The London Borough of Sutton will be submitting a bid to Transport for London for funding through the Liveable Neighbourhoods programme  on, or before, 29 November 2019. To support the bidding process, Sutton Council has developed an online survey to make it easy for people to have their say on the sort of improvements they would like to see .
We would expect Sutton’s Liveable Neighbourhoods bid, which is to be focussed on Sutton town centre and the residential areas immediately to the north-west and south-east of the town centre (see Figure 1), to include:
- Clear political buy-in and support from the Council Leader, Committee Members and ward councillors
- A commitment to develop high-quality cycling infrastructure around, and through, the core of Sutton town centre, and for this infrastructure to be continuous, joined-up and highly visible
- Extensive ‘low traffic neighbourhood’ and filtered permeability proposals (similar to Lambeth’s successful bid for Brixton and Waltham Forest’s mini-Holland) as part of a joined-up network of safe, direct, Cycleways (to current TfL Quality Criteria minimum) throughout the surrounding residential areas
Distinctive approaches to deliver positive change
In the next few weeks Sutton will be taking the opportunity to submit a bid for funding as part of the Liveable Neighbourhoods programme from Transport for London. The Liveable Neighbourhoods programme is providing grants of between £1m and £10m for a wide range of community-supported projects that reflect the aims of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy by funding local schemes to reduce car trips and improve neighbourhoods for walking, cycling and public transport.
In preparation for the borough’s Liveable Neighbourhood bid, Sutton Council launched an online survey on 9 September 2019. The survey was initially to close on 20 October but, around mid-October, the closing date was extended to 4 November.
The survey should help elicit the needs, requirements and aspirations of the local community (in terms of how people feel their local area can be improved, and their priorities for the streets they use), and give an indication of the likely local support for the project as it is developed.
In anticipation of Sutton’s first Liveable Neighbourhoods bid, the opportunity is taken here to review the borough’s credentials (which, when it comes to policy, show the borough is relatively well placed to make a successful application), and outline the broad proposals that we believe the bid must include in order to deliver the expected outcomes of a successful Liveable Neighbourhoods project.
First, though, let’s take a moment to consider another bid that the borough is currently proposing. A bid that is likely to be made within a month of the Liveable Neighbourhoods bid, and which, like the Liveable Neighbourhoods bid, will need the support of local communities to be successful.
This is the bid for Sutton to become the London Borough of Culture 2023.
‘Sutton 2023 – Make Culture Happen’
In early September 2019, Ruth Dombey, the Leader of Sutton Council, wrote to residents to let them know that she was proposing that Sutton bid to become the London Borough of Culture in 2023.The open letter, setting out the ambition, made a very good case as to why the bid should be supported.
Ruth began her letter by saying that Sutton is already a great place to live, work and raise a family, and is the safest and greenest borough in London with thriving communities and neighbourhoods. All of this reflecting, no doubt, the findings of the most recent residents’ survey in 2017 and how Sutton is renowned for its successful schools, low reported crime rate and award-winning green spaces.
In working hard to attract new funding and investment in the borough, Ruth went on to note that the bid offers an exciting opportunity “that could bring in up to £1.35 million to invest in the cultural offer across the borough, to inspire our children and build a legacy for the future”. With the bid focusing on The London Cancer Hub (which Ruth described as Sutton’s best kept secret, but which is a secret that we are passionate about), it is indeed an exciting prospect.
Then Ruth made a very important point: “To be successful we need the support of local residents, communities and partners. But this should be easy for us. Working together is the natural way we get things done in Sutton“.
Essentially, the more people who get involved and support the #Sutton2023 bid, the more likely the bid is to be successful. This is a definite parallel with the proposed Liveable Neighbourhoods funding bid.
There is one stark difference between the bids though. The Liveable Neighbourhoods funding bid is a bid that could see up to £10 million invested in our streets and neighbourhoods. In other words, up to seven times more money than the London Borough of Culture bid. So, the Liveable Neighbourhoods bid, a bid that quite possibly few have heard of, could be described as an even bigger secret than Sutton’s best kept secret. Don’t let’s keep it that way!
Sutton is well placed to make a successful Liveable Neighbourhoods bid
Sutton is, indeed, a great place to live and work. However, Sutton is also a growing borough and things don’t stand still. And, at the same time, it is important to strive towards making life better. Not just for us, but for the coming generations. This necessitates the need to reconsider the way we think about things and adapt to changes, including how we get around for some of our short local journeys. This is where the Liveable Neighbourhoods programme comes in. The Liveable Neighbourhoods programme essentially puts human health and experience at the heart of planning.
The good news is that Sutton is relatively well placed to make a successful Liveable Neighbourhoods funding bid. The policies are in place, and some councillors have shown support.
- The borough’s recently published Environment Strategy 2019-2025 (LB of Sutton, June 2019) declares that Sutton will be London’s most Sustainable Borough, with the ambition that Sutton will be a place where walking and cycling short journeys is easy, pleasant and safe.
- Writing in the foreword of Sutton’s Air Quality Action Plan 2019-2023 (LB of Sutton, June 2019), Cllr. Manuel Abellan, Chair of the Environment and Neighbourhood Committee, and the borough’s Cycling Champion, notes “One of the biggest tasks that we face in the borough is tackling the high levels of car ownership and the heavy reliance on private motor vehicles for short journeys. These journeys can be made on foot or bike, or using public transport for longer distances. However, we need to create the right environment to encourage this modal shift“.
