News & updates
Epsom & Ewell Borough Council to respond to Government proposal to increase number of new homes
Date: Wednesday, 12 August, 2020
Last week, the government published new proposals for determining the number of additional homes that local authority areas like Epsom and Ewell will be required to deliver.
Household projection data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) are an important determinant of the housing target that the government sets for each local authority area. These figures will be used by the council as part of the Local Plan which determines planning policy and the amount of housing and associated infrastructure development in the area.
The latest projections (2018) published by ONS show a significant reduction in the projected growth in household numbers in the borough. Using the government’s current method of calculation, based on the 2014 ONS projections, would result in a significant reduction in the borough’s housing target – from 579 homes per year, to just 215 homes per annum.
Councillor David Reeve, Chair of the Licensing and Planning Policy Committee said “Our residents expect the Local Plan for the local area to be evidenced based and for the housing target to be reflective of local needs. We wrote to the government last month to ask them to adopt the latest ONS projections and accept that, based on the evidence, Epsom and Ewell should only require the much lower target of 215 new homes a year.”
Last week, the government announced proposals to fundamentally change the way they calculate the housing target for each local authority area. Their proposed changes would lead to an even higher government imposed target for Epsom and Ewell of 604 new homes per year.
Councillor David Reeve added “We are really concerned that these latest government proposals to change the method of calculating the housing target would, if approved, lead to an even larger requirement for new homes in the borough, when the evidence using the current method of calculation together with the latest ONS data provides for a much lower housing target.”
We will be preparing our response to the government on its proposed changes to the way that housing targets are calculated.
Government announce fundamental reforms of the planning system
Date: Tuesday, 11 August, 2020
Last week the Government published a white paper and launched a consultation on a fundamental reform of the national planning system.
The Government’s stated aim is to streamline and modernise the planning process. They propose to bring a new focus to design and sustainability, improve the system of developer contributions to infrastructure, and ensure more land is available for development where it is needed.
Under the plans, much more planning policy will be set nationally. In addition, local authorities are required to designate land in their area as one of three categories; for growth, for renewal or for protection. Local authorities’ local plans will be required to identify areas as being one of the three designations.
Councillor David Reeve, Chair of the Licensing and Planning Policy Committee said “I would welcome any opportunities to further improve and simplify the planning system and I am therefore looking very closely as these latest Government proposals as we prepare the Council’s formal response. However I would be concerned if the proposals sought to further transfer local planning powers and the determination of local planning policy away from local authorities to central Government. It would also be a concern if the proposals gave too much freedom to developers and removed the ability for local people to be part of the process for determining what constitutes appropriate development in their areas.
“Planning applications that affect the local area always understandably generate a high level of residents’ interest. That is why Planning decisions have relied on public engagement in shaping any proposed development to be the best possible outcome for the local area.
“The launch of the borough’s new local plan had reached a key stage, when we had to suspend the planned consultation because of the COVID-19 crisis. However, we have been keen to move things forward following the lock-down, and a new timetable for the Local Plan has recently been agreed by the Council’s Licencing and Planning Policy Committee. However, given the Government’s announcement and the scale of change that their proposals envisage, we have no choice but to now seek clarification from the Government about what they expect councils like us, in the process of the local plan formation, to do in relation to their local plan preparations.
Local Plan update - Borough Insight March 2020
Date: Monday, 16 March, 2020
We are continuing to develop a new Local Plan which will cultivate a positive future for Epsom and Ewell. It will ensure our modern market borough continues to be a special place for people to live, work, learn and enjoy themselves.
The Local Plan will guide the delivery of new homes, jobs, improved transport and green spaces, bringing investment, growth and prosperity. It will also set out strong guidance about the type of growth we expect to see, protecting the borough from inappropriate development. In November we published six key principles to guide our new strategy. Rooted in the specific needs and unique identity of Epsom and Ewell, these six principles lay the foundations for the preparation of a sound local plan. They are intended to maintain the character of the borough while ensuring new growth is in the right locations.
We know that meeting housing needs will be challenging. But by taking leadership of this process and delivering a sound Plan, we can ensure that future developments are shaped in the way that the community want them. This includes focusing growth within the borough’s more urban and sustainable areas rather than allow ad hoc development to occur in all parts of the borough.
