Thursday, January 22, 2009

Minister for London Been on Tube Again

First, Junior Business Minister Shriti Vadera saw some green shoots of recovery, then Margaret Beckett urged people to snap up bargains as she saw signs of an upturn in the property market.

Now, Employment Minister and Minister for London, Tony McNulty has been talking about the big increase in unemployment. He told the press that he sees light at the end of the tunnel. Sorry Tony, that's a train coming the other way.

Health & Safety Demand Muffled Music

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) have had a drive to protect the hearing of music teachers and dustbin men. Today, they advised refuse collectors to wear earmuffs when collecting glass.

Yesterday, they told music teachers to wear them when taking lessons or stand behind a noise screen. Apparently the saxophone is a danger after 15 minutes. I was sorely tempted to wear some when I tried to teach myself the saxophone a few years back, but it wasn't the volume that I was trying to protect myself from.

The considered advice from the HSE to bin men is to empty boxes of glass more slowly to lessen the noise.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I sat watching Barack Obama with the same sense of expectation, hope and trepidation as millions of people around the world whilst he fluffed his inauguration oath and delivered a speech that was powerful in its oratory but still short in delivering a roadmap to deliver the promised change.

However, this is not what moved me to comment on a subject that is way out of my remit in "Making Carshalton Central". Instead, it was the desperation of Denis McShane, the Labour MP who jumped on Obama fever to issue a press release to the Guardian explaining that Labour MPs were hard done by because Tories called a vote about the European response to the small matter of global economic meltdown.

Feeling pretty pleased with himself, he has obviously forgotten that:
1. MPs are elected to Parliament to debate, vote and legislate, not watch TV.
2. There might have been one, two or a thousand of other opportunities to watch one of the most significant inauguration ceremonies in the short history of the United States of America.
3. His 'John Lewis' list must extend to a video recorder.

Simple message to Dennis McShane MP: stop wondering why politicians are as popular as bankers (estate agents are starting to get the sympathy vote) and get a grip.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Alma & Shorts Roads

There are a few changes for this corner of Carshalton. Click on the links to see the details.

Firstly a crossing on Westmead Corner is welcome to allow children attending Camden Junior School and people going to the shops on the parade to cross a busy road safely.

Then the two speed humps either side of the railway bridge on Shorts Road are being changed to wider road tables , which are the brick topped speed humps. These are to create convenient crossing points for the school and the alleyway.

The final change, the remodelling of the junction of Alma Road with Shorts Road, has been changed as a result of residents' concerns. Some have lived on this corner for over thirty years, know the area intimately and have to live with the consequences of any change. Therefore, I am pleased that the change seems to have been received better than the first drawing. As ever, not everyone will get what they want but it is crucial that the Council listen and respond. The main concern was that larger vehicles already use the entrance to St Philomena's to help manoeuvre around the corner that is made tighter by school parking. If the shopping parade on Carshalton Road is redeveloped as planned, construction workers may be using this route to get to the site so it is important to get this right.

I'll be going back to those residents to make sure that the Council have got it right this time. In the meantime, you can see the responses to the Consultation by road, here.

Cambridge & Banstead Roads

STEPS Zone 17 covers the roads to the North East of our ward. You can see the proposals for Cambridge Road and Banstead Road here.

Cross hatched road markings will be painted in the middle of Cambridge Road. I am told that this helps with lane discipline by suggesting that cars should only enter the hatched area if safe to do so. This road is a bus route and has a lot of parked cars by the BP garage.
At the other end, the junction with Banstead Road has been a longstanding problem. STOP markings and a 30mph circle will be painted onto the road surface. In Banstead Road, clearer road signs, indicating the existence of this side turning will replace the signs that only show a bend in the road. In a second phase of work, yellow lines will be considered for this junction. It was proposed that speed bumps were installed in Banstead Road, either side of the junction with Cambridge Road but all three councillors have opposed this.

Colston Avenue

It's not often that you see Colston Avenue as clear as this these days. The photo on the right was taken on Saturday lunchtime and shows how different the road is when commuters are not filling the road. Usually cars have to crawl through the middle with drivers surging ahead to fill gaps when one appears. The pinch points become punch points, stretching a hundred yards rather than the short width of the chicane.

Whisper it quietly, but we might have got a resolution. As I reported back in December, the results from the Controlled Parking Zone came back and were quite clearly against but Colston Avenue has not been forgotten. Officers have worked on a plan to remove the vast majority of parking on the road, leaving just the pavement parking and a small number of bays on the road. This will free up the road space to help the flow of cars. The pinch points will remain to ensure that the increased flow does not translate to excessive speed. Consideration has been given to adding signs to prioritise one direction over the other. However, there is a danger that this gives drivers a false sense of security, making them over-confident and lunging for the opening ahead of oncoming vehicles. Traffic flow will be monitored before further consideration is given to this change.

