Epsom Civic Society and Woodcote (Epsom) Residents’ Society: response to Statement of Case

Appeal by Senior Living Urban (Epsom) Limited – Ref: APP/P3610/W/21/3272074

Site Address: Epsom Ewell & St. Hellier NHS Trust, Epsom General Hospital Dorking Road,


  1. Epsom Civic Society and Woodcote (Epsom) Residents’ Society both submitted objections
    to the local planning authority about this application and we have been advised that they
    have been forwarded to you along with all other relevant documents submitted to the
    LPA. Our shared view remains unchanged that the proposal, being much higher than the
    hospital’s Wells Wing, presents an unacceptable physical intrusion in terms of height and
    mass. The Report to Committee was, in our view, less than robust and was not balanced
    in its professional analysis and recommendations. To recommend approving this planning
    scheme with the potential for significant long-term adverse impacts on streetscape and
    neighbours’ amenity and one that fails to meet priority housing need is in both Societies’
    view not compliant with key local policies, nor with central government objectives in
    promoting good design and retention of local character and distinctiveness. We support
    our Borough’s transition into a modern market town where character and heritage are
    valued not only for their history but for their contribution to future quality of life and wellbeing. We seek to avoid the transformation of Epsom into a generic high-rise town.
  2. We have consistently stated that local residents cannot support a scheme which does not
    safeguard our local character and identity and which does not protect existing residential
    amenity. To achieve this, we have clearly stated in written representations and in a Zoom
    meeting and separate webinar organised by the applicant that the maximum height of the
    development should be no more than 6 storeys in order not to exceed the height of the
    Wells hospital building. The frontage onto Woodcote Green Road should be set back to
    allow a much more substantial landscaping buffer to the Millennium Green opposite,
    should not exceed 3 storeys next to 40 Woodcote Green Road and should be set further
    away from the south-western boundary to comply with townscape and residential
    amenity requirements. Epsom Civic Society and Woodcote (Epsom) Residents’ Society are
    extremely disappointed that our views and those of over 600 residents who objected to
    the scheme have been largely ignored.
    Response to Appeal
  3. We support the Planning Committee’s reasons for refusal:
    Reason for refusal 1
    The proposed development by reason of its height, mass, scale and design would adversely
    impact and harm the character and appearance of the area (including the built
    environment and landscape setting), failing to comply with Policy CS5 of the Core Strategy
    (2007), Policies DM9, DM10 and DM11 of the Development Management Policies
    Document (2015) and paragraphs 122 and 127 of the NPPF (2019).
  4. The height of the proposed buildings rises to 9 storeys and this would become the
    predominant height across the application site. 9 storeys is equivalent to a height above
    ground level of nearly 33 metres, but when allowance is made for the lift shafts on the
    roofs this would rise to over 35 metres in height. This should be compared to the height
    of existing buildings across the entire Epsom Hospital estate which are mainly 5 storeys
    or less (ie up to 20 metres in height). The roof top plant of the Wells Wing is the exception
    and rises to 28.7 metres height and this dominates the existing skyline out of all
    proportion to the rest of the hospital buildings. The surroundings to the hospital site are
    predominantly two storey brick and tile traditional suburban housing. The 9-storey
    buildings proposed, so massive in scale, would stand out as a prominent and incongruous
    eyesore visible for miles around – including anywhere in fact from where the present
    chimney can be seen, including from Epsom Downs near the Racecourse. They would be
    the tallest buildings in the Borough.
  5. It is considered that the height and massing of the proposed buildings is contrary to
    national and local planning policy guidance. Insofar as national planning policy guidance
    is concerned Paragraph 127 of the National Planning Policy Framework, Feb 2019 requires
    that ‘planning policies and decisions should ensure that developments:
    b) are visually attractive as a result of good architecture, layout and appropriate and
    effective landscaping;
    c) are sympathetic to local character and history, including the surrounding built
    environment and landscape setting’
  6. The National Design Guidance is intended to be used when assessing planning
    applications. This sets out 10 characteristics that form good design and one of these is
    ‘Local Identity’ and that well-designed new development should be influenced by:
    • an appreciation and understanding of vernacular, local or regional character, including
    existing built form, landscape and local architectural precedents;
    and that the following should be considered in response to local character and identity:
    • the height, scale, massing and relationships between buildings;
    • views, vistas and landmarks;
    • the scale and proportions of buildings.
  7. The more recent National Model Design Code provides typical parameters for ‘urban
    neighbourhood’ areas of 12m eaves heights and ‘suburbs’ of 9m eaves heights. Not 32m
  8. Local planning policy is set out in Epsom and Ewell Borough Council’s Core Strategy, 2007
    and Development Management Policies Document, 2015. Policy CS5 requires all
    developments to ‘reinforce local distinctiveness and complement the attractive
    characteristics of the Borough’. Policy DM9 requires development proposals to be
    compatible with local character and to relate well to existing townscape and wider
    landscape whilst Policy DM10 requires the distinctiveness of an area to be respected,
    maintained or enhanced through such essential elements as scale, layout, height, form
    and massing.
  9. Local planning policy had more recently been supplemented with the Report “Making
    Efficient Use of Land – Optimising Housing Delivery” agreed by the Council’s Licensing and
    Planning Policy Committee in May 2018. This was intended to introduce a more flexible
    approach to policies DM11 (Housing Density) and DM13 (Building Heights) in order to
    attribute greater weight towards the need to deliver new additional homes. It is clear from
    the minutes of that Committee meeting that this was not intended to allow higher density
    or taller schemes regardless of their setting or context: ‘Concern was expressed that
    implementation of the proposals could result in over development, however it was noted
    that policies already in place would act as further checks and balances to mitigate the
    possibility.’ The appellant’s Statement of Case places heavy reliance on giving less weight
    to policies DM11 and DM13 but it is unclear whether a statutory development plan can
    have its adopted policies DM11 and DM13 changed in this manner with no formal public
    consultation or statutory process.
