I am writing to you with a brief update about some of our local issues.
It is great that the number of cases of Covid-19 in the borough is falling. Thank you to all those who have been adhering to the ‘hands, face and space’ motto and other guidance and staying home when possible. Although the rates are decreasing, there is still a way to go – please do continue to be vigilant and remember that many people with the virus have no symptoms, but can infect others who may become very ill. If you would like to see the figures on infection rates, they are available on the Surrey County Council website (www.surreycc.gov.uk)
The vaccine rollout is going very well, with many grateful recipients. It is being organised by Surrey Heartlands on behalf of our local GP practices. Although initially those eligible for a vaccine were asked not to contact their GP surgeries to try to make an appointment, at this stage of the rollout, anyone aged 70 or over who has not yet had a vaccination appointment is urged to make contact and arrange one. This can be done through www.nhs/covid-vaccinations, by calling 119 (free of charge) or through your GP.
If you have an appointment for a vaccine and are wondering whether the centre is closed because of the snow or ice, you can find the latest information on the Surrey Heartlands web page (https://www.surreyheartlandsccg.nhs.uk/). If the centre is open, but you are unable to keep your appointment, please contact them as soon as you can so that you can make another appointment and your slot is not wasted.
For Borough Council services, particularly during this bad weather, please check the Council website (www.epsom-ewell.gov.uk). If the waste or re-cycling collection routes need to be changed, there will be information here.
The website also provides information about support for businesses and residents, particularly during the pandemic.
An update on the major planning applications in the Ward –
22-24 Dorking Road – This application was to demolish 2 detached houses on the corner of Dorking Road and White Horse Drive and build a block of 20 flats, (part 2, part 3 storeys, plus apartments in the roof and semi-basement, with some basement parking). The application was refused by the Planning Committee, but the applicant has appealed the refusal and we await the outcome of the appeal.
Guild Living – The NHS Trust sold part of the Epsom Hospital site (fronting Woodcote Green Road and including the former staff accommodation and admin block). Guild Living applied for planning permission to redevelop the site as a ‘care community’ for older people, comprising about 315 apartments plus 28 ‘care suites’; replacement of 24 key worker units, together with facilities for the residents; a children’s day nursery and some shops and cafes; plus 170 car parking spaces. The proposed buildings would have been up to 9 storeys high and be close to both residential neighbours and the Woodcote Green Road boundary. The Planning Committee refused the application. Guild Living report that they are currently preparing an amended application and will also be appealing the refusal of their original application.
Langley Bottom Farm – this is an application to build 20 houses on land at Langley Bottom Farm. It is in the Green Belt and the buildings there are currently used by various small businesses and for agricultural storage. The entrance to the site includes a bridleway that is well-used by both walkers and equestrians. The application is due to be heard by the Planning Committee on 18th February and the Officer recommendation is to refuse it.
Epsom Hospital car park – The Hospital Trust has applied to build at 6 story car park in a similar position to the current visitors’ car park. It would be for patients, visitors and staff. It is expected to come to the Planning Committee soon.
Details of planning applications can be found at https://eplanning.epsom-ewell.gov.uk/online-applications/
Borough Councillors are able to make a 3 mins presentation to the Planning Committee in support or opposition to a planning application on the agenda. Where we are approached by many residents and there is a clear view, we take up this opportunity. We normally do this by Bernice speaking on matters relating to the Langley Vale part of the Ward and I speak on those nearer the town. Steven is a member of the Planning Committee and so has to read all the paperwork and reports and approach the meetings with an open mind.
The Woodcote (Epsom) Residents’ Society has a planning subcommittee that can advise and comment on major planning consultations and, where appropriate, can speak for residents at Planning Committee meetings.
We have continued to lobby central Government and our MP about the unreasonableness of the new housebuilding targets for this borough and requesting that they are revised in line with the more recent Office of National Statistics housing need trajectories. Although this has been done, the Government has now added an affordability ‘uplift’ – i.e. if housing in an area in more expensive than the average in the country, they increase the requirements arguing that more housing is needed so that the supply meets the demand and prices drop – even in areas such as Epsom & Ewell where we really don’t have the land to for the additional 577 / year.
The Government is consulting on various aspects of their forthcoming planning guidance reforms, and we responded robustly to the consultation document on extending permitted development rights. They are now consulting on parts relating to quality of design of new developments, to which we will be responding.
The borough is currently developing a policy on planning enforcement to ensure a timely and consistent approach where there are questions about whether building works comply with permissions and other regulations.
We are fortunate to have our green open spaces, particularly during the pandemic – but please remember that we should be exercising close to home. All our parks, commons and other open spaces are seeing greatly increased use, particularly with gyms and other sports facilities closed. The recent very wet weather has made many of these areas really muddy and the grass is suffering. Please take care when you are out and make sure you wear suitable footwear for the possibly muddy slippery conditions – and do remember to keep your distance from others.
If you are going to Epsom and Walton Downs, please remember that this is private land and, although we are allowed access on foot for fresh air and exercise, this must not interfere with the race horse training. The training takes place in the mornings, so you are encouraged to avoid this time and visit the Downs in the afternoons. Horses from several of the training yards enter the Downs either by the Rubbing House or the Downskeepers’ Hut. Both of these are narrow access points where there can be a lot of people also coming and going. Remember, not only are racehorses easily spooked and unpredictable and can pose a very real threat to the safety of anyone too near to them, but they also have right of way. This is the workplace for the training industry – take care!
Surrey Highways have issued the following advanced notice –
D2202 Woodcote Road, Epsom – Temporary Prohibition of Traffic Order 2021 Surrey County Council propose to make the above mentioned Temporary Order under Section 14(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, the effect of which will be to prohibit vehicles from entering or proceeding in that length of D2202 Woodcote Road, Epsom that extends from its junction with A24 Dorking Road and A24 South Street to its junction with Woodcote Close. This Traffic Order is required to enable SGN to carry out gas mains replacement and/or maintenance works. These works are anticipated to be carried out between the hours of 8am and 4pm, within 2 weeks of the 12 month period of operation of this Temporary Order that commences on 13 February 2021. Advanced warning signs will be displayed and the temporary closure which is anticipated to be required for 24 hours each day, will only operate when the relevant traffic signs are displayed. Access for pedestrians, cyclists, equestrians and to residences on the affected length of D2202 Woodcote Road, will be maintained at all times. Access for emergency vehicles, local residents and businesses will be via the signed vehicular diversion route which will be Dorking Road, Woodcote Side, Woodcote Green Road and Woodcote Road.
As you see, the date of the work has not been decided yet, but it will be sometime during the next year. I will update you when there is a definite date and we will post it on the W(E)RS website (www.woodcoteepsomresidentssociety.org).
RA Councillor, Woodcote Ward