I am writing to update you on a number of local issues.
Firstly, the latest developments on the future of Epsom Hospital. The local NHS management is still working on a plan to consolidate high-end emergency and acute services on a single site in a new hospital unit. Their preference appears to be to site this new unit at Sutton next to the Royal Marsden, though they have sought to be clear that they have not taken a decision. As you may remember, I have said all along that it is wrong to have this debate locally unless and until the NHS nationally indicates that this project is high on its priority list and so money may be available to pay for it. So far that has not happened. The issue is now being considered by NHS England centrally, and the local team have agreed not to do any further work on the project unless they get an indication that the money is available. Although the NHS is receiving a large budget increase in the next few years, much of the focus for new investment is on more community-based treatment and on joining up health and social care services.
If the NHS does decide to take the new hospital project forward locally, I will argue strongly that Epsom should be the centre for that new investment, particularly as other hospital services are further away from here than they are from, for example, the area around St Helier. Whatever happens though Epsom will retain most of what it does at the moment, and is likely to see its services for the frail elderly expanded in the future.
There have been a number of outbreaks of crime and particularly theft from vans parked overnight and burglaries in recent months. After problems in Stoneleigh earlier this year, I asked police to step up patrols in that area; if there are issues in a particular area, Surrey Police are usually ready to increase their presence there. Please let me know if there appear to have been a spate of incidents in your part of the constituency and I will ask the police to act. I will also be pressing the Home Office to ensure that border areas around London, like Surrey, get a proper share of the extra 20,000 police who are being recruited, as we are particularly vulnerable to criminals crossing the London boundary to commit crimes and then returning to the City.
Epsom and Ewell Borough Council will this autumn be launching the consultation processes around its proposed local plan. Please do take part in this if you live in the Borough. The Council is being asked to make significant provision for extra housing to meet an acute local need – there is a very real shortage of both affordable and social homes, and family homes in the area, and it is very difficult for those who grew up locally to afford to stay here. But the extra housing provision has to be done very carefully, and not in a way that does serious damage to the green belt. There are a number of areas locally where mixed developments of offices and flats can provide extra homes close to work. My own view is that a big part of what is done should be the progressive redevelopment of the Kiln Lane and Longmead areas to achieve this. I will update you once the full consultation starts. Meanwhile Reigate and Banstead is already well on the way towards finalising its plan, and so far it has done a good job of protecting the green belt. I remain concerned, though, about the continued pressure for backland development in Nork and Tattenhams.
I have lodged objections to two developments in Epsom. I do not agree with the plan by the Borough Council to redevelop the Wells Centre. The Wells is set apart from the rest of the Borough, and I think it needs its own village hall. The current plan puts in place a community facility which is much too limited in scale. I am also very concerned about applications in Epsom and Stoneleigh to build high rise blocks that are completely out of character with the surrounding area. There is a need for some increase in the height of some local developments, but this should not include building a series of tower blocks.
Finally thank you to the people who entered the competition I ran to raise awareness of the plan by Wildlife Aid in Leatherhead to build a new animal hospital and education centre near their existing site. The winners of the cutest dog, cat and pet that is not a dog or a cat will be sending their owners and their families for a day out at Hobbledown.
With best wishes
Chris Grayling MP