Planning or pantomime? Councillors press pause on Plan.

Imagined housing etsate on Horton Farm Epsom

Epsom and Ewell council voted to “pause” its controversial Local Plan last night, with one Residents’
Association (RA) councillor leaving the meeting after suggesting it was about “forthcoming elections
rather than planning policy”. The length of the “pause” has not been specified.

Local elections are due to take place on 4 May.

Councillor Alex Coley (Residents’ Association, Ruxley Ward) told the council: “Considering this motion on its merits, I feel that a more appropriate location might be the Playhouse around Christmas time.” “We seem to be debating the forthcoming elections rather than planning policy”, he added, suggesting that the pause “ultimately changes very little”. Cllr Coley then told the council: “I will leave you now to your debate.”

The motion to pause the Local Plan was put forward by councillor Eber Kington (Residents’ Association, Ewell Court Ward) and six other RA councillors. Cllr Kington said that a pause would acknowledge “the strength of public feeling” on the Plan, enable a reassessment of brownfield sites, and provide the opportunity to look at options that do not use Greenbelt land at all. He added: “We have to take notice of what residents are telling us, through whatever means they choose.”

The public consultation on the Draft Local Plan ended on Sunday (19 March) with around 1,500 responses. A petition calling to “Keep Epsom and Ewell Greenbelt” has also reached 10,000 signatures, which is thought to be the greatest response to a petition in the borough’s history.

Campaign group Epsom Greenbelt held a protest to “Welcome Councillors” outside of last night’s meeting, and were calling for “Green not greed”.

Councillor Bernie Muir (Conservative, Stamford Ward) said she had “no option” but to vote for the pause, despite believing that “nothing in this motion will actually stop this plan from going ahead in the end”.

The pause was discussed in light of expected changes to government planning legislation, including updated guidance on Greenbelt development and how to calculate housing need.

One part of the motion states: “Under the existing legislation Local Planning Authorities are being required to draft Local Plans on the basis of out of date, 2014, data that does not reflect Epsom and Ewell’s housing need, as shown in more recently available 2018 data.”

Councillor Peter O’Donovan (Residents’ Association, Ewell Court Ward) said that pausing was not an option because the government had not given at timeframe for its legislative changes. He added that without an up-to-date Local Plan, there was a danger of inappropriate development, and said: “we need to continue on our current strategy, to protect the borough, to produce a plan that protects our Greenbelt.”

Councillor Kate Chinn (Labour, Court Ward) said that there was a huge need for housing in the borough, particularly social and affordable housing, but that there should be no development on the Greenbelt until every other option had been exhausted. She said that Labour councillors would be voting to pause the Plan.

Councillor Julie Morris (Liberal Democrats, College Ward) said: “There’s really quite a divide, isn’t there, amongst the ruling group?” She said: “We should have been much more clear about the direction that this document was going in, and that’s the problem you’ve got now – you are now having to do a U-turn because it was all kept secret for quite a long time and the public are not happy, understandably.”

Cllr Morris said that it was difficult to know whether to vote for the motion, especially when it did not include any endpoint for the pause, but said that it was the right thing to do on balance.

Councillor Steven McCormick (Residents’ Association, Woodcote Ward) had five minutes to respond to the points raised because, as chair of the Licensing and Planning Policy Committee, he had led the development of the Local Plan. He said that the proposed pause was reliant on the idea that the government would publish changes
to planning policy in May, but that some legislation change may not come until 2024.

Cllr McCormick added that the motion to pause the Plan would create “huge uncertainty” and said: “the best thing for protecting the Greenbelt is to progress”. Cllr McCormick voted against the pause.

The council voted to pause the Local Plan by a clear majority, with four councillors ( RA Cllrs Dallen, O’Donovan, McCormick and Nash) voting against the pause and Cllr Williamson abstaining.

The text of the motion is HERE.

See editorial.

Possible pause to Plan pondered ……

Planning documents

Epsom and Ewell’s Local Plan is at risk of even further delay after councillors from the ruling Residents’ Association (RA) proposed pausing the process in the face of fierce opposition to proposed Green Belt development.

