The table below shows how each councillor voted at the Extraordinary Council Meeting on 22nd March 2023. There were 8 absentees, only 4 votes against the motion for the meeting to pause the Local Plan. Members of the public may use the information when making the decision on how to cast their votes in the Council Elections that are expected to be on 4th May 2023.
PRINCE CHARMING WAKES UP EPSOM COUNCIL OVER GREEN BELT
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 CllrPeter 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.
Epsom’s Largest Ever Petition tops 10,000 signatories against Green Belt Development, yet “head in sand” Council refuse to acknowledge it, say angry residents
A petition launched against the inclusion of Green Belt sites for housing in Epsom and Ewell Borough Council’s Draft Local Plan has now topped 10,000 signatories, ( as at March 16 ). Believed to be the largest ever petition response to any policy change in the borough, this record petition continues to attract signatures daily.
Some 2,175 homes are proposed in five Green Belt sites in Epsom and Ewell’s Draft Plan, as “not enough” capacity can be found on priority brownfield sites, claim the Council. This represents over 40% of the total 5,400 new homes proposed.
Residents are furious that, under the EEBC constitution, the petition has continued to be considered unacceptable by the Council, with “local development plans” excluded as a permitted petitioner policy subject.
The petition has been organised by Epsom & Ewell Green Belt group, and campaign leader Yufan Si said, “It goes against natural democracy to ban certain petition subjects, but this Council – controlled by Resident Association councillors- appears to have its head in the sand over its residents’ views.”
“We have already forced a change in the Council’s Constitution which actually banned Public Questions at Council Committee Meetings that related to any current Agenda item. The absurdity of this position has now been acknowledged and changed from May 4. We now ask EEBC’s Constitution Committee to review the validity of petition bans, as it is obvious in this case that the Council are seriously out of step with a huge swathe of residents’ concerns over Green Belt loss .”
An Extraordinary full Council meeting has now been fixed for March 22 to debate a motion to pause the Plan until new government planning guidelines are confirmed in May, following an intervention by Cllr Eber Kington and other councillors.
Due to the unprecedented levels of objections from E&EBC residents, a special Council Meeting to review the Local Plan has been called.
CALL FOR ACTION:
1) Special Council meeting will be held on Wednesday 22nd March @7:30pm at Epsom Town Hall, The Parade, Epsom, KT18 5BY 2) Please email email@example.com to attend in person and ask a question 3) Please also arrive early at 6:50pm in front of Town Hall (Car Park side) for a Public Demonstration(bring your own placards).
Priest Hill Sports Ground Three rugby pitches used by Sutton & Epsom RFC. Adjoining Ewell East Station, Cheam Road, Banstead Road. The information below has been extracted from Epsom & Ewell Draft Plan, Planning for Places section, from page 100. Full details are on the link below.
Volunteers are required for leaflet drops in the area around Priests Hill Sports ground. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Site SA8: Land adjoining Ewell East Station (Greenfield)
What is the site to be allocated for?
4.66 The site is allocated for a residential led development, comprising:
At least 350 net zero carbon dwellings
Building heights up to 6 storeys
New local retail provision at ground floor
The re-provision of the playing pitches at Hook Road Arena
Summary reason for allocation
4.67 The site will contribute towards meeting the need for housing in the borough and ancillary community infrastructure. 4.68 The site has well defined boundaries and lies adjacent to existing residential areas and adjoining Ewell East railway station, creating a suitable context for residential development and lowering the risk of adverse landscape impacts. The site is also in relatively close proximity to local services and facilities and to bus and rail transport connections. Vehicular access can be achieved without detriment to the character of the local area.
When will the site be developed? 4.69 It expected that a planning application will be submitted in the middle of the plan period with development likely to start by 2031 once new sports pitches have been provided.
LAA Reference: NON013
Site size: 8.63 ha
Existing use: Sports pitches and open space
Site Constraints and Mitigation
Development proposals must identify ways of improving pedestrian access to Ewell East Station and maximise the linkages between the site and surrounding area, and provide opportunities for walking and cycling.
The design of development would need to minimise impacts on Priest Hill Nature Reserve (Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI)) located on the Southern Boundary of the site.
Part of the site to the east along Cheam Road is within Flood Zone 3. Any development proposal will need to take this into account.
The development proposal will need to work with the topography of the site to ensure that visual impacts of development are minimised.
Specific Infrastructure Requirements 4.70 Provision of new retail unit(s) to provide convenience retail to meet local needs. 4.71 The loss of playing pitches will require reprovision at the Hook Road Arena site (Policy SA9). The developer will be expected to re-provide the playing pitches off site prior to development commencing to ensure that the scheme is acceptable in planning terms.
Availability 4.72 The site is confirmed as available.