  10. Notwithstanding the legality and /or interpretation of the May 2018 resolution, the
    important caveat to any increased flexibility in the use of policies DM11 and DM13 was
    ‘whilst responding to the Borough’s visual character and appearance’ and ‘subject to
    conformity with other relevant policies.’ The report further states that potential locations
    for higher buildings and densities “include town centres, sites in proximity to railway
    stations and sites located along transport corridors”. It is clear that the application site is
    not located within one of the above potential locations for higher buildings and it is
    equally clear that development of the height proposed conflicts with the prevailing
    townscape and pattern of development within and around the site. It would introduce a
    dominating and overbearing built form which would be harmful to the visual amenities of
    the surrounding area.
  11. We also challenge the assertion in the appellant’s Statement of Case paragraph 5.24 that
    the scheme is located in an area which would fall within the exceptions to the density
    criteria cited in Policy DM11. The reference under the second bullet point of the policy to
    sites that enjoy good access to services, facilities and amenities is clearly intended, as
    made clear by the explanatory text in paragraph 3.28 of the Development Management
    Policies document, to refer to the likes of Epsom town centre, Ewell village and other
    larger local centres. Not as the text makes clear to the Borough’s predominantly
    residential areas which are suburban in character and tend to have lower housing
    densities. This is also the case with the third bullet point of Policy DM11 when referring
    to surrounding townscape having capacity to accommodate higher density developments.
    This is clearly aimed at the aforementioned centres not suburban residential areas and
    informed by the Borough-wide Environmental Character Study according to paragraph
    3.28. This study emphasises the adjacent residential areas’ high townscape sensitivity
    which affords only limited accommodation of change. Certainly not endorsing capacity for
    intensive high-rise development as proposed by the appellant.
  12. Although Epsom and Ewell Borough Council is subject to the so-called tilted balance in
    paragraph 11(d) of the NPPF, the policies that have been relied upon by the Council in its
    decision are in an adopted development plan, are subject to the statutory S.38(6)
    requirement and are in line with the policies in the NPPF, especially those relating to good
    design. They are therefore not out of date and they do not, of themselves, interfere with
    the presumption in favour of sustainable development for the provision of housing.
    Rather they ensure that any housing or other development that is delivered is well
    designed and respects the character of its surroundings.
  13. The proposal is considered contrary to paragraph 127c) of the NPPF which requires
    developments to be sympathetic to the surrounding built environment, as well as policies
    DM9 and DM10 of the Council’s Development Management Policies Document 2015 and
    policy CS5 of the Council’s Core Strategy 2007, which together seek high quality and
    inclusive design which reinforces local distinctiveness. Planning permission should only be
    granted for proposals which make a positive contribution to the Borough’s appearance in
    regard to compatibility with local character and the relationship to the existing townscape
    and prevailing development typology of the surrounding area. The proposed buildings
    with their architectural detailing, scale and massing and siting within the plot is in stark
    contrast to the established character and distinctiveness of the local area.
  14. The appellant’s Statement of Case refers to the height of the scheme being reduced
    following public consultation and informed by pre-application discussions. There was a
    significant public backlash to the original proposals which resulted in amendments to the
    scheme. It is also clear that there is no public support for the appeal scheme as now
    presented. The appeal scheme, however, must be considered on its merits and not by
    reference to the degree of change from previous iterations.
  15. Whilst the scheme must be considered on its own merit, we do question why this proposal
    in suburban Epsom is by far the highest density and tallest of any of the Guild Living
    schemes being sought by the appellant. The other schemes in Walton on Thames,
    Uxbridge and Bath are all in City/Town centre locations. The Epsom scheme equates at
    237 dwellings per hectare compared to 219 d/ha in Walton, 195 d/ha in Uxbridge and 158
    d/ha in Bath according to information submitted by the appellants to the Walton Public
    Inquiry. Given that the prevailing density of the adjacent residential area is nearer to 20
    d/ha we question how a scheme that is well over 11 times the prevailing density can,
    notwithstanding the need to make efficient use of land, be considered in any reasonable
    sense to comply with paragraph 122 d) of the NPPF namely the desirability of maintaining
    an area’s prevailing character and setting.
  16. We are deeply concerned that the use of selective CGIs by the appellant and the inclusion
    of mature landscaping give a misleading impression of the visual appearance and impact
    of such a massive scheme upon the surrounding area. None of the visuals shows the
    impact from the residential area to the west showing the entire elevation of the western
    block. Residents of Digdens Rise and Hylands Road have advised our Societies that nobody
    representing either the appellants or officers from the Council have visited their
    properties to gauge the impact of the development. It is respectfully suggested that the
    Inspector should arrange to view the development from the rear of Digdens Rise
    properties and householders there will be pleased to facilitate such a site visit.
  17. It is not just the scale and massing that is so out of keeping with its suburban surroundings.
    It is also the design and use of materials that is alien to the suburban brick and tile
    townscape of the Woodcote area of Epsom.
  18. In summary it is considered that the scheme fails to comply with relevant national and
    local policies concerned with respecting local character, design and appearance.
    Reason for refusal 2
    The siting of the development leaves insufficient landscaping opportunities to the frontage
    of Woodcote Green Road and along the south-western boundary with neighbouring
    residential property to mitigate the impact of the proposed development, presenting an
    over-developed and hard edge to the appearance to the development, which would cause
    harm to the character and appearance of the area. Causing harm to the character and
    appearance of the area fails to comply with Policy DM5 of the Development Management
    Policies Document (2015) and the NPPF (2019).