Seven RA councillors are proposing that development of the Local Plan is paused and have triggered an extraordinary council meeting, which is due to take place on 22 March. The meeting was arranged a few days after a protest against Green Belt development in Epsom town centre, which organisers have said involved over 200 demonstrators.

The Plan is currently subject to public consultation, which is set to run until 19 March.

Local elections will take place on 4 May.

Councillor Eber Kington (Residents’ Association, Ewell Court Ward), who will propose the motion, said: “My view is that a pause will enable the Borough Council to assess the responses from residents to the public consultation and review any new information on brownfield sites.”

However, it is not clear what impact the “pause” would have. Assessing responses to a consultation is part of the normal process for developing a Local Plan and the motion expressly states that this should continue.

Cllr Kington added that a pause would also allow the council to re-examine brownfield sites previously designated as non-viable.

The council did not include the Longmead Industrial Estate or the Kiln Lane area brownfield sites that Chris Grayling (MP) has suggested could be used to meet housing need, in its list of sites for potential development.

You can find out more about the opposing positions and viewpoints, ask your own questions at a Public Meeting on the Draft Local Plan to be chaired by Epsom and Ewell Times on Monday 13th March at7pm at Wallace Fields Junior School, Dorling Drive, Ewell, Epsom. Registration and advance questions optional Click HERE for details.

Councillor Kate Chinn (Leader of the Labour Group, Court Ward) said: “It is unbelievable that this RA council has spent years formulating a Local Plan; bringing in consultants to give advice and briefings; tasking officers to spend hours to formulate the plan; spending thousands of pounds and now there are several of their own members deciding it isn’t what they wanted. It would be expected they would have agreed more of a consensus before reaching this late stage.”

Councillor Julie Morris (Leader of the Liberal Democrats Group, College Ward) accused the RA of overturning “its own decisions very quickly but particularly when there’s an election looming”. She also said that last December, she had asked Cllr Steven McCormick (Residents Association, Woodcote Ward), chair of the Licensing and Planning Policy Committee, to put a “short delay” to the public consultation on a meeting agenda, but the suggestion was not taken up. “They plodded on”, she said, “and tried to keep the whole thing secret”.

In January, the council voted unanimously to launch the public consultation on the Plan. Cllr Morris said: “The reason that I voted for public consultation was that it [the Local Plan] needed to be out there. The RA has gone to such lengths to keep everything quiet.”

The Draft Local Plan sets out nine sites for potential development in the borough; five are on Green
Belt land. Green Belt land includes areas of countryside that are protected from development in
order to prevent urban sprawl and encourage development within existing built-up areas.

Cllr Kington also said: “Crucially we need to understand the Government’s new legislative proposals,
which are due to be published in May, so that we can factor the new Government’s new approach
into our own plans.”

The proposals set to be published in May are undergoing consultation, including on a revision that
states that “Green Belt boundaries are not required to be reviewed and altered if this would be the
only means of meeting the objectively assessed need for housing over the plan period”.

After Mole Valley District Council wrote to the planning inspectorate asking to remove all Green Belt
sites from its own Local Plan, the inspector agreed to delay hearings until May.

Cllr Kington added: “Finally, we have to continue to campaign against the Government’s continuing
requirement for councils to use 2014 data to develop a 2023 Local Plan. If 2018 data were used, the
number of required homes could be met by the use of brown field sites alone.”

Currently, the Local Plan is due to be adopted in Spring 2025. This would see it miss the government
target of all local authorities having an up-to-date Plan by the end of 2023 – and make it the last
local council in Surrey to adopt a new Plan.

Related Reports

Public meeting on Local Plan

Mole Valley Local Plan paused: official

Can Epsom and Ewell get more dense?

Residents aroused by “sleeping” residents?

Green-belters belted up and beltless

Horton Farm Epsom

Epsom and Ewell Borough Council’s (EEBC) Licensing and Planning Policy Committee voted unanimously yesterday (30 January) to publish its Draft Local Plan for public consultation, after the chairman rebuffed claims that councillors had not been given enough time to read it. The decision followed public opposition to suggestions of Green Belt development in the borough, including a petition with over 2,000 signatures.

