Statement from RA regarding their position on a new Local Plan and Housing Numbers

On Thursday 14th November Epsom and Ewell Borough Council Licencing and Policy Panel Committee meets to agree a way forward in developing a new Borough Local Plan and meeting the Government’s required house building target up to 2036.  Ahead of that meeting Epsom and Ewell Resident Association Councillors have issued a Position Statement on that new Local Plan and the housing numbers required.

Residents’ Association Councillors’ Local Plan and Housing Numbers in Epsom and Ewell

Policy Statement – November 2019

As many residents will know the Government’s policy to increase house build numbers includes a formula that determines how many houses must be built in each local planning authority area.  For Epsom and Ewell, with approximately 45% green belt and limited brown field sites, the target has been set at 579 new dwellings per year – a total of 9843 new homes by 2036. 

That figure is unreasonable and unrealistic, but we do have to find ways to build more homes through the development of a new Local Plan.  We recognise that, like many other areas, we face an acute housing shortage and we are committed to increasing the number of homes built in the borough, particularly affordable homes.

However, in doing so we are also committed to maintaining the character of the borough by ensuring local circumstances and character are taken into account.  Therefore we will introduce planning policies designed to maintain an area’s prevailing character and setting.

We will also introduce policies to ensure that developments add to the overall quality of the area, are visually attractive and create places with a high standard of amenity for existing and future residents.

We will also focus housing development in the following locations:

  1. Epsom Town Centre
  2. Other centres and stations
  • Principal movement corridors
  1. Strategic employment sites
  2. Intensification of the urban area
  3. Urban edge of green belt

The Government’s housing requirement means that we will need to increase the density and height of developments, however we will place a height restriction [storeys] which reflects each localities character and setting and which relates to the height and form of neighbouring properties and the overall street scene.

In addition, and in order to work towards the Government’s very challenging housing target, we will have to develop some areas of the Green Belt, but we are committed to maintaining the vast majority of the Green Belt which is an important part of the character of our borough.

We will also introduce design policies that require developers to deliver homes designed to a high quality with an emphasis on green and family friendly, and which ensure that each development is ‘of Epsom’ reflecting the local character and setting.  Our Local Plan will also address need for infrastructure so as to ensure that new developments are sustainable in terms of transport, school places, local shops and community facilities etc.

Finally our Local Plan will also reflect our commitments in the Environmental Action Plan (Climate Change Action Plan) to be agreed by the Borough Council in January 2020. 

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In order to ensure our approach and arguments are based on strong evidence we have taken time to gather all the information required.   The Borough Council commissioned two independent Reports on the green belt which show that the vast majority of our green belt is working well.  A Report was also commissioned on our two strategic economic sites in Kiln Lane and Longmead, and a Masterplan has been commissioned which has provided information and ideas of development sites and designed build.  Moving ahead on the Local Plan without this key information would not have been wise.

It is also the case that work on the Local Plan has been undertaken in a climate where Housing Ministers have been issuing mixed messages about the Government’s own position which, of course, does not make decision making easy.

In setting out their position West Ewell RA Councillor Clive Smitheram said.  “The Government’s insistence that Epsom and Ewell provide a total of 9843 new homes by 2036 is unrealistic both in terms of the availability of suitable land and sites and the existing infrastructure.  We therefore need to work with our residents and all those who have influence at the national level to ensure that the Government understands the unique and challenging position faced by the borough”.

Ewell Court RA Councillor Eber Kington said “Residents’ Association councillors were not elected to change the character of our borough and despite the unreasonable and unrealistic demands of the Government we will not do so.  Therefore we need to ensure that the much needed new homes reflect the nature of existing localities even where those developments are denser than they currently are”.

Town Ward RA Councillor Neil Dallen said “We all know that Epsom needs more homes but they need to be suitable for the borough’s residents needs which are mainly affordable family houses.  Town Ward is a sustainable location and can accommodate denser units towards sensible targets, but not at a height that destroys the character of a market town”.

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