Objection to Langley Bottom Farm planning application (20/00475/FUL)

W(E)RS have submitted the following objection to Epsom and Ewell Borough Council regarding this application –

Objection by Woodcote (Epsom) Residents’ Society (WERS) to ‘Demolition of the existing buildings on the site and construction of twenty residential dwellings, of which eight (40%) would be affordable together with associated access, landscaping and parking’ at Langley Bottom Farm Langley Vale Road Epsom Surrey KT18 6AP.

Link to the Planning – Application Summary – http://eplanning.epsom-ewell.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?keyVal=Q7I1Y3GYHH300&activeTab=summary

  1. Woodcote (Epsom) Residents Society (W(E)RS objects to the application 20/00475/FUL for the reasons set out below. These have already been separately raised by many local residents, equestrian users, local businesses and other interest groups such as Epsom Civic Society in their recent responses.

Principle of Residential Development

  • Fundamentally and most importantly W(E)RS considers the proposal to be inappropriate development in the Green Belt, contrary to the terms of the current National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
  •  At paragraphs 143-145, the NPPF makes clear that the construction of new buildings is inappropriate development in the Green Belt requiring very special circumstances to justify it.  Paragraph 145(g) makes the exception that the redevelopment of previously developed land (PDL) should not be regarded as inappropriate in the Green Belt where the development would either have no greater impact on openness or where it would not cause substantial harm to the openness of the Green Belt and would contribute to meeting an identified need for affordable housing. The Glossary to the NPPF excludes from the definition of PDL land that is or was last occupied by agricultural buildings.  
  • The applicant seeks to justify the proposed development on the grounds that the application site is PDL and by including an affordable housing element within the scheme that the acceptability in principle of the scheme within the Green Belt should be assessed in terms of the lower test set out in the second clause of Paragraph 145(g) ie would not cause substantial harm to the openness of the Green Belt. The applicant in its Planning Statement claims that  ‘the site has historically been used as a working farm; however, the site has not been used for farming purposes since 2014 when the majority of the farmland was sold to the Woodland Trust…as a result of this, uses at the site have diversified to include a number of commercial uses that now occupy some of the former farm buildings whilst the remaining farm buildings are now vacant and in a dilapidated state.’
  • considers the above description of the site by the applicant to be most misleading and that the reality of the situation is that the application site remains essentially agricultural, having regard to the whole site as a single planning unit. The main farm buildings and barns including the silos are not dilapidated and are still being used for farming purposes ie fodder storage, hay bale storage, farm machinery and livestock shelter. The field to the east of the access road within the application site is still being cultivated. The only non-agricultural planning consents within the application site boundary relate to the Danish Barn which was granted on appeal in 1999 to be converted into B8 or B1 use and which was subsequently granted a change of use to an auction room in 2003. This is currently occupied by FG Marshall – Crematorium Books. The other authorised non-agricultural use relates to the parking of breakdown vehicles by Langley Vale Recovery near the south-western corner of the site which was granted a Certificate of Lawful Development in 1999 because it had occurred for 10 years and was exempt from enforcement action. Any other commercial uses that may have occurred on the site were unauthorised in terms of planning, and in any event were undertaken by the applicant’s own admission on ‘short term leases at low rental rates’. It is the view of W(E)RS that taking the application site as a whole the vast majority of the land and buildings remain in agricultural use and do not amount to a practical change to a mixed use.   On that basis, despite the assertions by the applicant, the site as a whole, is not to be regarded as PDL and NPPF paragraph 145(g) is not engaged for the purposes of this application.  Accordingly, the proposed development would be inappropriate in the Green Belt, requiring very special circumstances to justify it.