Image – Google – Horton Farm, Epsom in Green Belt, that could get 1500 houses.

The meeting opened with questions from the public. The chair, Councillor Steven McCormick (RA – Woodote Ward) told the committee that members of the public could not ask questions directly related to the meeting’s agenda items. This is in the Council’s Standing Orders. Steve Gebbett, who has been campaigning to protect the borough’s Green Belt, said: “My belt’s a bit too tight. I hope you don’t mind me taking off my green belt.” In a symbolic gesture, he placed a green belt on a table, where it remained for the remainder of the meeting.

He asked: “Does the committee ever refer significant issues that affect the whole borough to the whole council?” Mr Gebbett then described a situation in which “councillors go home and tell their loved ones their legacy is: honey, I shrunk the greenbelt”.

Councillor Julie Morris (Liberal Democrats, College Ward) asked the committee: “Am I the only person who hasn’t seen this document before? Have you all been discussing it for a long time? The assembled public might think we’ve been cooking it up for months. But we haven’t.” Councillor McCormick told her that they’d tried “to be open and transparent with the whole process.” He added that there had been many member briefings throughout the summer and autumn, and several statements to full council with opportunities to ask questions.

He also said that the Draft Local Plan had been presented to all members to be discussed in December, and said to Councillor Morris: “Maybe you missed some of those meetings?” Councillor McCormick added: “It’s strange to disperse the idea that it has happened behind closed doors. I’m quite disappointed Councillor Morris, I’m afraid.” Councillor Morris said that she meant that she had not seen the whole document together previously.

Councillor McCormick responded: “The items were presented on 7 December to all members. You’ve had ample opportunity to come forward to seek clarification.” Councillor Neil Dallen (Residents’ Association, Town Ward) said he had “sympathy” with Julie Morris’ comments, adding: “This is the first time we’ve seen the 200-page document. Most of it we have covered in different places at different times. I can’t say there’s parts I wasn’t aware of. I still think there’s bits missing.”

The Draft Local Plan sets out planning policies and sites that may be developed in the Borough up until 2040. It includes nine sites for potential development, on which it proposes that a significant proportion of its housing requirement will be built.

Four of these sites are in the town centre, on previously developed – ‘brownfield’ – land. However, the Council has said that they would be unable to meet housing requirements within urban areas alone. The Draft Local Plan states: “Whilst these sustainable locations are our preferred locations for new development, they do not deliver adequate housing to meet our social responsibilities for providing housing, in particular affordable housing.” Therefore, the other sites put forward for development are located outside of the town centre and on Green Belt land.

Green Belt land includes areas of countryside that are protected from development in order to prevent urban sprawl and encourage development within existing built-up areas. National planning policy requires that Green Belt boundaries are only amended “in exceptional circumstances”.

In the Draft Local Plan, the council says that it “considers that the scale of unmet development / housing needs in the borough that would result from pursuing a brownfield only approach provides the exceptional circumstances and justification to make changes to the Green Belt boundaries in the borough.”

The Draft Plan also states that: “Through the release of less than 3.6% of the borough’s Green Belt, the council will be able to deliver an additional 2,175 dwellings over the plan period”.

Under the proposals, sites removed from the Green Belt for development would include:

  • Land at West Park Hospital (for 150 homes)
  • Horton Farm (for 1,500 homes)
  • Land at Chantilly Way (for 25 homes)
  • Land Adjoining Ewell East Station (for 350 homes)
  • Hook Road Arena (for 150 homes)

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPFF), which the Local Plan should generally adhere to, is undergoing consultation, including on a revision that states that: “Green Belt boundaries are not required to be reviewed and altered if this would be the only means of meeting the objectively assessed need for housing over the plan period”.

