Dear friends, welcome to our latest monthly update. It is in a slightly different format than normal since we want to give appropriate coverage to the ongoing shenanigans around the Council's draft Local Plan.
Normal service will be restored next month but, in the meantime, check out our Facebook page for other local and relevant news.
Council & Borough updates - the draft Local Plan:
- Since our last update when we described the launch of the consultation (see the material here) there has been considerable public unrest at the proposals set out by the ruling Residents Association (RA). A pressure group calling for absolutely no building on the Green Belt has been set up that has attracted thousands of signatures to their petition.
- We are preparing our formal response to the consultation that, in summary, makes the following points amongst others:
- The projected need for homes should be based on more recent data (that shows a significantly lower potential need) than that currently mandated by regulation (since that mandate may well be changed before the Local Plan comes into force)
- More emphasis should be placed on social housing needs, since the misleadingly named "affordable" housing described in the draft Local Plan is often not actually affordable and does not address our local needs
- Proposed regulations to address the climate emergency and the fall in bio-diversity need to be strengthened
- It seems the RA group is internally divided about what they want for the Borough, even though they produced the current draft now subject to consultation. As a result of this internal split, a special Council Meeting to review the whole process has been called for 22 March. At present no detailed Motion or paper has been published for the meeting, but it could be an "interesting" event.
- The Tories are actively promoting an outline idea that our MP has taken ownership of. Although superficially interesting it has some fundamental flaws (such as the idea of simply moving a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and the timescales for development) and also skates over the irony that some of the mess the Borough is in is due to the Tory Government's policies and requirements.
- Meanwhile the deadline for making your own comments on the draft Local Plan is Sunday 19 March. Although there is a long on-line form with 50 questions you can answer, you can also simply send your thoughts to localplan@Epsom-ewell.gov.uk. The advice from the Council on making your submission is as follows:
- "Clearly identify the policy or proposal you are talking about - try to reference the policy or paragraph number
- If you want to see something changed, be specific about why and put forward your own alternative if you can.
- Keep your comments simple and present them in a logical order.
- Concentrate on the planning issues (known as material considerations). Your local knowledge is invaluable but all non-planning issues such as disruption during construction or local property prices, cannot be considered.
- Support your comments with statements from other planning documents, such as national policy, other local planning policies or relevant technical papers."
Other Council & Borough updates:
- As expected, the Council meeting in February approved the RA budget and the increase in Council Tax. We voted against the package or recommendations that we were presented with. David's speech given our reasons why can be read here.
- In that speech David describes how the Councillors are not being told about serious issues within the Council. This seems to be due to high staff turnover and insufficient oversight from the ruling RA Group.
- That Council meeting also agreed to investigate the feasibility of moving the Town Hall and offices to one of the vacant office blocks on East Street. This would enable potential redevelopment of the current site for housing (as described in Strategic Allocation 2 in the draft Local Plan)
Just a couple of points given the length of our material on the draft Local Plan:
- Did Sunak realise how ironic he was being when he was singing the praises of the Windsor accord for Northern Ireland? Now, if only the rest of the UK could have frictionless trade with our nearest partner the EU !
- But at least it looks quite likely that B Johnson might be finally on his way out to the political wilderness. Eventually a lifetime of lying and looking after your own interests rather than those of the country should catch up with you.
- Finally, one of our most distinguished Epsom residents, Sir Edward Clay, had an excellent letter published in the Economist recently around the dangers of creeping corruption in the UK, it can be read here.
Have a good weekend
Julie and David
Saturday 4th March 2023
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