I am contacting you now with some updates and to let you know that, unfortunately there has been a rise in Covid-19 in the borough.
A recent press release, urging residents to be vigilant, reports –
‘Epsom & Ewell Borough Council is urging residents to increase their efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus as public health data shows that the number of positive cases in the borough has significantly risen
Infection rates are rising steeply in Epsom and Ewell and the council is calling on people of all ages to do all they can to restrict the spread of coronavirus.
Data published by the county council shows that, for the week ending 24 October, the Epsom and Ewell rate was 109 cases for every 100,000 people. This is significantly higher than the majority of Surrey.’
Please do continue following the basic advice of hands, face, space and the rule of six. Individual actions can help to stabilise, then reduce, the transmission of the virus and protect the most vulnerable people in our community – it’s in our own hands to keep ourselves and our loved ones, neighbors, staff and customers safe. This includes making and keeping healthcare appointments where required.
Following the easing of the earlier lockdown, the Borough Council has worked hard to re-introduce services in line with Covid-19 safe guidance. It may be that there need to be further changes in view of the rise in cases in the area. You can keep up to date by looking on the website (www.epsom-ewell.gov.uk/coronavirus).
Surrey County Council has also brought many services back, with libraries and the Tip now open – although with reduced hours. If you want to use the Epsom Community Recycling Centre (The Tip), from 5th November you will need to pre-book a slot. Please see https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/waste-and-recycling/community-recycling-centres/epsom for more information.
Following the initial pause in Council and Committee meetings at the start of lockdown, there have been some changes to dates to reflect changes to work programmes. However remote meetings are now taking place routinely. Anyone can log on phone in to listen – the details are in the committee papers on the website. An advantage of this is that more residents have taken advantage of this than had previously come to the Town Hall and watched from the public gallery.
As with so many organisations, the Council is facing huge financial challenges. Additional costs continue to be incurred as a direct result of the pandemic. These include the costs of providing essential services for vulnerable residents; increased need for temporary accommodation; support, guidance and advice for businesses and other local organisations; additional IT costs and training for new ways of working; additional communications. At the same time the Council’s income has dropped with initial suspension of parking charges; ongoing reduced use of car parks, hire of venues, uptake of paid for services; and more people unable to pay Council tax etc. There have been some financial contributions from Central Government, but they do not cover the extra expenses incurred.
I am pleased that the amount of litter on the Downs has reduced. It is still disappointing to find the remains of take-aways, bottles, cans etc – but there is certainly less than during the early stages of lock-down. If you are going to the Downs, apart from taking your litter home with you, please remember that race horse training takes place Monday to Saturday mornings till noon and on Sundays till 9.30. Not only can racehorses be easily spooked and unpredictable, but they also do have priority during training so please keep well away from them as they go to and from the gallops.
Improving Healthcare Together (IHT), the committee formed of the Merton, Sutton and Surrey Downs Clinical Commissioning Groups completed their consultations and deliberations over the future of local hospital services. We had argued strongly for the new critical care unit to be located at Epsom, however IHT decided in favour of Sutton. Both Epsom and St Helier will retain most (85%) of the current services, will have a 24 hour urgent treatment centre and extensive refurbishment of the current buildings. Although not the outcome we had hoped for, now that IHT has made their decision, we were hoping that the building work etc would take place without delay. However, Merton Council has called the decision in on the grounds that it takes services away from an area of deprivation (St Helier). This is now with the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock. The chief executive of the hospital trust, Daniel Elkeles, will be giving an update to the Health Liaison Panel on Tuesday 9th November. If you would like to listen, details can be found at https://democracy.epsom-ewell.gov.uk/ieListMeetings.aspx?CommitteeId=148
There are ongoing problems with the water supply in Langley Vale. Bernice, along with our MP and a number of residents, are trying to get the issues resolved – but there are long-standing problems and apparently it’s not a simple fix. However, Thames Water are working alongside their power supplier and are currently awaiting information on whether UK Power Networks’ assets are affecting Thames Water’s booster station. An update is expected by 9 November. Thames Water has stated that it is very important that residents report problems to them as quickly as possible, whenever they occur. Their number is 0800 0009 3965. Bernice has also asked for two suspected water leaks in the village, which have been recently reported to her, to be investigated.
The Government is consulting on their plans for a major overhaul of the English Planning System. There is still much uncertainty, but it is likely to impact the numbers of new homes to be built in each area; a new definition of ‘permitted development’; and the whole process of applying for and being granted planning permission. Epsom & Ewell has responded to the consultation and has also challenged the Government’s housing target, requiring us to achieve 579 additional homes every year. This figure is based on Office of National statistics (ONS) housing projection figures for 2014. There have been two further ONS predictions, showing a reducing requirement. The latest, 2018, projection show the borough only needing 215 new homes per annum. However the Government is now changing the method of calculating housing need and including an ‘affordability’ element. This increases our target to 604 because property prices here are above average, and it believes that increasing the number of properties sufficiently will result in bringing down the prices.
Woodcote Ward had several major planning applications recently –
22-24 Dorking Road. This applied to demolish 2 houses and replace them with 20 flats, spread over 5 floors, including a lower ground floor and roof accommodation, with a 15 space basement carpark. Many residents objected mainly to the height and mass of the proposed building and the lack of parking provision. I spoke on behalf of residents at the Planning Committee. The Committee, after fully debated the application, decided to refuse it, against the Officer recommendation. The applicant has the right to appeal the decision with the National Inspector.
Woodcote Grove (Atkins land). When the new Atkins headquarters building was granted planning permission in 2015, a condition was that once it was in use, the former office building would be demolished and the site landscaped. However Atkins decided to sell part of their site for redevelopment, including the former office block, together with the Mansion House (grade 11* listed), stable block (grade 11 listed) and some other buildings. The developer applied to convert the listed buildings to apartments and build 2 terraces of houses between them, plus a 2 storey and a large 5 storey block of apartments, giving a total of 98 properties and 90 parking spaces. I spoke at the Planning Committee, objecting to the height and mass of the large block, lack of affordable housing, not meeting our housing mix needs, damage to our heritage asset and conservation area, lack of parking and road safety concerns. The Officer recommendation was to approve. After much debate, and an unsuccessful motion to refuse it, the majority of the Planning Committee voted to approve the application.
Dorking Road / Woodcote Green Road (Epsom Hospital land). The application for the major redevelopment of part of this site to provide about 350 units of accommodation for elderly people (some with additional ‘care’ facilities), 24 ‘key worker’ homes, together with a day nursery, shops, restaurant, café, gym, library and other facilities (some open to non-residents), is scheduled to be heard by the Planning Committee in November. I have received overwhelming opposition to the proposal from residents and so will speak against it at the meeting.
Langley Bottom Farm. An application has been submitted to demolish the farm buildings and replace them with 20 properties and parking. This is a very sensitive site and there is strong local opposition.
Dorking Road – Epsom Hospital. The hospital trust has applied for planning permission to build a 5 level multi-storey car park with access from the Dorking road, in a similar position to the current visitors’ car park. With a capacity of 527 spaces, it is not designed to provide increased parking but to make better use of the current fragmented parking and improve safety around the site.