  19. The ‘stepping down’ of the West Block to 5 storeys at its southern end next to Woodcote
    Green Road and 4 storeys at the southern end of the East Block does little to minimise the
    massing and bulk of the scheme as seen from the Millennium Green and public views
    along Woodcote Green Road. This is because the West Block would be some 10m nearer
    the Woodcote Green Road frontage than the existing Woodcote Lodge and would be 5
    storeys compared to the existing 2½ storeys of Woodcote Lodge. Similarly, the East Block
    whilst remaining at 4 storeys would be between 5m and 12m nearer the Woodcote Green
    Road frontage than the existing Rowan House, minimising the scope for effective
    boundary landscaping and urbanising the street scene in this sensitive location opposite
    the Millennium Green which is currently an oasis of calm much valued by the local
    community, including hospital workers.
  20. In a scheme of this magnitude, it could reasonably be expected that significant continuous
    screen landscaping of around 5m width would be provided along this sensitive southwestern residential boundary to offset and reduce harm to residential amenity. Minimal
    planting is proposed which is considered totally unacceptable in terms of separating the
    impact of the development from surrounding dwellings but also in providing an
    appropriate level of amenity for the prospective residents of the scheme. Widening the
    landscaping along this boundary and then punctuating it with parking spaces would not
    be an acceptable solution. It is clear from the statement submitted on behalf of the
    residents of 40 Woodcote Green Road that they are deeply concerned about the
    inadequate landscaping and the proximity of such a massive development to their
  21. In summary this aspect of the application is considered to be contrary to paragraph 127
    of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the National Design Guide (Oct 2019)
    and to policies CS5 (Conserving and Enhancing the Quality of the Built Environment), DM5
    (Trees and Landscape), DM9 (Townscape Character and Local Distinctiveness) and DM10
    (Design Requirements for New Developments).
    Reason for refusal 3
    The proposed development by reason of its height, massing and design would adversely
    impact on the neighbouring amenities of the occupiers at 40 and 46 Woodcote Green
    Road, by means of overbearing, loss of privacy and loss of outlook, failing to comply with
    Policy DM10 of the Development Management Policies Document (2015).
  22. The residential occupiers at 40 Woodcote Green Road would have a 5 storey block
    projecting 10m forward of their building line and within 10m of their flank boundary. This
    would result in loss of outlook at the front and overlooking of the rear lounge and garden
    from the proposed flank bedroom windows and balconies.
  23. The appellant’s Statement of Case refers to 4 secondary living room windows and 2
    bedroom windows overlooking the front garden and approach to 40 Woodcote Green
    Road as if that is of minor consequence. Similarly, it states that only a single unit per floor
    (ie 4 units in total) would overlook the rear of the property and rear garden. This would
    not be a marginal impact; it would result in a severe loss of amenity to the current
    occupiers. This concern is admirably conveyed in the statement submitted on behalf of
    the residents of 40 Woodcote Green Road.
  24. The appellant’s Statement of Case also suggests that by increasing the separation distance
    between 40 Woodcote Green Road and the proposed West Block by some 5 metres over
    the existing situation justifies an increase in height from 3 storeys to 5 storeys. This is not
    credible. Not only would the proposed building be much higher and considerably larger it
    would have flank windows which the existing building does not have. The building would
    be visually obtrusive and give rise to overlooking and the perception of being overlooked.
  25. These occupiers will also suffer serious noise and disturbance and loss of amenity from
    the positioning of the main access road adjacent to the flank boundary of the property.
    This road would accommodate all cars and servicing vehicles visiting the development and
    between this access road and the neighbouring occupiers would be 16 parking spaces
    hard up against the flank boundary fence. These spaces are mainly intended as short- term
    parking for visitors and it is considered that such an arrangement is likely to result in
    significant harm to the enjoyment of the rear garden and therefore on the living
    conditions of the occupiers.
  26. The residential occupiers at 46 Woodcote Green Road would in particular suffer from loss
    of outlook and visual intrusion from looking directly across from the rear living rooms to
    the 9 storey element which would only be about 45m away. This would result in
    overlooking, a loss of privacy and an increased perception of overlooking.
  27. Other residents in Digdens Rise and Hylands Close directly back onto the western block.
    Whilst their rear living room windows would be some 25m -35m from the 4-storey key
    worker elevation and some 40m-50m from the 9-storey element, there is considered to
    be a serious risk of overlooking from the proposed unit windows and balconies together
    with the loss of residential amenity from loss of outlook and visual intrusion from the
    overbearing and oppressive impact arising from the scale and massing of the western
    block. The level of overlooking is likely to be exacerbated by the single aspect nature of
    many of the proposed units, the sheer number and extent of windows adorning the
    elevations and the use of full height glazing. Existing residents’ expectation of privacy
    would be seriously compromised by the appeal scheme.
  28. In addition to the above the Construction Environmental Management Plan proposes the
    erection of a 4-storey high site accommodation block that would provide a canteen,
    toilets, showers, messroom and offices for an extended period whilst building works are
    undertaken. This is proposed to be erected immediately adjacent to the rear boundary
    fence of 14-20 Digdens Rise. The Arboricultural Assessment also proposes the felling of 3
    boundary trees in this location. It is considered wholly unsuitable for this site construction
    block to be erected in a position which would be visually obtrusive and result in a serious
    loss of residential amenity to the nearby occupiers. This is another example of the total
    disregard by the appellant for neighbouring residents’ amenity, similar to undertaking
    partial demolition of existing buildings on the site and then leaving a semi-derelict site
    until the outcome of this appeal is known.
