Honey, We’ve Shrunk the Green Belt

#Greenbelt #Epsom #Surrey

Resident fury at E&EBC’s unanimous decision to include five Green Belt sites for 2,175 houses in Draft Local Plan, to be published on 1st February.

  • Over 100 green-belted residents protest to councillors arriving at Epsom Town Hall for Planning Committee vote
  • Dozens of Green Belts buckled to Public Gallery railings in silent protest – with one on speaker’s table in Council Chamber
  • Residents claim one victory as 110 acre Downs Farm NOT included in preferred Green Belt sites

Epsom, 31st January: Amid scenes of dramatic resident protest over Green Belt inclusion for housing, councillors on a planning sub-committee of Epsom and Ewell borough council voted unanimously last night (30th Jan) to accept its Draft Local Plan.It will be formally published tomorrow, 1st February.

Of the nine “preferred option” sites in the Plan, five are green belt sites, on which it is proposed to build 2,175 houses – over 41% of the total of 5,400 proposed up to 2040. No visionary large-scale brownfield developments for affordable homes is included, while 137 acres of green belt are now effectively blighted.

Green Belt sites for housing include four on the west side of Epsom- with a huge 1,500 home estate planned around Horton Farm, and one for 350 homes obliterating sports fields near East Ewell station. ( full list below) There was one spot of good news for the residents after a long fought campaign – as the 110 acre Downs Farm on the Reigate Road was not included in the final list.

Nearly 100 residents protested with banners as the councillors arrived at the Town Hall, with a packed public gallery adorned with “green belts” buckled to its railings in silent protest (see picture). One questioning resident took off his green belt and laid it on the Council Chambers’ speaker’s table, where it stayed for the two hour debate.

“We are furious that the RA controlled council did not fight to keep Epsom’s special character and Green Belt heritage, as is permitted under clear emerging government planning policy” said local resident Yufan Si, for the Keep Epsom and Ewell Green Belt “ There is no clear idea of where any of the much needed social infrastructure, will come from, from schools to doctors’ surgeries, as both councillors and planners admitted in the meeting”

Residents complain that the Draft Plan relies totally and lazily on a “Call for Sites”, with opportunistic developers and landowners putting forward plenty of green belt land, with only a few brownfield sites offered up. There has been no advance discussions with major town centre developers to mix new residential units with job opportunities nearer the urban centre, which most agree needs rejuvenation.

Despite written objections to the committee from the CRPE on sustainability issues and concern over the population projections, E&EBC failed to follow the lead of other local councils. Mole Valley voted to remove all Green Belt from its Local Plan, and Elmbridge avoided all Green Belt areas by focussing on smaller 1-5 house brownfield sites – none of which are listed in Epsom’s Local Plan.

Councillors were reminded that the May Local Elections are coming up before the next stage of the Local Plan, and their legacy on supporting Green Belt sites was likely to come under scrutiny – even now, said one resident, they will have to go home to their spouses and say “Honey, I’ve shrunk the Green Belt.”

Residents wishing to preserve Epsom’s Green Belt are now urged to make written representations to EEBC in the six week Public Consultation stage which runs for six weeks from tomorrow. Sites can be added and taken away, say the Council.

Full list of Green Belt “Preferred Option” housing sites in the E&EBC Draft Local Plan:

  • Horton Farm land 1,500 homes
  • Ewell East Station land 350 homes
  • West Park Hospital land 150 homes
  • Chantilly Way 25 homes
  • Hook Road Arena land 150 homes (council-owned land)

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