Chris Grayling MP

Mr Chris Grayling, MP for Epsom and Ewell, told the Epsom and Ewell Times: “The Borough’s proposal to simply build houses on 135 acres of green belt land, and not make any attempt to pursue the redevelopment of Kiln Lane and Longmead as a way of strengthening both the Borough’s economic future and meeting its housing need is a failure of momentous proportions.”

Mr Grayling has put forward his own proposals for development [reported in the Epsom and Ewell Times] on the Kiln Lane and Longmead estates. He told the Epsom and Ewell Times: “The kind of development that I proposed is happening elsewhere, but the Council thinks it is too difficult to do here. I think that is a cop out, and the result will be a massive loss of our green spaces in the area and real damage to biodiversity. It’s always easier just to build on a green field. But easy does not mean best.”

The Draft Local Plan, in reference to residential development on the Kiln Lane and Longmead estates, states that: “longer term opportunities for intensification for mixed use could be explored in time”.

The Council has said: “The Local Plan needs to protect our attractive and valued environment whilst reconciling the need to accommodate our development needs. The balance between protecting our environment and enabling development and supporting infrastructure, is at the centre of our spatial strategy.”

The borough’s housing need was calculated using the “standard method” in national planning guidance. The need was calculated as 576 dwellings per annum, equating to 10,368 dwellings over the Local Plan period. The Draft Local Plan, however, states: “Taking into account the borough’s constraints, the council is not planning on meeting its local housing need figure.” Instead, it has set a housing requirement of 5,400 dwellings over the Local Plan period.

Under another proposed addition, the NPFF will strengthen its existing point that local housing need is an advisory starting point for setting a local housing requirement. In an email on behalf of CPRE, (The Council for the Protection of Rural England), Surrey, to the Licensing and Planning Policy Committee, Mr Tim Murphy said that there was “no justification” for increasing the number of homes in the borough by 5,400. He said that the standard method used to calculate housing need “relies on household projections from 2014 which are now widely recognised as significantly inflating household growth in areas such as ours”.

The Council’s Planning Policy Manager told the committee that there is “already an existing need in the borough” and that as of June 2022, there were 1,200 households on the list for affordable housing. He added: “We have a significant need for affordable housing in the borough, including for homelessness and people in temporary accommodation.”

However, the committee rejected a motion, proposed by Cllr Kate Chinn (Court Ward, Labour), to ensure that 40% of all new developments exceeding 10 units included affordable housing.

Councillors also raised questions in the meeting as to whether the Draft Local Plan could be altered following the public consultation. Councillor Morris asked whether, if a large number of people came forward to oppose Green Belt development, this would form part of the “evidence base” required for Local Plan policies.

The Council’s Interim Director of Environment, Housing and Regeneration, responded: “It is the content of responses, and what new evidence and information they direct us towards, not about the number of responses received, or the number of times something is said.” She said that the council would be required to provide a statement on the consultation, with key issues that were raised, and how they were addressed with changes to the Plan.

Councillor Morris said: “We’ve taken an awfully time to get this far; I’d hate to see it abandoned. So much of the document is really really important. There are bits that are just not right. If I were to support it, it would not be that I support the content, but the concept of it going forward to public consultation.” She added: “Green Belt has become massively important. […] Keeping hold of what we’ve got has become the name of the game recently.”

Councillor Dallen added: “Can I request that we don’t have 200 pages to go through in one night in future?” Councillor McCormick responded: “It’s noted. We’ll try to do better next time.”

Just before the vote, Councillor Morris said: “I am somewhat reassured that there can be significant change if this document goes ahead. I expected to want to vote against. I felt we hadn’t given it enough thought and time.” She added: “This is clearly controversial. A lot of people are not happy about this.”

After almost two hours, councillors voted unanimously to go ahead with the Draft Local Plan. Public consultation will commence today at noon and conclude on 15 March. Go to Epsom and Ewell Times Official Notices page to see how you can respond.

After the meeting Cllr Steven McCormick, Chair of the Licensing and Planning Policy Committee, said: “We believe the Draft Plan provides a proactive framework for the borough to grow in a strong and positive way, so everyone will have the opportunity to live in an affordable, vibrant area with a growing economy. “The Draft Local Plan is our starting point and we strongly encourage local people to help shape the final Plan by responding to the consultation.”