    Reason for refusal 4
    In the absence of a completed legal obligation under Section 106 of the Town and Country
    Planning Act 1990 (as amended), to secure an affordable housing contribution, the
    applicant has failed to comply with Policy CS9 (Affordable Housing and meeting Housing
    Needs) of the Core Strategy (2007) and the NPPF (2019).
  29. We have considerable concerns that this scheme is not contributing the required amount
    of affordable housing. There is an acute shortage of unconstrained land available to meet
    identified priority needs in Epsom and Ewell Borough. This includes a minimum of 40%
    affordable housing. In not providing the required level of affordable housing we contend
    that the appeal scheme fails to make efficient use of land as required by Policy CS5. By
    resulting in an over-concentration of a type of housing which does not meet priority
    housing needs it is also considered that the benefit of the additional housing is overstated. Re-provision of key worker housing should similarly only be given very limited
    weight as this results in no net gain over the previous position.
  30. We also consider that the benefit of regenerating an under-utilised site as claimed in the
    appellant’s Statement of Case is exaggerated as this would apply equally to any
    development coming forward on the site.
  31. The employment and economic benefits are also questionable as in many cases these
    would result in jobs being displaced from elsewhere. Being more orientated towards a
    self-contained community for elderly and vulnerable residents it is also likely to generate
    much lower expenditure in Epsom town centre and other local centres compared to a
    conventional housing development.
    Officer Report and Appellant’s Statement of Case
  32. Our Societies have previously raised concerns about the objectivity and failure to
    rigorously assess the merits of the scheme within the Council’s Planning Officer report to
    Committee, see Appendix (p10) for document (edited for this submission) which was sent
    to Planning Committee members and officers prior to the Committee meeting. The
    appellant’s Statement of Case in numerous places refers to the Officer report as
    supporting the assertion they wish to make and in many cases this is misleading. For
    example, in paragraph 6.26 of the Statement of Case the appellants assert that ‘Paragraph
    13.8 of the Committee Report confirms that the Appeal Scheme “integrate[s] high-quality
    landscaping, green roofs and planted window boxes, to help the buildings integrate into
    their surroundings. As a result of mitigation through design, impact on many of the
    surrounding townscape and visual receptors would be none or negligible”. This reference
    in the Committee report is merely repeating what the appellant’s own Heritage
    Townscape and Visual Impact Assessment report says on the matter. It is highly misleading
    to present this as if this is what the Planning Officer considers the situation to be.
  33. The appellants in paragraph 5.8 assert that the proposal complies with Policy DM21
    (Meeting Local Housing Needs) in: a) not resulting in an over-provision of the particular
    type of accommodation and b) being flexible to readily convert to other uses in the event
    the need for the particular use declines. The Officer report concluded that officers did not
    have the expertise to analyse the need – so just accepted the appellant’s findings and did
    not object to the fact that according to Surrey County Council’s Adult Social Care response
    the proposal equated to approximately 98 units above the requirement in accordance
    with the SHMA update. It is our contention that the proposal would result in an overprovision of specialist elderly extra care accommodation, especially in the context of
    limited land availability and an outstanding priority need for 2-4 bed C3 housing, 40% of
    which should be affordable. The proposal accordingly must surely fail to comply with the
    second bullet point criteria of Policy DM21.
  34. In relation to the third criteria of Policy DM21 relating to the need for specialist
    accommodation to be designed to be readily convertible to other uses, the appellant’s
    Statement of Case in paragraph 5.8 claims that ‘the bulk of the accommodation is selfcontained residential accommodation that could readily be used for alternative, non-age
    restricted use, in the unlikely event that a development of this nature is no longer needed
    in the future.’ The Officer report acknowledges that the 38 Guild Care Residences and
    Suites would not meet minimum space standards and these units would not therefore be
    readily convertible to other C3 residential use. Of the self-contained units referred to in
    the appellant’s Statement of Case a number do not have access to any private amenity
    space and of those that do many have very limited private external space. If these units
    were to convert to C3 use in the future they would fail to meet the minimum housing
    standards of DM12 regarding private, usable and functional amenity space. The limited
    private car parking that is only available through the automatic parking system via a
    concierge service would also be a significant deterrent in allowing alternative residential
    uses. Accordingly, we contend that the proposal also fails to meet the third criteria of
    Policy DM21.
    Changing government agenda: good design and building back better
  35. Our Societies support central government in its recognition of the importance of good
    placemaking, local distinctiveness and quality of design, evidenced most recently by its
    consultation on the National Model Design Code which sets out helpful parameters
    regarding density and building heights which are considerably less than presented in this
  36. We have been encouraged by the Secretary of State’s written Ministerial Statement to
    Parliament (16/12/20) that sound planning decisions are not about housing numbers
  37. We have also been encouraged by the Planning Inspectorate’s decision in May 2021 to
    dismiss the appeal relating to 140 & 142 Ruxley Lane, West Ewell KT19 9JS (Ref:
    APP/P3610/W/20/3263842) notwithstanding the application of NPPF paragraph 11 d) (ii),
    the presumption in favour of sustainable development and the engagement of the ‘tilted
    balance’. The Inspector nonetheless decided that development proposed (the erection of
    20 flats within two blocks) would be out of proportion with adjacent dwellings and with
    the character and appearance of the street scene. Essentially the scale of the
    development was at issue (paragraph 8), albeit of a different (and considerably smaller)
    scale to the Guild Living appellant’s scheme. By reason of its scale, in the Inspector’s view,
    the proposed development would give rise to an overbearing relationship with both
    adjacent buildings. The Inspector considered that the site would appear over developed
    and would be in conflict with the suburban pattern of development. The Inspector
    concluded that overall, the harm that would be caused to the character and appearance
    of the area by the proposal would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits,
    when assessed against the policies in the Framework taken as a whole. We have set out
    above our similar concerns in the commentary on the Planning Committee’s reasons for
    refusal in the instant case.