Impact on the Openness of the Green Belt

  • The applicant asserts that the proposed development would result in a 26% reduction in footprint and 42% reduction in volume compared to the existing buildings on the site and that consequently the proposals would not have a greater impact on the openness of the Green Belt and far below any substantial harm: the test in the NPPF that the proposals should be assessed against. The figures provided by the applicant are disputed. The application form sets out that the existing non-residential gross internal floorspace amounts to 1163.1m². Since there is no residential floorspace within the application site this must equate to the total existing floorspace on the site. The applicant’s schedule of accommodation confirms that the proposed gross internal floorspace schedule of the dwellings would amount to 1784.0 excluding garages. If allowance is made for the separate garage buildings the gross floorspace would amount to 2213 m². Far from a reduction in existing floorspace therefore the proposed development would result in a 90% increase in floorspace.  
  • A number of residents have highlighted the fact that ‘openness’ is not restricted to a comparison of the physical plan area, but should but should also be considered in terms of the impact and intrusion of the development into the distinctive visual, environmental, and habitat benefits and qualities of the Green Belt. This is correct because the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) explains that openness is capable of having both spatial and visual aspects; it can be affected the duration of the development, and its remediability; and the degree of activity likely to be generated, such as traffic generation
  • The current cluster of traditional agricultural buildings and structures, surrounded by open fields and pastures represents a common and natural feature, often repeated in the rural countryside and which blends harmoniously in its Green Belt setting. At Langley Bottom Farm the proposed housing estate would have an intrusive, adverse impact on the openness and character of the Green Belt area – comprising 20 dwellings, with associated traffic movement, activity, parking and servicing, gardens/fences and domestic paraphernalia. This would have the effect of reducing the physical and apparent openness of the Green Belt at this point.  Permitted development rights, unless removed, would also likely result in significant additions to the built form with further adverse impact on openness.
  • The adverse impact on the setting would not be confined to daytime, and would extend to hours of darkness. The existing farm buildings generate modest to minimal artificial light spill. The estate dwellings would increase light pollution and there would need to be lighting along the access road totally transforming and blighting the  peaceful tranquillity of the night-time rural area together with associated disruption to the bio-diversity. 
  • Residents are also concerned that if this development were to be permitted it would open the flood gates for subsequent applications for further residential development on the Green Belt field between the Village and the Farm with even greater impact on the openness of this area of Green Belt.
  • The existing non-agricultural uses: Langley Vale Recovery and FG Marshalls could easily be removed from the site indeed as proposed by the applicant. The existing site could accordingly relatively simply revert to a wholly agricultural use and assist with retaining the openness of the area as recommended by the guidance in the PPG. Residential development would have an irreversible adverse impact on openness.  
  • Accordingly, the proposed development would cause substantial harm to the openness of the Green Belt and is considered contrary to Paragraphs 143-145 of the NPPF and Policies CS2, DM1, DM3.

Character and Appearance

  1.  Residents are concerned that the incursion of residential into open farmland would seriously detract from the pleasant rustic character and appearance of the area. It would dramatically change the approach through the site to The Centenary Wood which is of national interest as a living memorial to the first world war dead and intended as a place of peace and tranquillity.  It was never intended that it should be accessed through an urban housing estate.
  2. The applicant’s Transport Statement confirms that the access road would be increased in width from 4.8m to 5.5m as a shared surface. In practice the visual impact of this widening would be greater because the effective width of the carriageway is currently about 3.2m with the margins overgrown. The applicant proposes to utilise the existing access but because of the safety issues relating to Langley Vale Road and the need to ensure safe passage for horses and pedestrians it is considered highly likely that Surrey CC will require access improvement works. The widening of the access road and likely splayed access arrangement would make the farm track markedly more urban.  The same would be true of the main, internal extent of the site, where essentially rural, agricultural buildings and hardstanding would give way to relatively intense urban residential development. These effects could be softened to some extent by landscape planting, secured and maintained by planning condition but even so, the proposed dwellings would result in a significant degree of visual encroachment of built development into the essentially rural area of Langley Bottom Farm. 
  3. The Council commissioned Atkins to carry out a Green Belt Study Stage 2 in May 2018. Their report investigated the potential for the application site together with the field to the north of the farm up to the boundary with Langley Vale village to be released from the Green Belt. This parcel of land falls within an Area of Great Landscape Value (AGLV), forming the northern dip slopes within the area known as Walton Heath/Walton Downs with the designation extending south beyond the borough boundary. It assessed that in terms of landscape it had a high sensitivity to change due to its location and the setting it provides to both the Epsom Downs Race Course and Langley Vale settlement.  In terms of visual sensitivity there would be elevated views from Langley Vale residential area (many residents objecting to this) and from the walking and bridleway routes, which are heavily used.  The clear conclusion from this study was that the ‘Landscape and visual sensitivity are high and there is a high overall sensitivity to development in landscape terms.  Therefore, impact on openness would be high..….and therefore the overall integrity of the Green Belt in this location would be considered compromised should the site be released from the Green Belt.’
  4.  Accordingly, the urbanisation of this essentially rural area and its adverse impact on character and appearance would be contrary to paragraphs 133-134 and 170 of the NPPF, Policies CS2, DM9.