The views of local people are key to this work. It is essential that the borough’s future is formed by those who live and work here, and we will be undertaking a further public consultation this spring to hear your views. The Local Plan will also be underpinned by a wide range of independent evidence. This includes evidence about the economic development of the borough, its transport, health and education needs, as well as our green spaces and the environment.
The borough council is carefully considering this evidence to ensure that the borough’s unique identity is protected and enhanced. The evidence will guide development and investment in the areas that matter to local people. This means delivering the infrastructure and community benefits needed to support successful and sustainable communities. Alongside new homes, this will include new employment opportunities, schools, shops, transport networks and green space. It will boost investment in the borough, helping to support our successful industries and local jobs.
For example, the evidence shows that in Epsom and Ewell we are fortunate to have a successful retail sector. Unlike town centres in other parts of the country, Epsom has seen a growth in retail trade over the last ten years. The new Local Plan will ensure protections for these successful retail centres, and it will put in place new policies to attract further investment and help them thrive. Guided by the needs of our retailers and employers, this could include providing small-scale shared space for new retail start-ups through to larger flexible space to promote creativity and innovation.
Epsom and Ewell is a great place for people to work, and for businesses to create jobs and thrive. The borough is home to several important and well-established employers and our strategy will bolster their efforts to deliver prosperity in the area. Increasingly the borough is also becoming a highly attractive location for small businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs, especially from the creative industries. By protecting and enhancing key employment sites, the new Local Plan will put in place the conditions for success, helping these enterprises to expand and grow.
Similarly, the racecourse is our leading visitor attraction and the racing industry is one of the largest borough employers, but the equestrian sector needs development to protect its future. The new Local Plan presents an opportunity to support much needed investment in the future of horse racing in the borough.
These are just some of the areas where the Local Plan will have a positive long-term impact. It encompasses a wide range of elements, from housing to employment, the environment and investment. When the consultation launches later this spring, we want to hear the views of local people on all these issues.
The borough’s previous Local Plan and related strategies were successful in helping to mould the borough into the welcoming and successful place that it is today. The new Local Plan will have a similar role, responding to the latest challenges we face as a borough and listening to the views of local people to help shape an even better future for decades to come.
*This article was also published in the March 2020 edition of Borough Insight.
Council agrees ambitious climate change action plan
Date: Tuesday, 21 January, 2020
Last night, Epsom & Ewell Borough Council agreed an ambitious plan to address the negative impact on the environment from activities undertaken within the borough by the council and others in the local community.
As part of the plan the council has adopted a 15 year target to become net carbon neutral.
Councillor Neil Dallen, Chair of the Environment and Safe Communities Committee, said “The Government has a target for the UK to achieve net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2050 – our target is for the council to be carbon neutral by 2035. We’re also going to do more to support local residents, businesses and other public sector organisations in the borough to also improve their carbon footprint.
“This is not going to be easy. There will be practical, technical and financial constraints to overcome, but overcome them we must. We now have a much better understanding of the risks and impact of climate change and why decisive action is needed now”
Councillor Alex Coley chaired an all-party working group which formulated the council action plan. Councillor Coley stated “Climate Change is one of the most serious threats facing the planet and is one that can only be addressed by changing the way we do certain things. This requires fresh thinking and working in a positive way with others who can help.”
“Our action plan addresses a wide range of subjects from increasing the number of electric vehicle charging points to boosting biodiversity. We’re going to lead by example, by no-longer having single-use plastics within our venues and moving progressively to all-electric Council vehicles. We’re also going to work with others, such as the county council, to help improve public transport including promoting better walking and cycling routes.”
The Climate Action Plan is not a static document and the council is working on understanding and confirming the individual costs within the plan and extent of carbon reduction the actions will achieve. Going forward new technologies and new research will also lead to changes in what the council can do and achieve
Petition on Local Plan to be debated
Date: Thursday, 19 December, 2019
Last night, in response to a petition, a debate was held at the full council meeting about the strategy to adopt, in order to meet the Government’s housing target for the borough, while positively addressing the petitioners’ concerns.
