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The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames ( pronunciation (help·info)) is a borough in southwest London, England. The main area in the borough is Kingston upon Thames, but it covers a wider area also including places such as Surbiton, Chessington, New Malden and Tolworth. It is one of only two London Boroughs to be designated a "Royal Borough", the other being the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The borough today is amongst the safest areas of London, with one of the lowest crime rates in the city. The Grove ward however, in the north-west of the borough has an extremely high crime rate, ranking 6th on the list of London's most dangerous wards.
Areas included in the borough:
The main town in the borough, Kingston upon Thames, has existed on the banks of the River Thames for many hundreds, if not thousands of years. Many Roman relics have also been found in the surrounding areas.
All Saints Church, at the centre of Kingston, has been the site of a church for over 1,000 years, its predecessors being sacked by the Vikings in 1009AD. It is one of the most important historic sites on the River Thames, alongside the Tower of London, the Palaces of Westminster, Westminster Abbey, Hampton Court, Runnymede and Windsor Castle.
Kingston still has a monument, the Coronation Stone, on which the monarchs were said to have actually been crowned. A coin from the reign of each of the monarchs listed is set into the base of the stone, which now stands outside the local council offices, the Guildhall.
Sopwith Aviation Company had a factory in the Canbury Park area of Kingston, where the famous Sopwith Camel was produced during World War I. The Hawker Hurricane was designed upon a site in Kingston town centre and built in the aviation factory near Ham now known as the Hawker Centre.
The current borough was formed in 1965 as a merger of the previous Municipal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames (which had the title of a Royal Borough) with the Municipal Borough of Malden and Coombe and the Municipal Borough of Surbiton which were transferred from Surrey to Greater London. It contains all of the Kingston and Surbiton Westminster Parliamentary Constituency and part of the Richmond Park Constituency. Kingston is the seat of Surrey County Council and is part of Surrey for postal purposes, with the exception of the Kingston Vale area in the north-east which has a London SW15 postcode along with Roehampton and Putney, but it is administratively part of Greater London.
Note: Since the formation of the new borough in 1965 the hyphens have been omitted from the name to distinguish it from the former Municipal borough of the same name.
The Borough Council was controlled by the Conservative Party from 1965 until 1986, when a SDP-Liberal Alliance minority administration briefly took control at the Guildhall. This administration was short-lived, foundering amid controversy over its attempt to abolish the Borough's Grammar School system. After a number of by-election losses, the Conservatives regained control of the Council in 1987. In 1990, there was no overall control by any party at the subsequent Borough elections. The Conservatives retained control on the casting vote of the Mayor.
In 1994 the Liberal Democrats gained majority control of the Council for the first time and in 1997, gained both Parliamentary seats that cover the borough. With Dr Jenny Tonge gaining Richmond Park constituency and Edward Davey overturned a Conservative majority estimated at well over 10,000 in Kingston and Surbiton with a majority of just 56 votes, after three recounts. Edward Davey retained his seat in the 2001, winning into a massive majority of 15,676 after the Conservatives fielded the controversial David Shaw and 2005 elections with a majority of over 8,961 at the last election. Edward Davey again retained his seat in the May 2010 general election. Susan Kramer, since the 2005 election, is the Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park, having a majority of 3,731. Susan Kramer was replaced in the May 2010 election by Conservative Zac Goldsmith with a majority of 4,091. Most notable is Zac's pledge to resign if the Conservatives renege on their promise to halt Heathrow expansion.
In 1998 the Liberal Democrats lost their majority on the Council and a minority Conservative Party administration was formed. This minority administration was further reduced in 1999 by the expulsion of Tim Brown after he expressed concerns about the leadership of the local Kingston & Surbiton Conservative Association. In 2001, St. Mark's Councillors Dennis de Lord and Jan Jenner also resigned as a stand against hypocrisy within the Conservative Group on the Council and together with Tim Brown formed a new Independent Group of Councillors with Dennis de Lord as leader and Tim Brown as deputy leader, to put People Before Politics. This being the first time that four parties were represented on the council, the Mayor of Kingston Jeremy Thorn officially opened the new Independent's Group office at the Guildhall. The group did not stand for re-election following the continuing ill-health of Dennis de Lord.
At the 2002 elections, the Liberal Democrats took control of the Council with a majority of 12 and retained control of the Council in 2006 with a reduced majority of two. This is the first time any party has retained control of the Council since 1986. The only Neighbourhood committee to see the Liberal Democrats increase their majority was in Surbiton where the Lib Dems took control of the previously Conservative-held ward of Berrylands after ousting Kevin Davis, the leader of the Conservative Group on the Council. Kevin Davis was subsequently replaced as the Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Kingston & Surbiton by Helen Whately.
Kingston Council's political landscape continues to be fluid. In 2007 Shelia Griffin, one of the two Labour Councillors, resigned the Labour whip and became an Independent.
The 2010 local elections resulted in the Liberal Democrats increasing their majority from 2 to 6, thereby retaining control of the Council for a third term. Notable casualties were the veteran Steve Mama (Labour), Kingston's longest serving Councillor and the previously safe Conservative-held Surbiton Hill ward which saw Nick Kilby, the Conservative election campaign co-ordinator and Paul Johnston, the former local Conservative Association chairman and trustee, both being deselected. In the parliamentary elections of the same year, Liberal Democrat Ed Davey retained his seat, albeit with a slightly reduced majority, following a challenge from Conservative candidate Helen Whately.
See also: Kingston upon Thames local elections
The current state of the parties on the Council is:
Modern day Kingston benefits from one of the biggest and most visited shopping areas outside of central London, with a varied selection of high street stores, and a large number of independent boutiques and retailers.
Close to Kingston, and located between Kingston, Richmond and Roehampton, is Richmond Park, one of the oldest Royal parks.
The Borough is home to the highest number of South Koreans in Europe, in the town of New Malden.
Primary responsibility for education in the borough lies with the local education authority.
Primary schools, (N) indicates with Nursery classes. CE indicates Church of England, and RC indicates Roman Catholic.
Kingston is one of only six London Boroughs not to have at least one London Underground station within its boundaries, although it does have a number of mainline rail stations. As well as this Kingston also benefits from its central bus station situated beside its large and thriving shopping centre. There are 64 buses currently(2008) running to and from Kingston.
When the London and Southampton Railway built the line to Southampton, the railway bypassed Kingston due to concerns that it would impact the town's coaching trade. A station called Kingston-upon-Railway was opened in 1838 to the southwest of the town in a deep cutting, although it was later resited 400m west to its present site at Surbiton. Today, Surbiton is the busiest railway station in the borough.
Later, a branch was built towards Shepperton and a more centrally located station known as Kingston, was opened in 1863, as well as another at Norbiton. The remaining stations in the borough were built on the Chessington Branch which opened in 1939.
Railway stations in the borough:
Although not officially 'twinned', The Royal Borough of Kingston has a partner city of Oldenburg in Germany and Gwanak-gu, an administrative subdivision of Seoul, in South Korea. Some road signs announce that Kingston is linked with Delft in the Netherlands but this official link has ended.