- In April 2018, just ahead of the London local council elections on 3 May, Sutton Council Leader Ruth Dombey wrote to us in response to the My Liveable London campaign. Ruth pledged that the council would submit a high-quality Liveable Neighbourhoods bid, and said “Sutton Council support the objectives of the Liveable Neighbourhoods programme“.
- Sutton’s Sustainable Transport Strategy (LB of Sutton, June 2015) notes that “…the council supports a ‘modal hierarchy’ which puts sustainable modes of transport above less sustainable modes and prioritises roads users accordingly“.
Meanwhile, when it comes specifically to the role cycling can play, the Analysis of Cycling Potential 2016 report (TfL, Policy Analysis Report 2017), Table 4.1, shows that Sutton has the highest number of potentially cyclable trips per resident (1.2) of any London borough (equivalent to 234,900 daily trips).
So, on paper, in theory, it’s looking pretty good.
Anticipating Sutton’s first Liveable Neighbourhoods bid
We know from the online survey, Sutton Liveable Neighbourhoods – funding bid, launched on the 9 September 2019, and from the workshops held at the end of December 2018 and in January 2019 (as reported in our March 2019 newsletter), that Sutton’s first Liveable Neighbourhoods bid is to be focused on, and around, Sutton town centre. We believe the bid is to include proposals for low-traffic cells around the periphery of Sutton’s busy town centre (which, if this transpires to be the case, will be very welcome), and there may be news on this during further stakeholder engagement and feedback events scheduled to take place during September and October 2019. Beyond that, nothing further is knownat this stage, apart from the fact that it looks as though the bid will not incorporate the proposals, as yet unpublished, relating to the 2017 Quietways Highways Survey.
A bid with the focus on Sutton town centre is very welcome, as it provides so many opportunities. Not least of which is to reimagine the one-way gyratory, or ring-road, as this has presented a barrier to walking and cycling, access and egress, ever since its construction in the early 1970s. In a follow-up post to our response to the Sutton Town Centre Masterplan consultation in 2016 (Sutton 2031- is cycling part of the picture?), we commented on the ‘Cycle Movement Plan’ as proposed at the time, and suggested that a lot more needed to be done here. We highlighted around eighteen junctions and intersections that would require major infrastructure to facilitate safe and inviting cycling (see Figures 8, 9 and 10 in our response, and reproduced below). It is hoped that Sutton’s Liveable Neighbourhoods bid will include proposals that address these issues, and in doing so transform the walking and cycling experience in this core area.
To achieve this transformation we would expect high-quality cycling infrastructure to be developed around, and through, the core of Sutton town centre (including Throwley Way, Carshalton Road, Chalk Pit Road, Sutton Court Road, Grove Road, Sutton Park Road, Cheam Road, St Nicholas Way, Crown Road, Sutton High Street and Marshall’s Road) and for this infrastructure to be continuous, joined-up and highly visible. Put simply, something that the Dutch would be envious of.
It is good to see that the scope of the Liveable Neighbourhood bid is to encompass areas beyond the core town centre, extending up to about 2 km towards the north-east, and a similar distance to the south-east. These are all locations that can currently be reached within a ten to fifteen-minute cycle ride of Sutton High Street. For those cycle rides to become safer, and more inviting, and for active travel to become a more compelling proposition for many more people, two essential elements are required in the bid for these areas. Firstly, extensive ‘low traffic neighbourhood’ and filtered permeability schemes (similar to Lambeth’s ambitious, and successful, Liveable Neighbourhood bid for Brixton , and Waltham Forest’s gold-standard mini-Holland ). Secondly, a joined-up network of safe, direct Cycleways (delivered to current TfL Quality Criteria minimum ).
It is hoped Sutton’s first Liveable Neighbourhoods bid will paint a compelling vision and help bring about ambitious interventions that will, in time, give greater community ownership of the streets, improve air quality, engender active travel, reduce motor traffic and create better places to live.
This article has outlined the core elements that we would like to see in the bid. It has also highlighted some of the successes achieved by other ambitious boroughs. In addition, it is clear that the borough has policies in place that could help Sutton’s Liveable Neighbourhoods bid. Ultimately, though, strong support from the Council Leader and from committee members, working together with local residents, communities and partners, will be key to the success of the bid. We certainly wish it well.
What happened next?
Our response to the ‘Sutton Liveable Neighbourhoods – funding bid’ consultation was submitted to Sutton Council on 31 October 2019. Details in Our response to the ‘Sutton Liveable Neighbourhoods funding bid’ consultation 2019.
 TfL | Liveable Neighbourhoods programme
 Sutton Consultation Hub | Sutton Liveable Neighbourhoods – funding bid
 Brixton Liveable Neighbourhood | Commonplacehttps://brixtonlnmap.commonplace.is/about
 Waltham Forest mini-Holland | Enjoy Waltham Forest https://www.enjoywalthamforest.co.uk/about-mini-holland/
 New cycle route quality criteria | TfL https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/publications-and-reports/cycling
v1: 25.09.2019; v1.1 23.10.2019 (minor changes reflecting extension of survey date, some typing corrections); v1.2 11.02.2020 added ‘What happened next?’