The South London neighbourhoods crying out for better transport ahead of the general election


The Sutton and Cheam constituency gained national name recognition in February this year when its then MP Paul Scully claimed that parts of Tower Hamlets were ‘no-go areas’ and that some people were ‘fearful of going out.’ A month after making these controversial comments, Scully announced he would be stepping down at the next election.

His decision to step down after nine years means his Sutton and Cheam seat could become a tight election battleground, much like its neighbouring Carshalton and Wallington constituency. All three major parties now feel they could take the seat, which was solidly Lib Dem before Scully took over.

Sutton and Cheam have undoubtedly grown in the past decade. However, many in Sutton are divided on whether these changes have been beneficial or not.

Read more: MyLondon's big General Election survey - have your say on London transport, NHS and cost of living

Daniel Akakpo on Sutton High Street
Daniel Akakpo thinks the tram service should extend into Sutton -Credit:Harrison Galliven

The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), visited Sutton earlier this week to find out what matters to its voters, and what they will expect from whoever is to become their next MP on July 4.

Transport, or a lack thereof, was a particular sore spot for the Sutton residents we spoke to. TfL coverage in the borough, some locals reckon, is some of the worst in London, with residents often complaining that they have it worse than neighbouring boroughs.

Daniel Akakpo is a tram driver on the service that joins Wimbledon with Croydon. He told the LDRS of his frustrations with the tram’s absence in Sutton, where he’s lived with his family since 2003.

He said: “We were vying for the Tram to come into Sutton to make things easier, but unfortunately they said they don’t have the budget. I don’t think our transport is as good as Croydon.

“The tram would have done a lot of good for people here. They really need to move forward on that.”

Concerns over the strike action and poor service from local railway services was another particularly pronounced issue in the area.

Homeless camp near ASDA superstore
Sutton residents told the LDRS how homelessness has become more of a concern in the area -Credit:Harrison Galliven

Sutton resident Hannah Fields told the LDRS: “Southern rail is so unreliable, they’re always on strike or late. If we didn’t have the Thameslink running through Sutton we’d be screwed.”

She added: “We need more than just trains here though. How come everywhere else has Tubes, trams and Overground and we don’t?”

Sutton High Street is one of the capital's longest pedestrianised high streets and attracts many shoppers, even on a mid-Monday afternoon when the LDRS visited. However, many residents feel the high street, once a point of pride, has had its day.

Dave Ramsay told the LDRS: The high street seems to get worse the further down the hill you go. Just more empty shops and homeless people. We don’t want to become like another Croydon.”

This was a view shared by best friends Cathy and Nicky, who have been shopping in Sutton for years. “We just walk in and straight out again now,” Cathy told the LDRS.

She added: “It’s all just charity shops and nail bars now. I think they’re missing the department stores, like Allders and Debenhams.”

Nicky told the LDRS how she has recently started seeing more homeless people in Sutton. In particular, she spoke of her shock of seeing a small homeless encampment outside the large ASDA at the bottom of the high street.

She said: “We need more provision for homeless people, I think that’s quite sad to see them all there like that. It’s just got really rough.”

Sutton's Lib Dem-run Council is currently undertaking extensive works designed to upgrade the high street. This £4.4m revamp will see the Council's main offices move into the the St Nicholas Shopping Centre, which dominates the high street.

However, some residents felt content with Sutton’s growth and were even optimistic about its future as an outer London borough. Rodney Jenkins, who lives at the top of the high street on Brighton Road, told the LDRS how he thinks the current Council are working to improve the area.

Rodney said: “We’re very lucky to have the second longest pedestrianised high street in London. Consequently, the footfall of all of the new flats being built will be generating a lot more revenue from council tax.”

When asked about his thoughts on national politics, Jenkins was not as assured and described it as “a bit of a pig’s ear.”

He added: “I don’t like the foreign policy of this government or Starmer or so on. I’m probably going to vote for George Galloway’s party because he’s a wonderful orator.”

Christine Nardiello, a law and business lecturer, told the LDRS that housing and property value will play a huge role in determining how people will vote on July 4. Sutton’s appeal as a place to settle down has grown in recent years, due in part to the prevalence of good schools in the area.

She said: “There’s quite a lot of affluent people in this area, and I think a big thing will be if they start talking about property. Especially, if they start talking about putting property taxes on the size of your house.

“A lot of people retired here or came here when they were younger when I did, our properties have increased in value not because we thought that would happen but because it has. That worries me with Labour, but we’re Lib Dem here.”

Danuta Brudka on Sutton High Street
Rodney Jenkins said: I’m probably going to vote for George Galloway’s party because he’s a wonderful orator.”

Grandmother Danuta Brudka recently moved to Sutton from her native Poland. Apart from the occasional bus not turning up, she feels it is a great place to live and spend time with family.

On her way to catch a bus from the station at the top of the hill, she told the LDRS: “Very happy to be in Sutton. It's very different to Poland, but I like that.”

The full list of candidates for the Sutton and Cheam constituency are as follows:

Aasha Anam - Green Party

Tom Drummond - Conservative and Unionist Party

Kingsley Action Man Hamilton - Independent

Ryan Powell - Reform UK

Chrishni Reshekaron - Labour Party

Luke Taylor - Liberal Democrats

Got a story? Email harrison.galliven@reachplc.com

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