David Reeve, Chairman of Licencing & Planning Policy, stated “While councillors and a large percentage of council staff live in the borough, petitions are still an important way for residents to let the council know about the things that matter to them. I’d like to thank Tim Humphries for starting this petition and securing so many signatures. It is clear that the way the borough accommodates housing growth is a very important issue for local residents and it’s good to know that the approach the Council takes to this, reflects their views.
“There is a general acceptance that we need to build more homes in the borough and across the country in order to meet the needs of a growing population. In Epsom and Ewell, this includes affordable homes for grown up children leaving home, or people doing essential jobs such as nurses and teachers. However, these homes need to be the right homes in the right places, be of good quality and ones that are sympathetic to the local character of the area.
“This is why, after listening to the view of local residents, we have come up with six principles that will help guide the building of new homes in the borough. The principles address the important themes of, respecting the prevailing character of the Borough, building in the right locations, securing good quality design, constraining densities and height to reflect the local character and setting, addressing Climate Change, and doing everything we can to secure the right infrastructure for the borough.”
“We must bring forward a local plan that meets these principles and delivers sufficient homes to be judged to be acceptable by a Government appointed Inspector. Otherwise we run the risk of the Government removing the Borough’s right to determine future planning applications.”
At the council meeting last night, the petition was debated and the petitioners formally thanked for their input.
Councillor Reeve added “Public engagement is very important to this council, and in the spring we want to encourage a big conversation about our Local Plan and the decisions that will be important to the borough for years and decades to come. I very much welcome a broad representation of local views so that our new Local Plan reflects the issues that are most important to local people.
Committee agree six principles to shape Local Plan
Date: Friday, 15 November, 2019
At last night’s Licensing and Planning Policy Committee, councillors agreed six key principles, which will form the backbone of the council’s new Local Plan.
All local authorities are expected to have up-to-date Local Plans in place to guide development within their area, to plan for future infrastructure, homes, jobs, schools and green places.
To ensure this council’s Local Plan development process aligns with a local context, councillors last night agreed six principles to shape the new Local Plan.
The six principles seek to ensure that the development of new homes in the borough recognise the desirability of maintaining an area’s prevailing character and setting. Having new homes that are visually attractive, add to the overall quality of the local area and are sympathetic to the local character and setting.
The proposed approach recognises the rich character of the borough and its high quality green spaces, and seeks to focus development in existing urban areas particularly around the key town and village centres and stations. To help with this, the council will bring forward policies through the Local Plan process which will address the density and height of new buildings, including placing height restrictions, to ensure that these developments are “of Epsom and Ewell” and reflects the local character and setting. The principles also focus on the importance of design quality with an emphasis on greening the borough, ensuring that development addresses the Council’s commitments to tackling Climate Change, and making places more family friendly and accessible.
The principles in full are:
Principle 1 – Character of the Borough
Planning policies should support the “desirability of maintaining an area’s prevailing character and setting” (NPPF para 122(d). In addition developments should ‘function well and add to the overall quality of the area ….. [be] visually attractive … sympathetic to local character, including the surrounding built environment and landscape setting … [and] create places ..with a high standard of amenity for existing and future users’ (NPPF para 127).
Principle 2 – The Focus for Development
As outlined in the approved draft Masterplan, we will focus housing development in the following locations:
• Epsom Town Centre
• Other centres and stations
• Principal movement corridors
• Strategic employment sites
• Intensification of the urban area
• Urban edge of green belt
Principle 3 - Design
Design Policies will require developers to deliver design quality with an emphasis on green and family friendly, and which ensures that each development is ‘of Epsom and Ewell’ reflecting the local character and setting.
Principle 4 – Heights and Density
Polices will also address the density and height of developments and place a height restriction [storeys] which reflects each localities character and setting based on the NPPF.
Principle 5 – Climate Change
The Local Plan polices will reflect the Council’s commitments in the Council’s Environmental Action Plan (Climate Change Action Plan).
Principle 6 - Infrastructure
The Local Plan polices will address the issues of necessary infrastructure to ensure that new developments are sustainable.