An Open Letter to Resident Association Councillors

Dear EEBC Resident Association Councillors

A few days ago, Great Dunmow RA lost majority in their Local Election, Conservatives and Lib Dems gained from RA, their disastrous Local Plan issues most probably contributed to RA’s failure. You might also be very aware that EEBC Conservatives and Lib Dems have started actively and publicly campaigning for Green Belt protections via Local Plan. What’s more, in the past few years in Surrey, councils which had a Local Plan involving Green Belt destruction, all resulted in the ruling party losing the majority in the subsequent elections. These are Guildford, Woking, Waverley and Tandridge. Tandridge is where the ex-CPRE Surrey trustee and Green Belt campaigner, Catherine Sayer, is now leader of the Council.

Residents are becoming increasingly concerned at the apparent lack of public commitment by the ruling RA Councillors Group on its policy stance towards protecting our Borough’s Green Belt open spaces from development. You will be aware from your inbox that this concern is rapidly moving towards deep disappointment with our elected representatives. We have received many emails from frustrated, angry, disappointed, bewildered local residents, after spending hours reading documentations and writing a genuine letter to their RA Councilors, received either no reply, or a cold, detached, ineffectual, copied and pasted response from their councillors. If this is EEBC RA’s self-destruction election strategy, it works wonderfully so far.

It is widely believed that the key reason the controlling RA councillors group have always been voted in is its core manifesto commitment over the years to protecting the character of Epsom & Ewell with its unique Green Belt heritage. Indeed, examples of your councillors’ manifestos at the last local elections confirm this. College Ward’s RA manifesto refers to “Maintaining our Green Belt “, while Nonsuch Ward’s RA manifesto says “Pressure for building land in this part of England is intense and it is important to keep the Green Belt land as clear open space”. We also wish to make it clear that if mandated RA policy is deviated from, then residents will have no hesitation in putting up alternative Independent candidates in many wards in the May local elections.

It may be that you feel inhibited by any confidentiality requirements on details of the forthcoming Draft Local Plan – this is understood, but should in no way inhibit you being free to declare in principle what we believe is your clear mandated policy to use all your powers to maintain our Green Belt open spaces. Taking a determined protective stance has now become much easier for you – and indeed your planning officers under your direction – following the new Government guidelines issued for consultation in December, making it clear that top-down housing targets are purely advisory, and that Green Belt land does not have to be now reviewed for housing. Brownfield redevelopment – and visionary brownfield redevelopment at that – should be the sole site focus for new and affordable housing in the Borough.

Your public reticence has been in stark contrast to the planning committee chair of MVDC, and its deputy chief executive officer, who have announced their intention to prepare to withdraw proposed Green Belt sites from its Local Plan, and are seeking guidance from HM Inspectorate in preparation for a Council vote on Jan 16(

Residents cannot understand why you are not apparently seizing this opportunity presented by the Government to stop an awful permanent legacy that could reside with the RA councillors – that of the destruction forever of acres of our Borough’s Green Belt. The damage will already be done if Green Belt sites are allowed – however provisional – to be included in the Draft Local Plan as preferred sites, as the CPRE confirms that once earmarked by Councils, 99% of sites are eventually developed. Any view that it is just a Draft and developments can be later successfully halted after “public consultation” is not borne out by the evidence.

So, while you may well have been working behind the scenes, the time for more prominent action by RA councillors is now, and we are calling for you to publicly restate your Green Belt protective policy before the next Planning Committee on January 19, and then the removal of all Green Belt sites from the “Preferred Option” in the Draft Local Plan. While guideline consultation may not be complete, the direction of travel is crystal clear from the Government, and you will just be wasting taxpayer’s money to pursue publication of a Plan based on now outdated requirements, which will then have to be revisited all over again. 

Your sincerely

Epsom and Ewell Green Belt Group