  38. We have noted with interest that the new London Plan for our near neighbours has a
    much-reduced height default threshold definition for tall buildings, now at 6 storeys or 18
    metres reportedly responding to calls for an approach more sensitive to local context. This
    provides strong persuasive arguments to resist unacceptably tall buildings here, in a lowrise borough just beyond the limits of outer London, where no tradition of ‘building tall’
  39. Excessive focus on housing numbers at the expense of other material considerations, and
    an apparent disregard of the height policies in the current Local Plan in favour of an
    informal policy change of dubious validity by the Licensing and Planning Policy Committee
    in May 2018 has been unduly relied upon and has led, we suggest, to inappropriate
    encouragement to developers to build higher and higher.
  40. Our respective Societies hear from members and from non-members alike about their
    desire to resist the proliferation of tall buildings in the Borough and prevent the
    consequent erosion of local character and distinctiveness. We know that our concerns
    about unacceptably tall buildings are shared by local residents, their associations and
    societies, pressure groups and a local Neighbourhood Forum. On their behalf we seek to
    enable and support our Council’s ability to take forward the 6 key principles1
    into the emerging draft Local Plan.
    1 https://www.epsom-ewell-localplan.co.uk/news-and-updates.html#6principles
  41. This application represents a significant watershed for the Borough in terms of identifying
    acceptable building heights for new development. It is our joint view that the scheme is
    insensitive to local context and constitutes a brutal intervention that erodes local
    character and distinctiveness, is contrary to key local policies and to the government’s
    commitment to good design and building back better.
  42. We consider that the appeal proposal would result in a level of harm to the character and
    appearance of the area and to neighbouring residential amenity that would significantly
    and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in the NPPF
    taken as a whole. We ask for the appeal to be dismissed.
    1 June 2021, revised and updated 7 June 2021
    Following permission from the Planning Inspectorate on 28 May 2021 to extend the deadline
    for representations to 8 June 2021 due to the late availability to interested parties of the
    appellant’s Statement of Claim, we reserve the right to submit further representations by the
    extended deadline. We are grateful to the Inspectorate for allowing us this further time.
    Margaret Hollins Fred Mowbray
    Chair, Epsom Civic Society Chair, Woodcote (Epsom) Residents’ Society
    47 The Parade
    Epsom John Mumford
    Surrey Committee Member, W(E)Residents’ Society
    KT18 5DU Committee Member, Epsom Civic Society
    Commentary highlighting factual inaccuracies and misleading assertions in Planning Officer
    Report on 19/01722/FUL – Agenda Item 2 Planning Committee 18 November 2020
    Using the same headings and paragraphs of the officer report
    2 Summary
    2.4 The variety of extra-care accommodation reduces pressure on local hospitals, GPs and
    emergency centres. Not only does extra-care accommodation provide a positive health
    influence on all senior residents, it also directly impacts on and improves a range of social
    factors, such as loneliness and isolation.
    There is a concern amongst local Health partners that the building of more residential and
    nursing care homes in an area may lead to an “influx” of new patients from those nearby areas
    with additional and acute health needs that actually create additional strain on the local
    health system.
    2.6 Surrey County Council (SCC) Adult Social Care recognises that further extra-care
    accommodation is warranted. The proposal contributes towards the need for specialist
    retirement housing in the Borough. It seeks 344 care units, equating to approximately 96 units
    above the minimum need of 248 units within the Borough (in accordance with the SHMA
    This is inconsistent with paragraphs 11.14-11.15 of the report. If allowance is made for
    recently commenced schemes and another submitted extra-care scheme on the former police
    station site in this borough there could be an over-provision of 269 extra care units. If
    allowance is made for the Legal and General scheme being currently marketed at nearby
    Kingswood then there is an additional 280 extra care units to take into account within the 5
    mile catchment area referred to by the applicant in their market assessment of competing
    schemes. Moreover Surrey Count Council’s Commissioning Statement – Accommodation with
    care, residential & nursing care for older people Epsom & Ewell Borough April 2019 throws
    doubt on presenting clear demand figures for residential and nursing care in any area when
    local demand figures need to take into account Surrey County Council’s strategic direction to
    maximise the impact of preventative services, provide additional support to carers and to
    diversify the range of community support on offer, so that people are able to live in their own
    homes for longer. ‘These measures mean that a link between demographics and residential
    and nursing care provision should not be assumed.’
    2.7 In line with the above, the estimate of future demand is much more conservative than
    that presented in the Applicant’s Planning Need Assessment. It is acknowledged that people
    who do not currently live within the Borough may choose to move into Epsom, to live within
    this scheme, subject to planning permission being granted. This is not detrimental to the
    consideration of this application.
    The applicant’s planning need assessment report by Carterwood refers to their usual 10 mile
    catchment for extra care assessment. The applicant’s viability assessment report by Savills
    states that ‘occupants of such schemes frequently come from long distances’ and that ‘the
    number of buyers in this sector at any one time is limited, and sales rates for these types of
    developments is typically slow’. This is borne out by the Churchill retirement scheme in Ashtead
    which 3½years after launch is still only 50% sold. Given the huge outstanding housing need in
    this borough it cannot be right to claim that providing for the needs of residents elsewhere is
    not detrimental to the consideration of this scheme. The priority should surely be to provide
    types of housing actually required by local people in this borough and not accommodating the
    needs of people from a wide number of surrounding borough and district councils.