[Ed: Even if the Green Belt proposals are removed after public consultation this Draft will still be of value in Planning Appeals pursued by Green Belt developers in the future].

Related reports:

Local Plan battle heating up?

Green-belters seeing red on Local Plan?

Lessons for Epsom in Mole Valley’s “shouty” Local Plan struggle?

Crucial month for local Local Plans?

Gove gives pause for thought on Local Plans?

Local Plan Battle: early skirmishes on Downs Farm

MP’s housing solution for Epsom and Ewell

Epsom and Ewell last in Local Planning

Planning documents

Epsom and Ewell Borough Council (EEBC) has approved a delayed timeframe for the development of its new Local Plan, putting it behind both government targets and other Surrey councils, amid debate over greenbelt development.

On 21st November, EEBC’s Planning Policy and Licensing Committee unanimously approved a Local Development Scheme (LDS), which sets out a timeframe for the development of its new Local Plan that would see the planning authority miss a government target by more than a year. The Local Plan will set out planning policies and sites that may be developed in the borough up until 2040.

The LDS supersedes the version approved by the council in April, and delays the first stage in the development of the Local Plan by three months. It forecasts that the Local Plan will be adopted in Spring 2025. In an agenda paper, the council’s interim Chief Executive Jackie King pointed out that “the government will want to see progression against their target date of all Local Planning authorities having an up-to-date Local Plan by the end of 2023.”

In 2017, the Government made it a legal requirement for Local Plans to be updated, and if necessary updated, every five years. Epsom’s current planning framework consists of four documents dated between 2007 and 2015. The council has said that the national period of mourning following the death of Queen Elizabeth II caused delays because councillor briefings were rescheduled. Ms King also said that there were delays “to allow further member briefing sessions to be undertaken to enable members to fully engage with and help shape the Local Plan.”

At the committee meeting, Councillor Julie Morris (Liberal Democrats, College Ward) said: “The period of mourning was three weeks, and yet we have a three-month delay.” She added that it was “regrettable” that the committee’s chair, Councillor Steven McCormick (Residents Association, Woodcote Ward), had “put a lot of effort in trying to get councillors to attend briefing sessions” but that “at least one has had to be re-run because of lack of attendance.” She continued: “There is a communication failure. Councillors outside the committee do not realise the importance of the document, give it the deference it deserves, or give their views.”

The new LDS means that EEBC will be the last local council in Surrey to adopt a new Local Plan, with the exception of Woking Borough Council and Banstead and Reigate Borough Council, who said their plans did not need updating.

Surrey district/borough council Pre-Publication Stage – Consultation. (Regulation 18) Publication of Submission Draft Local Plan (Regulation 19) Submission and Examination of Local Plan (Regulation 22) Adoption
Elmbridge   Ran from June-July 2022 Scheduled for Winter 2022 Scheduled for Summer 2023
Epsom Scheduled for Feb-March 2023 Scheduled for Feb-March 2024 Scheduled for June 2024 Scheduled for Spring 2025
Guildford     Part 2 submitted June 2022 Part 1 adopted April 2019. Part 2 scheduled for March 2023.
Mole Valley     Submitted February 2022 Scheduled for Spring 2023.
Runnymede       Adopted July 2020
Spelthorne   Ran from June-Sep 2022 Scheduled for Nov 2022 Scheduled for Sep 2023
Surrey Heath Ran from March-May 2022 Scheduled for Jan-Feb 2023 Scheduled for June 2023 Scheduled for Dec 2023
Tandridge     Submitted January 2019 Scheduled for Oct-Dec 2023
Waverley       Part 1 adopted February 2018.Part 2 was scheduled for Sep-Oct 2022.

*Woking Borough Council declared that its plan was up to date in October 2018. Reigate and Banstead Borough Council declared its plan up to date in June 2019.