 Access and Highway Safety

  1. Many residents and local equestrian users have objected to the proposed development because of the increased traffic movements and conflict with current movements of racehorses, other hacking horses, pedestrians, cyclists and dog walkers. It is not considered safe or realistic to accommodate all these different users within a shared access road and these conflicts are bound to increase when the Centenary Wood is fully opened up to the public.
  2. The existing lane is a quiet and safe route from nearby stables onto the Downs and there is significant concern from both Woodruffe and Condover Stables as well as the Epsom Down Training Grounds Management Board that the proposal would pose a significant risk to riders and horses. There would also be additional risk to leisure riders passing through the site to access bridleways because of conflict with cars and service vehicles maneuvering within the residential estate. The traffic studies associated with the surrounding highways and rights of way appear to take no account of the heavy use and safety issues arising from equestrian traffic.
  3. To some extent some of these concerns could be partly addressed by a separate footpath and bridleway but this would only serve to further open up and urbanise the approach to the development site, wholly out of keeping with its setting.
  4.  Accordingly, by resulting in conflict between the diversity of users of the proposed access road and associated safety issues the development is considered to be contrary to Paragraph 98 of the NPPF and Policies CS16, DM7 and DM36.

Loss of the farm

  • The barns on this site are used to store hay which is supplied to local trainers. The barns are also used for lambing in spring and the farmer, on site, together with The Woodland Trust has a commitment to rearing and grazing rare breed sheep adjacent to this site. It is self-evident that all of this, including the cultivation of the adjacent fields would be put at risk by the proposed development. If these activities were to be continued into the future it would necessitate the provision of replacement barns and shelters elsewhere with all the damaging implications for retaining the openness of the rest of the Green Belt lands. It is considered that the application is contrary to Policy DM24.


  • Many residents have expressed concern that the siting of the development is not in a sustainable location.  The development would result in a preference for car trips over cycling or walking along the access road even for short journeys to local facilities. It is considered that the scheme inherently fails to promote sustainable development including sustainable transport and is therefore contrary to Paragraphs 11 and 110 of the NPPF and Policies CS1, CS16 and DM36.

Other issues

  • Local residents have raised numerous other issues relating to the application including questioning the findings of the Ecological Impact Assessment in terms of protected species observed across the site, water supply, flooding and employment loss from the local businesses, loss of access to Woodland Trust volunteers near the south-western corner of the site. These are important issues that would need to be satisfied but are not considered by W(E)RS to be substantial overriding reasons why the application should be refused.  


  • W(E)RS considers that the proposed development is not Previously Developed Land (PDL) and accordingly would be inappropriate development in the Green Belt, in terms of the current National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
  • Even if the Local Planning Authority, however, determine that the site is PDL and therefore not inappropriate in the Green Belt by reason of paragraph 145(g) of the NPPF, it is considered in the overall planning balance that the development would  cause substantial harm to the openness of the Green Belt, to the character and appearance of the site and surrounding rural area, to access and road safety and that it would be in an unsustainable location with respect to travel, all contrary to adopted development plan policies which are consistent with the NPPF. The application should therefore be refused.

Link to the Planning – Application Summary – http://eplanning.epsom-ewell.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?keyVal=Q7I1Y3GYHH300&activeTab=summary

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