    2.11 The proposal has been designed to respond to its immediate surroundings, including
    local views. This proposal is considered to represent a relatively modest increase in height in
    comparison to existing buildings at Epsom General Hospital (which are up to eight storeys in
    height). The proposal seeks taller elements towards the rear of the Site, stepping down
    towards boundaries with residential dwellings, in response to the surrounding heritage and
    townscape context, to mitigate adverse impacts on surrounding views and neighbouring
    amenity. The Local Planning Authority’s Design and Conservation Officer has confirmed that
    the proposal would lead to “less than substantial harm” to the significance of designated
    heritage assets.
    This is patently untrue in terms of height levels and impact on local townscape. It is even
    contradicted within the same report at Paragraph 3.3 which states that ‘The tallest building is
    positioned immediately to the north and is six storeys in height, with roof plant structures.’
    The prevailing height across the hospital site is 5 storeys or less ie up to 20 metres in height.
    The proposal incorporating a 9 storey scale of development over an expanse of some 220
    metres length of elevations means that the predominant height is 34 metres or with roof plant
    over 36 metres in height. The difference between the majority of existing hospital buildings
    and the proposal is 4 storeys or 14 metres.
    The so called stepping down approach involves replacing the existing 3 storey Woodcote
    Lodge adjacent to the 2 storey scale dwellings on Woodcote Green Road with a 5 storey
    element of the West Block and some 10 metres forward of the existing building line.
    To assert that this scale of development represents a modest increase in height is clearly a
    total nonsense.
    The reference to the impact on heritage assets is misleading because the properties most
    directly affected by the proposal are the 2 storey dwellings surrounding the site to the southwest and west which are non-heritage assets. Significant harm would be caused to these
    dwellings because of the excessive scale and siting of the development resulting in a serious
    loss of amenity.
    Site description
    3.7 The Site is considered a highly sustainable location, located approximately 1km from
    Epsom train station (approximately a 15 minute walk).
    This is completely incorrect the site is some 1.6 km from the station and for an elderly person
    would be at least a 25 minute walk. This is not a highly sustainable location which is why retail
    and leisure facilities in Epsom town centre are having to be replicated within the development
    4.8 Drop off/collection for the nursery provided as part of the scheme will be accessed via the
    main access where parking bays are provided with vehicles departing via the separate egress.
    This will result in significant levels of noise, disturbance and fumes to the neighbouring
    residential occupiers at 40 Woodcote Green Road. The parking spaces are immediately
    adjacent to the flank boundary fence and within 4 metres of the side kitchen glazed door and
    window of that property. There should be a substantial landscaping buffer between a major
    access and parking arrangements such as this and neighbouring residential occupiers. There
    is none.
    9 Principle of development
    9.18 The tilted balance of paragraph 11d cannot be disapplied due to the proposed use class
    of development.
    This is not considered correct. As set out in paragraph 11d of the NPPF, it is necessary to
    ascertain whether there are any up-to-date relevant policies in the development plan, which
    are most important for determination of the application. It has now been established in case
    law (Paul Newman New Homes Ltd v SSHCLG [2019] EWHC 2637) that even if there was only
    a single policy relevant to the determination of the proposal that was up-to-date, in line with
    paragraph 213 of the NPPF, this is sufficient for the ‘tilted balance’ not to be engaged, i.e. a
    ‘flat balance’ applies. Furthermore, a clarification in association with the term ‘relevant’ was
    offered, meaning ‘no more than some real role in the determination’.
    Policies DM9 and DM10 relevant to the consideration of this application are considered to be
    consistent with the NPPF and therefore up to date.
    In the absence of a tilted balance, it is considered that the significant identified harm clearly
    and demonstrably outweighs the benefits when assessed against the policies in the
    development plan and the NPPF taken as a whole.
    11 Provision/Need of accommodation for older people
    11.6 Policy DM21 sets out that planning permission will be granted for specialised forms of
    residential accommodation, subject to the following requirements being met: • That the
    application documentation includes clear and robust evidence that demonstrates that there
    is a need for the new accommodation; • The delivery of the new accommodation does not
    result in an overprovision of that particular type of accommodation; and • The design of the
    proposal is demonstrated as being sufficiently flexible to readily accommodate conversion to
    other appropriate uses, either residential or non-residential, in the event that the need for
    the permitted use declines.
    The criteria under Policy DM21 are not met. The proposal would result in an over-provision of
    this kind of accommodation give the provision elsewhere and existing vacancy rates. The
    design is not flexible to allow conversion to other uses, namely conventional C3 residential.
    The 38 Guild Care Residences and Suites do not meet minimum space standards, most units
    do not meet private amenity space standards and the parking provision is less than half the
    minimum residential standard with the majority of spaces only accessible via a concierge
    because of the proposed Automatic Parking System. The scheme as proposed is accordingly
    anything but flexible for other uses.
    11.22 Officers do not have the expertise to analyse markets in health and social care or the
    data insight into care homes, older people’s housing and specialist care. Carterwood,
    regulated by the RICS, specialises in this field and has put forward its need assessment, to
    support this application. Officers cannot analyse the findings, so this report is accepted.
    This is a wholly unacceptable stance and demonstrates a complete lack of scrutiny. The
    applicant’s consultant unsurprisingly puts the brightest gloss on the case but this is at odds
    with the advice from Surrey County Council (see response to Para 2.6 above).
    Design and Heritage
    12.22 The existing hospital buildings rise to 29.83 metres in height, to the tip of the rooftop
    plant structures. The proposed scheme’s tallest elements will be approximately 3 metres
    taller than the hospital buildings.
    This follows on from the response comments on Para 2.11 above. This statement totally
    underplays the height difference by suggesting it is less than half of what it would actually be.