There has also been debate about developing on greenbelt land in the borough. Greenbelt land includes areas of countryside that are protected from development in order to prevent urban sprawl and encourage development within existing built-up areas. A member of the public attending the committee asked what the council was doing to preserve greenbelt land, and if it would “pause greenbelt development and research brownfield development” as an alternative. Brownfield sites are areas of land that have previously been used for development but are not currently in use.

Councillor Steven McCormick said that the council “should follow government policy in its approach to greenbelt”. Government policy is that greenbelt land should not be altered except in exceptional circumstances. Councillor McCormick said: “If alternative options are considered, it is sufficient to release greenbelt land to meet housing needs”.

Councillor Morris said she wished to clarify that the council had “sympathy” with what the member of the public asked. She added: “But it’s too early. There is every intention of not overdeveloping the borough. It may be that we don’t go for these plans, but the evidence is needed. It’s too early to say what we’ll arrive at.”

No draft of a Local Plan has yet been made public. In a recent email to constituents, Epsom and Ewell MP Chris Grayling said that he expects “the Borough Council to publish its initial thinking about the plan shortly”. He wrote: “We clearly have a need for new homes locally. There are too many young people who grow up or are educated here but cannot afford to remain in the area. And we have a serious shortage of social housing.” He added: “My worry is that developing the green belt is an easy option for the Council. It is always more complicated to reorganise what has already been developed than to build on a green field, but in our area it is much better to take the more difficult approach.”

Gina Miller, leader of the True and Fair Party, who has announced that she will run against Grayling in the next general election, criticised his comments on Twitter. She wrote: “Not surprising but disappointing that Chris Grayling backed abolishing housing targets, making it nigh on impossible to help young people onto the property ladder nationally, whilst calling for new homes in Epsom & Ewell”.

The first stage in the development of the Local Plan, which includes consultation with residents, is now scheduled for February-March 2023.

See earlier reports on The Local Plan:

Local Planning Matters

The Local Plan to plan The Local Plan

BBC misreports Epsom and Ewell planning?

Another £1/4 m to plan planning

Epsom Hospital car park appeal

Stripe Consulting: West elevation multi-storey car park Epsom Hospital

On Wednesday 2nd November, Epsom & St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust appealed Epsom and Ewell Borough Council’s (EEBC) decision to refuse planning permission for a multi-storey car park on the Epsom General Hospital site. The NHS Trust had proposed the construction of a car park comprising ground plus five storeys, providing 527 spaces, the redesigning of surface parking to provide additional spaces, and
improvement to access from Dorking Road.

EEBC refused the plans in May 2021. It stated that, ‘by reasons of its height, mass, scale and poor design’, the proposed development would adversely impact the area, and fail to preserve the adjacent Woodcote Conservation Area. The plans had received 125 objections and one letter in support.

At the appeal, The NHS Trust argued that the scale of the proposed car park is necessary. Thomas Spencer, on behalf of the NHS Trust, said that the construction of the New Epsom and Ewell Community Hospital, due for completion in March 2023, would require an additional 50 spaces. Mr Spencer said additional parking would also be required to replace land sold to Guild Living. Guild Living now lease this land to the NHS, but their plans to build a retirement community will result in the loss of around 270 parking spaces currently used by the hospital.

Mike Kiely, on behalf of the Council, said that the proposed height of the car park would dominate the area, and ‘dilute the experience’ of listed buildings on Dorking Road and the adjacent Woodcote Conservation Area.

Councillor Liz Frost (RA Woodcote) said she had received many calls and emails from residents expressing ‘grave concerns’. John Woodley, a Dorking Road resident, said the car park would be the first thing he saw when he opened his windows. He added: ‘It’s overbearing: far too big. It just seems excessively large.’

The Trust argued that the car park’s height would be consistent with the existing complex of buildings at the hospital site, and that its plans bring the car park as close to existing buildings as possible.

Mr Kiely also argued that building a new multi-storey car park goes against national and local climate policies, and that alternatives, such as offsite staff parking and a shuttle bus, should be considered first. Mr Woodley added: ‘For a health trust to be building more space for cars blows my mind. We need to think more sustainably.’

