EEBC Council votes 20-4 to pause Local Plan Process


Not since Prince Charming woke Cinderella from a long slumber with a kiss, has there been such a momentous wake up call .

#epsomandewell #localplan #greenbelt

Last night, (March 22), at an Extraordinary Meeting of Epsom & Ewell Borough Council, the ruling group of Residents Association councillors were presented with a charming masterclass in resident democracy by Cllr Eber Kington (RA).

Outside, over 100 residents demonstrated against Green Belt destruction again, and a further 50 packed the Public Gallery to witness the councillors’ deliberations

As a result of Cllr Kington’s special motion, backed by six colleagues, the full council voted by 20-4 (with one abstention) to pause the Draft Local Plan, which proposed that over 40% of all new builds by 2040 , some 2,175 homes, should be built on five Green Belt sites in the Borough.

Such was the impact of resident alarm over a Plan put forward, unchallenged, by the Council’s Licensing and Planning Committee, that a record 10,000 petition was signed, over 1,500 individual written consultation representations were made, and large demonstrations were held in the town centre and Town Hall.

Cllr Kington reminded his colleagues that they had “to take notice of what our residents think, and a short pause will allow the planners to review further all brownfield housing opportunities, and take account of key government planning reforms, expected by end May. Using updated population data and not needing to review Green Belt for housing might mean a housing figure of 207 a year which can be accommodated by existing allocations on brownfield sites”

His remarks were backed up by motion seconder Cllr Christine Howells who said

“This Council cannot leave a legacy of destruction of our great Green Belt asset and should support the wider climate change and biodiversity agenda closer to home”

Other parties represented on the Council all backed a Plan pause, and noted that Local Elections in May would bring a sharp focus to the debate.

Councils around the country are now pausing their Plans, and local boroughs like Elmbridge, Kingston and Mole Valley are not intending to use Green Belt land.

The four voting against included the Licensing and Planning Committee chair Cllr Steven McCormick and vice-chair Cllr Peter O’Donovan, who warned that there could be less development protection without a current Local Plan, and some Government planning reforms might not happen until 2024. One by one, however, the other RA councillors had their Cinderella moment, with Cllr Chris Frost concluding “We do need a Local Plan, but we need an acceptable plan, so let’s act like an RA council, and listen to the residents”

After the vote, Epsom and Ewell Green Belt Group campaigner Ms Yufan Si said “With the Local Plan likely to be obsolete in a couple of months, a pause makes sense, but we shall be asking the new Council in May to go further, and confirm its policy opposition to all Green Belt development in the borough, unless made mandatory by Government to meet imposed housing targets. We will ask all councillors standing to declare their policy commitment to Green Belt protection”

Tim Murphy, chair , Epsom’s branch , CPRE, said of the pause “Whatever the precise wording of the motion, I think it would be extremely difficult for a revised version of the Local Plan to be published in the future with any significant Green Belt loss”

The story may, or may not, end with everyone living happily thereafter.

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