There are two further projects that affect Colston Avenue. A scheme to make walking to school safer for pupils at Camden Junior School has already resulted in a "tactile paving" crossing near the West Street Junction and as part of a wider scheme with the catchy title of STEPS Zone 19, a zebra crossing has been approved to be built on Westmead Corner and Colston Avenue will have a 20mph speed limit.

Colston Avenue has always been something of a pet project of mine. The original traffic calming scheme was pushed through as a political decision by a previous councillor for the area and Leader of the Council against the advice of officers. I'm only too pleased to sign off on a scheme that should correct this long-standing and costly mistake. Residents have asked me to deal with this as a priority for some six years now and I am glad to be able to go back to them with an answer. Having said that, not everyone will get what they want. Some wanted parking permits, others wanted the pinch points removed entirely. At least we have got something that should help. Let's see how it goes and come back to it if there are any further issues.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tackling Traffic in Carshalton

I had four consecutive meetings at the Council offices yesterday about a variety of traffic schemes proposed for Carshalton. The results were positive.

Residential roads across the Borough are divided up into areas known as Strategic Traffic & Environmental Problem Studies or STEPS zones for short. STEPS zone 19 includes Salisbury, Blakehall and Carshalton Park Road and the roads around the perimeter of Carshalton Park. It reaches across to Manor Road in Wallington.

All residents received a letter from the Council asking if they considered their road to be a rat-run, whether it should be made into a 20mph zone and if any traffic calming should be considered. 20% of residents replied with a mixed bag of replies. In order to make sense of them, the area was broken down into four bite-size chunks.

Residents around Blakehall Road were split, with Carshalton Park Road identified as the biggest rat-run. However, neither the level of responses or the accident data merited the need for speed bumps etc. I did insist that attention was given to sightlines on the junctions. There are a lot of children that go up to Stanley Park Infants and Juniors along that route. The corner of Blakehall and Salisbury is dreadful with vans and cars blocking the view for turning traffic and the corners near Glebe Road are similar. There are several occasions when traffic is forced into the path of oncoming traffic. I know that parking is getting more difficult in that area having seen more cars in twenty years that I have lived here, but I would be supportive of yellow lines on the corners to ease this problem.

Residents around the Park did not generally see their road as a cut through and so it was easy to decide to leave well alone. The other two smaller areas are not in my ward and were less clear cut. Residents in Grosvenor Avenue and Grosvenor Road were keener on slowing the traffic that speeds up the straight road, though there have been no accidents along Grosvenor Avenue and only one on the kink in Grosvenor Road. Accidents have occured as one might expect, at the junction with Park Lane. The area in Wallington has not been resolved yet as the ward councillors are meeting with officers this week.

Update: View the results broken down by road here.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Free Market Economics - Credit Crunch Style

For sometime people have been bemoaning the fact that Sutton High Street struggles to compete with the size of Croydon and the more upmarket Kingston and Epsom for shopping. With little direction for so many years, major retailers saw little benefit in coming to Sutton.

Before Christmas, I thought that it was a sign of the times that a Pound shop could be undercut by a "99p" shop. The pictures opposite show the two stores proudly sitting as bookends at the top and bottom of the High Street respectively.

Now, however, a Pound shop in Poole has closed down due to the competition from a 99p store that recently opened opposite. There are plenty of vacant shops in Sutton. Anyone fancy opening a lucrative 98p store? I'll nip down to the bank and get a few bags of 2p pieces for change.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Roadside Spam

How many near-misses must there have been along the roads of London over the last month or two with the advent of these roadside billboards?

It screams out the bait as if Brian Blessed had been the copywriter but the product that it is marketing is hidden in the lurid colours and the sheer size of the provocative text of the question.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, they have been removed voluntarily by the firm behind the advertising campaign after the Advertising Standards Authority dithered following a string of complaints. I don't consider myself prudish but the posters that were on Beddington Lane and Carshalton Road were ugly and just daft, playing on a base schoolboy sense of titillation. As do most people, I get enough spam in my inbox about sex, viagra and plenty of other things, I really don't need it while I'm away from my emails for a while relaxing in the traffic on the red route. I could say that it gets up my nose, but since this product is a nasal spray that it is claimed cures impotency, I'll rely on a judgemental shake of the head.

Anyway, the people who I feel sorry for are those who live opposite the posters who must have to look out of their bedroom windows everyday before they go to bed and when they get up to have the same question being posed of them. I'm not sure if Brian Blessed has considered retraining as an Agony Aunt.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Sterling Reaches Parity With Another Currency

I looked at the money that my daughter received for a Christmas present and wondered how long it would be before my pay packet looked the same.

Gordon Brown's announcement that he is to create 100,000 new jobs looks suspiciously like another measure to be seen to be doing something rather than one that will have any meaningful or lasting effect.

2009 is going to be a tough year for the economy. Locally, we need to work closely with Sutton businesses and large employers to see what more we can do as an authority rather than just wringing our hands. Pushing through measures that help large national companies who provide many of the Council's services won't help local businesses. We need to ensure that we are fully aware of what local residents and local businesses want from us before acting. Giving them a greater voice to speak to councillors and question exisiting policies will be a good start.