Local Election Hustings question and answers

Panel of Candidates speaking (Image: Dominic)

Date: 20th April, 2022

Venue: 45 Benhill Avenue, Sutton SM1 4DD

Organised by: The Sutton Civic Society (http://suttoncivicsociety.org.uk/)

Speakers were given two minutes to answer each question.

To follow our question, audio, transcript of answers and comment. Firstly:

Our thanks to The Sutton Civic Society for organising

We asked, in context of #ClimateSafeStreets campaign:

Please ask candidates to explain their position on tackling the climate emergency using the Sustainable Transport Strategy, in short, are they willing to adopt policies that will reduce car use?

Get Sutton Cycling

The Mayor has committed to a zero-carbon London by 2030. The government has committed to half of all urban journeys being walked or cycled by 2030. Now every London borough has to take action too.

London Cycling Campaign

Hustings .mp3 6.5Mb

Yeah we need to see much more support for walking, wheeling, cycling and there are a range of initiatives to do that, I imagine that in Sutton most people think about when they think about these questions are LTNS and I think because it’s a polarising issue I think whether you’re on one side or the other what everyone should agree you need democratic consent of the majority of your communities. Traffic calming measures, incentivising active transport are really important, and anything to contribute to cleaner air is important, cleaner air is a social justice issue, affects your physical health and mental health, always in more deprived communities who have to live with more polluted air on a daily basis, however with poorly implemented schemes and they were poorly implemented in Sutton without people understanding what they were, without consultation really rush jobs, which was done in such a bad way you’ve created bad faith for future schemes because people won’t have it, any future schemes you need exemptions for blue badges users people with disabilities and others but you can’t discriminate against people against people who have to rely on a car because public transport is simply not available. So yeah we need see investment, we need to see a range of things like incentivising car share schemes where we’ve got a lot of people moving into the borough who haven’t got parking spaces those people gonna need car share schemes but also bike frames as well

John McGeachy (Labour)

The short answer to this question is I won’t close roads. Road closures happened in the borough in 2020 and in my opinion it sets genuinely enthusiastic walkers and cyclists against car users and created a huge amount of bad feeling and animosity between those groups in the borough. The demographic profile of Sutton doesn’t lend well to cycling, and other forms of active travel. There has been attempt with two different measures trying to increase the cycling rates and its barely made a difference. At the moment 1.5% of journeys are made by bike and that’s low, it should be improved, we should walk or cycle if at all possible but we must make sure what we are asking Sutton residents to do are actually compatible and practical with the lives of the people who live in Sutton. I can walk, I can cycle, but someone else may not be fortunate enough with their health or the time in they have in their life to make that happen. We put in a cycle lane in on Throwley Way and it caused traffic jams and frustrated drivers but we didn’t see an increase in cycling and making journeys harder for car users does not encourage the modal shift that lots of people like to see. We should all pick the environmentally friendly healthy option if we can but we also should not be dictating to anybody we should make sure people have the choice and I think by poorly implemented schemes as John said, its put future schemes in you know… there is already bad faith in the borough as a result of that but we need to encourage people to start their journey towards active travel, you know help people to get a bike but we have to make sure to be pro choice and we encourage people to consider their options and diversify rather than do one thing

Catherine Gray (Conservative)

I think when we look at questions like this, there are two things firstly the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods funding of which came from central government and over the Covid period we didn’t have the time or space or allowed to or even consult the way we would normally consult. Obviously we had schools streets as well where again there was a lot of controversy around those, were broadly welcomed by residents and by the parents of children being walked to those schools who frequently dodge traffic and cut throughs as they took their children to schools. They were suspended and put back in after consultation and I think on the whole have been working satisfactorily. Equally I’d say this debate I’m slightly frustrated at the fact I am being labelled as a walker, cyclist, public transport user, or a car user. I’m able to be all four of them, I’m able to be all four of them. Frequently most of us are and we realise when we should or shouldn’t be using vehicles or moving forming our modal shifts in other ways that have less environmental impact. Also for us in Sutton, it’s the investment in our public transport, you know we don’t have the infrastructure and network so we are lobbying hard for example the Tramlink through TfL to bring that to Sutton diversifying our offering in the town centre, equally improving our bus and train services in and out of the borough, east and west. It’s a complicated issue, there are many different strands to it

David Bartolucci (Liberal Democrat)

The Green candidate pulled out due to an urgent matter.

Comment

Attendance for this event was low, with plenty of empty seats, and supporters from the parties outnumbering the general public. The candidates had two minutes each to answer the questions in a powerpoint presentation shown on the screen above them. Order was changed to stop any unfair advantage gained by going last. Rules of the debate were there must not be personal attacks or accusations, this was purely answering the question. The chairman also could show a yellow or red card if an offence was committed. Sadly Peter Friel was unable to attend the debate due to an urgent matter.

To expect a candidate standing in the local elections to describe how they will tackle a particular local issue in two minutes is a tall order, the common theme was ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhoods’ or rather our experience of poorly implemented schemes, and the effect of pitting different road users against one another. Despite their removal in 2021, this topic still rumbles on and dominates local politics not just in Sutton but across London and the UK.

A lot of good points were raised and we would support schemes in line with those cited in the LCC’s Open Letter such as the government’s Gear Change and the current Local Transport Note 1/20 : Cycle Infrastructure Design improving air quality, modal shift, school streets and active travel with accesibility for all. The poor schemes we tried to support at the time were rightly mentioned by all as they were intended to experimental and easily changed, the implementation was the consultation, but this did not happen.

LTN 1/20 guildlines infers the demographic profile of Sutton DOES lend well to cycling
Posted in Election
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