Mr Spencer said that high vehicle use is a reality on a hospital site, since patients often rely on private transport. He added that some staff travel significant distances, and staff also work night shifts, so offsite parking would not be the Trust’s preference. He added that the proposals have ‘green credentials’, including 67 electric charging spaces, with the possibility for adding more in the future.

The Trust also said that there had been ‘numerous changes’ to the landscaping to improve the building’s design, including green walls on the building and a potential mural. Mr Kiely, however, said that the changes would make a ‘marginal difference’, and that ‘there had not been a landscape-led approach; landscaping had been squeezed in’.

Woodcote councillors Liz Frost and Steven McCormick also said that the car park could create a safeguarding issue, since it would overlook several sports clubs. However, the Trust said that the sports ground is already overlooked from various vantage points within the hospital, and the same people would be using the car park. It added that there would be 24-hour CCTV, and that any parking above the first floor would be used by staff only.

The Trust said that there would be other benefits of the proposed car park, including reduced congestion, improved access for emergency vehicles, and improved pedestrian and wheelchair access from Dorking Road. Mr Spencer also said that parking pressure on surrounding residential streets, which caused the NHS to be ‘plagued with complaints’, would be reduced. Mr Kiely, however, said that many of these benefits were not reliant on building a multi-storey car park, and that access could be reconfigured without it.

The appeal was heard by planning inspector David Spencer, who said his decision is likely to be made in early December.

Safer nights in Epsom in sights

Epsom and Ewell Borough Council’s (EEBC) Environment and Safe Communities Committee approved the allocation of a grant for plans to improve safety in the area. – Tuesday 18 October -. In a bid that resulted in a £271,712 grant from the Home Office Safer Streets programme, the council put forward a range of initiatives to promote safety within Epsom’s night time economy.

In conjunction with the Safer Streets bid, a ‘Night Time Safety’ survey, specific to Epsom town centre, was created. Only 30% of those who responded said they felt safe in the town centre at night, and only 18% of respondents said they felt safe within Epsom’s nightclubs. The bid also cited a rise in spiking in the borough, with two anecdotal reports of spiking in 2019 and 2020, and nine reported crimes involving spiking in 2021.

Councillors at the committee meeting approved a decision to spend £172,512 of the grant on replacing sixteen CCTV cameras in Epsom, which, according to the bid, were outdated and expensive to run. The monitoring costs of the sixteen cameras will be funded by the Epsom BID (known as “Go Epsom“). The cameras are currently monitored by Surrey Police, but EEBC has said that they will now be monitored locally.

The bid states that ‘The CCTV will be monitored during busy weekend periods via 24-hour security based in the shopping centre. Security will be able to speak directly to the police to prevent late night incidents occurring or escalating, feedback live information and protect those who appear vulnerable. The CCTV will also be available for investigation purposes.’

Councillors also approved the decommissioning of four CCTV cameras in Ewell and Stoneleigh, after officers found that it was ‘unlikely’ that the cameras were being used enough to meet an identified pressing need, as set out under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

The funding of accredited training for staff at Epsom’s licensed premises was deemed an ‘essential part’ of the Safer Streets bid, which cites ‘a lack of training and awareness with licenced premises and their staff around VAWG [Violence Against Women and Girls], including drink spiking and identifying vulnerabilities.’ The bid also states that there is a lack of nonauthoritarian guardians available at night time, and that police are often unable to assist vulnerable people while also addressing offences.

One respondent to the Night Time Safety survey said: ‘There’s not always someone nearby or a close location I can trust’. Part of the funding will go towards training and uniform for Street Pastors, an existing group of volunteers from local congregations who offer support to those who are out in the evening. However, they do not feel comfortable being out in the early hours of the morning, and incidents of violence peak between 3am and 4am. Therefore, the bid also suggests supplementing the Street Pastors scheme with a ‘Night Angels’ initiative, which, being open to a wider demographic of volunteers, might increase the number of people available to offer support during the night.

Councillors also approved plans to provide drink testing and anti-spiking kits at licensed premises.

A communications package will be used to disseminate information about the improvements through advertising and social media.