of the picture? is the second part to this post. What do the illustrations that feature in some of the accompanying documentation to Sutton 2031 tell us about the current aspirations that today’s master planners have for cycling in the Sutton of the future?

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