Deliverability 4.73 The site is in single ownership and the developer of this site is promoting it for redevelopment. 4.74 A Local Plan viability assessment has been prepared to support the draft Local Plan. The initial findings of this work indicate that the development of this site is viable when taking account of potential sales values and costs associated with development (including the provision of affordable housing). Further detailed viability work will be undertaken as the Local Plan progresses. 4.75 The site is considered to be developable as it is in a suitable location for housing development, the site is confirmed as available and could be viably developed at the point envisaged.
Some of the documents that detail the local plan are large and complex.
Council Officers will be available to speak to you in person at the following places
Monday 13 February 14:30 – 19:30 Bourne Hall, Azalea Room
Thursday 16 February 12:00 – 17:00, Ashley Centre, Central Square
Tuesday 21 February 14:30 – 19:30, Bourne Hall, Azalea room
Wednesday 22 February 10:30 – 15:30, Community & Wellbeing Centre, Sefton Road
Saturday 25 February 11:00 – 16:00, Ashley Centre, Central Square
Tuesday 28 February 10:30 – 15:30, Community & Wellbeing Centre, Sefton Road
There are likely to be plenty of questions about the Local Plan, which includes significant changes to the centre of Epsom and changes to parts of the borough that are well away from the town centre. Some of these are on Green Belt land.
Full list of Green Belt “Preferred Option” housing sites in the E&EBC Draft Local Plan:are listed below.
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)
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)
– Saving of Downs Farm only bright spot , as brownfield priorities missed
Given the Government’s “brownfield first” brief, it looks like the planners did not get the memo. They certainly did not get the new memo from Government saying that it is not necessary to review Green Belt for housing. And they appear not to have taken the hint from neighbouring Elmbridge, who creatively avoided any Green Belt destruction, and Mole Valley, whose councillors this month voted unanimously to remove all Green Belt sites from its Local Plan.
Out of 5,400 new homes proposed in the Draft Local Plan (2023-2040) , with Epsom & Ewell BC councillors due to take a final Section 18 publication decision on 30 January, some 2,175 homes (almost 41%) are earmarked to be built on the borough’s GreenBelt land.
Of nine “Preferred Option” development sites proposed, five are Green Belt – with Downs Farm, where 650 homes were proposed, only narrowly missing the cut after a huge campaign by residents.
Over 55 hectares – or some 137 acres – of Green Belt land could be sacrificed. The plans include one gigantic estate of some 1,500 homes on land around Horton Farm, which will have its Green Belt status stripped away.
The “Preferred Options” for Green Belt development are:
150 homes around West Park Hospital
1,500 homes around Horton Farm
25 homes next to Chantilly Way
350 homes on the sports fields by Ewell East Station
150 homes on sports pitches at Hook Road Arena (land owned by the Council)
Only on its own land can the Council specify 100% affordable homes – the rest will be 40% at best, as developers have many canny ways to get round this stipulation and build more profitable higher end housing.
The Council even admits that they have already taken some slugs of Green Belt land for housing, on the NESCOT campus and the five hospitals housing developments – but they need more.
There is a whole Appendix (Appendix 4) revealing yet more Green Belt sites that have been offered up by opportunistic developers in a “ Call for Sites” that have been mercifully excluded as “Preferred Options”. Much of the analysis seems subjective and open to question.
And then there is this – the previous Council Green Belt studies of 2017-19 have been considered out of date and a new 2022 Green Belt Study has been commissioned- but we all have yet to see this document.
EEBC needs to plunder more Green Belt, as it appears only a few brownfield landowners came forward in its “Call for Sites”. So the Plan is offering just around 1,000 homes in Epsom Town Centre until year 2040, and the same meagre number over 15 years on Urban Land Availability Assessment sites, and it reckons the same number again for existing planning permissions.
So where is the real challenge taken up, to redevelop Epsom Town surroundings, which most commentators agree could do with some rejuvenation, to say the least? Well, the Kiln Lane and Longmead industrial areas are said to be off limits, according to consultants for EEBC, because of the 1,800 jobs there. So not a single new brownfield affordable home is put forward here, with no imaginative plan to mix housing with job creation and revitalise an area close to the station, shops and entertainment facilities that many people prefer.
Smaller brownfield developments of around 5 to 10 homes each, do not seem to be in the Draft Plan either, although we may have missed the brownwood for the trees “We are left with the conclusion that the planners – and by extension our ruling Councillors – are in a “Call for Sites” trap. This has inhibited visionary thinking and pro-active engagement with urban developers on how much-needed affordable housing might be built in tandem with an exciting redevelopment programme that Epsom’s brownfield areas so desperately need” said Yufan Si, campaign leader for
Keep Epsom & Ewell’s Green Belt
“All they seem able to do about it is to bulldozer yet another field of our Green Beltheritage” said Ms Si.