    The proposed scheme’s tallest element within the West Block, including plant would be 6.5m
    higher at 36.3 metres in height and the equivalent in the East Block would be 5.61 metres
    12.29 The largest block on the Site is the West building, which is an imposing building. The
    southern elevation is lower at 4 and 5 storeys, which is more sensitive to the parkland to the
    south, but there is quite a strong dislocation of the elevation scale between this and 40
    Woodcote Green Road.
    This admission that 5 storeys doesn’t relate to the 2 storey scale of the adjacent dwelling (and
    10 metres forward of the building line) begs the question how the officer conclusion can
    possibly be that ‘the scheme is considered appropriate and acceptable, complying with policies
    CS5, DM8 and DM9.
    12.30 Various material finishes are proposed, mostly comprising brick and aluminium rain
    screen. The variation of material finishes has the advantage of providing variety of intent,
    without being too excessive, but the aluminium may not be an entirely complimentary finish
    to the building. There is the danger that the cool finish of the aluminium may look at odds
    with the warm finish of the brick and the softening effect of the proposed planting. To ensure
    an appropriate material palette, a materials condition is proposed, subject to planning
    permission being granted. The Officer sets out that generally the approach of using brick is
    accepted and again details should be secured by condition, should planning permission be
    12.31 Further detail is required of the drop off entrance, including details of doors, glazing
    and soffit sections. The car park entrance is considered harsh and industrial in appearance.
    This demonstrates that there have been no serious negotiations with the applicant or
    willingness on the part of the applicant to amend the scheme to address the legitimate
    concerns raised by residents and local representative bodies for example on relatively simple
    matters such as the design and appearance of the scheme. The same applicants were required
    to significantly amend their schemes elsewhere in the country, including the scale and massing
    and reduction in ancillary uses, but no such amendments have been sought here.
    12.34 The Local Planning Authority has a high level of assessed housing need, but lacks a
    sufficient supply of available, developable and deliverable housing sites to fully meet this
    need. As such, there is a requirement to optimise all sites and this Site is considered
    appropriate for development.
    This highlights how important it is to provide housing that actually meets priority housing
    needs. Since the SHMA (2016) was published, the NPPF was revised in 2019 to include the
    National Standardised Methodology for the calculation of the Local Housing Need figures. For
    Epsom this figure is currently at 579 homes per annum. On the basis of the qualitative
    information within the SHMA (2016) applying 9.56% to the housing need figure would give the
    Council an estimated need figure of 55 units for older people accommodation per annum.
    From these figures it is clear that at 90.44% (524 units) of all needed residential
    accommodation there is an overwhelming and significantly higher annual need for C3
    accommodation (other than elderly accommodation) in comparison with a modest need for
    older people accommodation.
    It is also a wasteful use of scarce housing land to provide extensive ancillary uses such as
    restaurants, cafes, retail, leisure and nursery.
    14 Affordable housing
    14.16 In summary, the proposal has been subject to viability testing and Officers have taken
    the professional advice of BPS Surveyors. Whilst the scheme is not policy compliant, it does
    seek the re-provision of key worker units and provides an on-site affordable housing offer,
    which is a public benefit and should be considered positively.
    The affordable housing offer is minimal equating at 12% when the policy requires a minimum
    of 40%. This should not be considered positively. The viability of the scheme is clearly affected
    by the provision of so much ancillary accommodation and expensive automatic parking
    arrangements. A conventional C3 housing scheme should be able to provide a much higher
    land policy compliant level of affordable housing.
    16 Ancillary uses
    16.10The accompanying documentation, including the Planning Statement, does not provide
    specific reference to the proposed retail provision at the Site.
    16.12 SCC Highways formally commented on this element of the scheme and recommends a
    condition, should planning permission be granted, which ensures that the proposed retail unit
    excludes the sale of food.
    16.13 Officers consider that the proposed retail provision is ancillary to the main scheme.
    Given the modest size of this and the condition proposed by SCC Highways, the retail
    provision is not considered to adversely impact the existing retail offering at the adjacent
    hospital. A condition is proposed, should planning permission be granted, which controls
    opening times for trade or business, in order to safeguard the amenities of the area and to
    prevent nuisance arising.
    We understand that the applicant is negotiating to relocate the existing WHS Smith and M&S
    into the retail units. Any suggestion of restricting the retail provision by planning condition is
    unlikely to be successful because of the flexibilities in the new commercial, business and service
    Use Class E recently introduced by the Government. The provision of these facilities will do
    nothing to help the recovery of Epsom town centre by discouraging residents from visiting
    Epsom and equally is likely to encourage passing motorists and surrounding residents to
    undertake top up shopping.
    16.17 The principle of a nursery in this locality, adjacent to the hospital and residential
    properties, to provide childcare to NHS workers and local residents is considered to be
    acceptable in principle, as long as it does not adversely impact neighbouring properties in
    terms of noise or disturbance and highways considerations are deemed acceptable.
    As set out in the response to Paragraph 4.8 above the proposal would have a significant
    adverse impact on 40 Woodcote Green Road. These occupiers will also suffer serious noise and
    disturbance and loss of amenity from the positioning of the main access road adjacent to the
    flank boundary of the property. This road would accommodate all cars and servicing vehicles
    visiting the development and between this access road and the neighbouring occupiers would
    be 16 parking spaces hard up against the flank boundary fence. These spaces are mainly
    intended in connection with the proposed child care nursery or as overspill for visitors and staff
    and it is considered that such an arrangement is likely to result in significant harm to the
    enjoyment of the rear garden and therefore on the living conditions of the occupiers.
    17.15 The Local Planning Authority’s Tree Officer commented on this application 03.09.2020.
    The response sets out:
    17.16 The fundamental objection is loss of T36, T2, and G46 and the encroachment of the
    buildings/hard surfacing into the root protection areas of T15, T26, T29 and T30. The impacts
    will cause tree damage and harm to the amenity of the treescape.
