This afternoon, I spoke at a public meeting organised by the Queen Mary’s Christian Care Foundation. It was open to all candidates for the London Assembly or a representative. Steve O’Connell was busy at a prearranged event in Croydon so I stepped in. Only David Campanale from the Christian People’s Alliance joined me. The third person in the photo standing in the middle is Dr Richard Cooling of the Foundation.

They have a vision for a care village located on part or all of the Orchard Hill site in Carshalton that you can read about here. At present, there are two main plans being considered for the site, just housing and the new Stanley Park High School plus some housing. There are some fundamental issues that have to be resolved before anything can happen. Firstly, the NHS Primary Care Trust own the land. Their finances are not looking too clever at the moment so they need every penny to reprovision the service for the current residents of Orchard Hill. Secondly, Sutton Council have agreed that the proposal should be considered as part of the supplementary planning document which will determine what development will be allowed on the site, yet issued a document that fails to mention the Foundation. Finally, if the land is sold for housing, it is lost to public services forever. A care village can evolve over time as thoughts about service provision changes. Breaking up the plot into small parcels of privately-owned land precludes this.

Residents of Sovereign Park are happy to see this take shape. As a Governor of Stanley Park, I can see synergies between the new school and the centre with shared facilities and opportunities for vocational training and as a local politician, I would welcome any initiative that improves access to such services. The group have proved their committment over a number of years in pushing the Council and PCT to consider making them a preferred purchaser, giving them a level playing field. They are not asking for a step up. They are a good example of a group of organisations and committed individuals seeking to offer a service that Whitehall or even the Civic Office cannot provide. I say, trust people not bureaucracy to deliver.