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10,000 Sign Petition to Remove Green Belt Sites from Epsom & Ewell’s Local Plan

Published on: 18 Mar, 2023
Updated on: 20 Mar, 2023

Protest in Epsom regarding green belt sites in local plan. Image: Epsom and Ewell Green Belt Group

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

More than 10,000 people have signed a petition calling on Surrey’s smallest borough to remove green belt sites from its plan for homes.

Epsom and Ewell Borough Council’s draft plan for where 5,000 homes will be built up to 2040 is currently out for public consultation.

But petition organisers have highlighted a “petition ban” at the council, which does not accept petitions about a planning decision, including a development plan document.

Councillors will also ask at a specially-called council meeting next week for the authority to pause the Local Plan process.

Epsom and Ewell Green Belt group campaign leader Yufan Si said: “It goes against natural democracy to ban certain petition subjects, but this council – controlled by Residents’ Association councillors – appears to have its head in the sand over its residents’ views.”

She called on the council to look again at its constitution and “review the validity of petition bans”, pointing also to the coming change in the council’s constitution which will allow questions to be asked which relate to agenda items.

She added: “It is obvious in this case that the council is seriously out of step with a huge swathe of residents’ concerns over green belt loss.”

Campaigners claim the Epsom and Ewell Local Plan includes the building of 2,175 homes on green belt sites, more than 40 per cent of the total homes in the plan.

A borough council spokesperson said the petition could not be accepted in its current form because it did not meet its petition scheme criteria.

They pointed to the public consultation on the draft Local Plan which has been running since February 1 and closes on Sunday (March 19) at midnight.

The spokesperson added: “We strongly encourage all those who have signed the petition, or who want to have their say on the draft Local Plan, to submit their views before the consultation closes.

“Responding to the consultation is the most effective way to inform the development of the final local plan, and every single response will be read and given due consideration.”

Cllr Eber Kington

A motion being put forward by Cllr Eber Kington (Residents’ Association, Ewell Court) at an extraordinary council meeting on Wednesday (March 22) will call on the council to pause the Local Plan, except for the analysis of responses to the public consultation to get residents’ views and any new information.

The motion will say the pause would provide an opportunity to assess the central government’s draft proposals as well as data used to assess housing need in the borough.

A pause would also allow brown field sites to be looked at further as well as the consideration of options that do not include green belt sites.

Councillors will also call on the council to write to the MP for Epsom and Ewell, Chris Grayling, calling on him to use his influence to get the government to change how housing need is calculated.

The motion asks the council to note that: “Extensive green areas, especially the green belt, and the absence of high-level development in our urban areas makes Epsom and Ewell a distinctive, green and an excellent place to live.”

The public can give feedback on the Local Plan via the council’s website or by letter to: Planning Policy, The Old Town Hall, The Parade, Epsom, KT18 5BY.

Contact details should be provided if replying by email or letter.

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