July News Update: Open Meeting Report

Derby day, downs maintenance, road verges, school safety, village hall, more ……

Residents gather for Woodcote(Epsom) Residents Society meeting

Derby Day – Thank You to Residents

John Mumford, Chair WERS and Simon Durrant

Tuesday was an important milestone. It was the first face-to-face Committee meeting since before the pandemic and it was great to have so many local residents give up their evening to come and talk to us.  We were delighted to be joined by Simon Durrant.  He was responsible for ensuring the Derby could take place safely and without disruption.  

Simon opened by saying how pleased he was to have the opportunity to talk to residents about the Derby. He apologized that it had not been possible to let residents know in advance about the different arrangements the racecourse had to put in place to deliver a safe race and avoid it being disrupted.


He thanked us for our understanding and took on board comments about simple changes that would have made a difference for residents. Simon gave us a fascinating insight into the challenges they faced this year and the actions they took to mitigate the risks as they arose in the lead-up to race day. Among them was a discussion with Animal Rising to try to stop them disrupting the world-famous race.  He also confirmed the cost of all the additional security had been met by the Jockey Club.

We then had a very lively debate reflecting the national discussion about whether disrupting events and people’s everyday lives was the only way to get attention for urgent changes to the way we live.

Simon also explained changes to entertainments on race days in recent years. The cost and availability of bands post-Brexit and the pandemic meant it was no longer viable to host live bands.

Residents thanked Simon for attending the meeting and for his excellent and really informative presentation. They welcomed, in particular, the Jockey Club’s commitment to working in partnership with local communities.

Management of Downs and Verges

The meeting moved on to discuss management of the Downs and roadside verges. There was agreement on the need to balance mowing and cutting long grass with providing space for wildflowers and nature to help biodiversity and tackle pollution.

In response Cllr Steve McCormick acknowledged that Surrey County Council hadn’t got that balance right this year and would be making changes for the future. As Chair of the Epsom and Walton Downs Conservators he also committed to discuss the feedback about the maintenance of the Downs at their next meeting.

Council Business

There were then short updates from Cllr Bernice Froud and Cllr McCormick.

They thanked residents for their support in getting them re-elected as Councillors for a further term. They could often get quicker answers or solutions to residents’ problems with Council matters. They wanted residents to keep in touch about concerns and contact them about issues they couldn’t resolve.

Cllr Froud highlighted the huge number of initiatives being led by the Community and Wellbeing Committee to reduce the high levels of homelessness in the area.  Private rented accommodation is at a premium and temporary accommodation for families is among the biggest threats to a sustainable Council Budget.  She also said the borough currently has the highest suicide rate in Surrey and the committee was focused on ways to reduce this.

Cllr McCormick talked briefly about his Borough and Council remits and his roles in relation to licensing and planning and in particular the local plan.

Residents’ questions

The meeting then turned to residents’ questions. They were many and various including:

  • problems with brown bin collections
  • potholes
  • getting football pitch lines painted at the recreation ground
  • useful green and energy efficiency advice on the Epsom Citizens Advice website
  • getting planning restrictions on listed buildings reduced to allow sustainability measures such as PV panels.
  • work in hand to improve road safety in the village and particularly around the school
  • grants available for improvements to community buildings; and
  • fears about losing the Village Hall following a decision by the Vale Primary School to set up a nursery from September.

Residents also urged the Society to prioritise ways to engage and support young people living in the ward.

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