    17.17 A further fundamental objection is on the lack of landscape space. On the side of the
    development facing Woodcote Green Road, the proposal erodes the frontage tree cover and
    then fails to provide adequate space for a sufficient landscape buffer fronting the Site. The
    environs of Woodcote Green is attractive (still retains semi-rural character) and there needs
    to be sufficient width of a landscape buffer to the Site to integrate with the special landscape
    character of the pond and Woodcote Millennium Green.
    17.18 Specimen large canopy (forest size) trees would be highly desirable on this frontage to
    benefit community and environmental health as well as helping to mitigate climate change.
    The forest size trees will need adequate room for full canopy expansion, so the buffer needs
    to be at least 10m in width. Given space for development, the trees will help mitigate the
    building mass at the more macro scale. Additional soft landscape understory should be
    provided to help soften the development in the street scene.
    17.30 In summary, whilst the proposal would result in tree loss, the scheme would seek a
    greater number of new trees, which would be managed appropriately through a LEMP. The
    proposed landscaping entwines the proposed buildings, character areas and the Woodcote
    Millennium Green, creating a sense of place. In conjunction with the public benefits of this
    proposal, including a contribution for the ongoing maintenance of the Woodcote Millennium
    Green, the proposal is considered acceptable, complying with policy DM5.
    In a scheme of this magnitude it could reasonably be expected that significant screen
    landscaping of around 3m-5m width would be provided along the sensitive western residential
    boundary to offset and reduce harm to residential amenity. Minimal planting is proposed
    which is considered totally unacceptable in terms of separating the impact of the development
    from surrounding dwellings but also in providing an appropriate level of amenity for the
    prospective residents of the scheme.
    Similarly, the Tree Officer’s advice is strongly endorsed that there should be a minimum 10m
    landscape buffer on the sensitive Woodcote Green Road frontage opposite the Millennium
    Green. What is proposed is a minimal landscaping strip at back of footpath because of the
    bringing forward of the new blocks right up to the road frontage and totally disregarding the
    established building line.
    Given the above circumstances, and the disregard of the Tree Officer’s advice, it is clearly
    ridiculous to assert that the landscaping proposals comply with Policy DM5.
    18 Neighbouring Amenity
    18.5 40 Woodcote Green Road is to the west of the Site and is a two-storey detached
    property. The proposed building, forming part of the west building, is five storeys in height.
    The applicant sets out that this will not face habitable rooms within 40 Woodcote Green Road,
    so there should be no significant impact on the privacy at this neighbouring dwelling. The
    proposed building is angled away from the garden of this property, which serves to mitigate
    any impact on the privacy of the garden.
    This is one of the most contentious assertions and considered to be seriously misleading and
    in error. There are habitable rooms on the flank elevation, namely a kitchen/dining area with
    a glazed door and window on the flank elevation. The side of this dwelling and the immediate
    rear garden would be directly overlooked by the 5 storey elevation of the West Block
    incorporating flats with balconies facing across to the flank elevation of the house and rear
    garden within about 10 metres of the property curtilage. The angling away of the 9 storey
    element doesn’t occur until about 10 metres down the rear garden so the assertion that this
    would have no significant impact on privacy is nonsense. The proximity, scale and orientation
    of West Block to the residential occupiers of 40 Woodcote Green Road would result in a very
    serious level of overlooking, loss of privacy and consequently loss of amenity. Combined with
    the aforementioned adverse impact from the access road and parking arrangements
    (response to Paragraph 16.17 above) there would be a significant loss of amenity to the
    residential occupiers of Woodcote Green Road. Drawing ‘Elevation 4-4’ and Section D-D
    clearly show the impact on the residential flank boundary of this huge facade. So serious is
    this loss of amenity that it is considered that for this reason alone the application should be
    18.13 The results of the technical assessments indicate that the majority of windows and
    rooms within the neighbouring buildings that were tested would satisfy Building Research
    Establishment (BRE) guidelines. It is anticipated that the proposed development will result in
    effects beyond suggested guideline levels on a small number of isolated areas, including 46
    Woodcote Green Road. 18.16 In summary, the Applicant’s consultant set out that the
    proposed development is considered acceptable in terms of daylight, sunlight and
    overshadowing, despite a small number of isolated transgressions, which are not uncommon
    with increased development levels on a site of this nature.
    This is considered to be complacent. It is only because of the height of buildings and lack of
    separation distances that the BRE guidelines are breached.
    19 Highways and parking
    19.12 SCC Highways approved the level of parking proposed for the development and have
    stated that the existing parking restrictions in place in the surrounding area would avoid any
    issues with illegal parking in streets around the Site.
    19.13 SCC Highways has not proposed to restrict residents of this scheme from applying for
    resident parking permits as the level of parking proposed at this development is considered
    sufficient. In any event, the nearest residents parking zone is Woodcote Side, which is
    approximately 600 metres from the Site and significantly more than the typical distance
    people would be prepared to walk to park a vehicle.

There is serious concern that with such low levels of parking provision on site and the concierge system for utilising the Automatic Parking System visitors will be likely to try and park in surrounding streets. The retail and other ancillary facilities may also attract additional parking which if unable to be accommodated on site will be displaced onto surrounding streets. There is also the loss of hospital staff parking with no guarantee that the Multi-Storey Car Park application will be permitted. The inability of the LPA to condition any permission to the provision of the MSCP (Para 19.32 of the officer report) is a serious shortcoming. This impact of displaced car parking on residential amenity is a matter which the LPA needs to seriously address as it did with the refusal of the 20-22 Dorking Road proposal. The application cannot patently comply with policies CS16, DM36 or DM37.

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