IoT Launch: Nescot Welcomes Industry Leaders

A guest trying some of the VR (Virtual Reality) kit in the VR room at the IoT.

The Sussex and Surrey Institute of Technology (IoT) at North East Surrey College of Technology (Nescot) in Ewell welcomed over 60 guests at its opening event on Wednesday 28 February. Visitors had the opportunity to explore the state-of-the-art facilities, participate in hands-on activities and discover the wide range of resources and training opportunities available at the newly opened IoT.

The IoT at Nescot is the first new space to open as part of the Sussex and Surrey IoT and specialises in digital technologies with courses and apprenticeships from software development, cyber security, AI (Artificial Intelligence) and networking to cloud computing, data handling, ‘internet of things’ and IT support.

Visitors included partners and employers from varied industry sectors who were able to find out the many ways in which they can support the future of skills development in the IT sector. Anchor employers including NatWest, Roche Diagnostics, Southern Water, Pearson and Gatwick Airport pledged their ongoing support to work with the Sussex and Surrey IoT in various ways, from recruiting apprentices and upskilling existing staff to working with curriculum experts to help shape study programmes and providing mentoring.

Nescot staff and students also had the chance to explore the newly opened IoT. Computing staff, and students on our computing courses were on hand to showcase the specialist technology facilities and share their excitement with visitors about the courses available.

Julie Kapsalis, Principal and CEO at Nescot said, “We were delighted to welcome our first guests to the IoT at Nescot which was buzzing with activity the whole day. It’s been wonderful to showcase our specialist digital technology facilities, resources and training. We are looking forward to working with businesses and partners to address current skills gaps and prepare for future skills needs.”

Demonstrating some of the technology, Joseph, a student on our Level 3 Computing course said, “The focus on specialist digital technologies is a great opportunity to enhance my knowledge. Nescot is the perfect choice for the Institute of Technology with great access and networking opportunities.”

Another student, Jeremy added, “I’m really excited about the Institute of Technology which is a great addition to Nescot. The technology and devices being installed here are amazing!”

Peter Goodenough, Computing tutor at Nescot, said, “With the Institute of Technology we can offer progress. Computers are in every walk of life and every industry. The IoT at Nescot is offering courses to enhance future skills and aid long term sustainability. You can choose from a wide range of courses on offer, from learning how to design, create and program smart devices, industrial and home robotics to making you mindful of your digital footprint.”

For more information on the IoT at Nescot please visit their website  

Sussex and Surrey IoT

The Sussex and Surrey IoT includes Nescot, Chichester College Group (CCG) and the Universities of Sussex and Brighton. The IoT will enhance higher level skills training, with a new state-of-the-art hub and specialist satellites for delivery at locations across the region. The investment will create new cutting-edge facilities for higher level technical training with a focus on digital, sustainable technologies, engineering and construction.

Find out more about the Sussex and Surrey IoT here

Image: A guest trying some of the VR (Virtual Reality) kit in the VR room at the IoT. Credit NESCOT

Surrey Police roots out non-PC conduct

Male and female police officers in Silhouette

There is a culture of “sexualised conversations” within a Surrey Police training group, an officer’s gross misconduct hearing panel heard.

PC Adam Watkins was found culpable of making sexually inappropriate comments and gestures to a female colleague and then also during the ‘end of training’ celebration evening on 7 October 2022.

Inappropriate comments included PC Watkins asking his colleague,  anonymised as ‘Officer A’, if she had ‘christened’ her new house with her boyfriend (i.e whether they had had sex in it yet).

Watkins also asked Officer A how big her boyfriend’s penis is, gesturing with his hands and asking her to stop when he gestured the correct size, then commenting that Officer A would need crutches because of the size.

CCTV footage from a pub also showed Watkins approaching Officer A holding his drink to her face and that she had backed away. He then approached her from behind and pressed his groin against her buttock.

Watkins accepted that he had been drinking throughout the evening and noted that he was unsteady on his feet.

Officer A said, in a written statement on 9 October 2022, that “she turned around and saw [the former officer] right behind [her] swaying his pelvis from side to side. [Her] heart started racing when [she] noticed it was him and [she] felt a bit afraid.”

Officer A’s statement after the event said: “It was an extremely creepy and uncomfortable experience and it shocked me that he would behave in this way. Most times I talk about this experience, I start crying.”

Separate observations from some of the witness statements led the panel to note there “appeared to be a culture of ‘sexualised conversations’ within the training group” at large. Surrey Police have since said that the “overwhelming majority” of their officers and staff are professional .

A police misconduct hearing into Watkins’ conduct was held at Surrey Police Headquarters on 29th and 30th January and was heard by an independent panel.

Watkins had resigned during the investigation and prior to the hearing on 12 May 2023. The panel found that the officer’s actions amounted to gross misconduct and he would have been dismissed if he had not ceased to be a member of the police force.

Watkins argued his comments were made within the context of the culture of the team. Both Watkins and Officer A had instigated conversations of a sexual nature on occasions, the report read.

The misconduct report advised that Surrey Police Force may wish to review the training provided to new officers with the standards of professional conduct, as well as respect to equality and diversity to ensure the content is adequate.

It added training provided to the Police and Crime training team leaders should be revised to ensure unacceptable standards of conduct are quickly identified and resolved.

Head of Surrey Police’s Professional Standards Department, Superintendent Andy Rundle, said: “We have invested in a comprehensive programme of cultural change towards challenging, reporting and tackling unethical or unprofessional behaviour. This included every officer and staff member under-taking mandatory training and plenary sessions in abuse of position for a sexual purpose, gender, and racial bias.”

Noting Officer A’s presentation at the hearing, the panel felt she remained “significantly affected” by the former officer’s actions.

The panel found Watkins “displayed a lack of awareness about his actions”. The former officer claimed “he was just being a bit silly”.

Watkins relied on Officer A to point out that his conduct was unacceptable instead of taking responsibility for his own conduct, the panel observed.

According to the misconduct panel, Watkins “attempted to minimise his involvement by maintaining that he was only joking” when he made the comments to Officer A.

The report said: “We found the former officer’s view – that it was Officer A’s responsibility to tell him that his conduct was unacceptable – to be concerning.”

It added: “The public rightly expects a police officer to maintain the highest standards of behaviour.”

Watkins disputed the allegation that, whilst [Officer A] was discussing what she was going to wear on the ‘end of training’ celebration with her colleague, he said “are you going to get your tits out?”.

Instead, he believed that he said “Are you going to get the girls out” and clarified that by “girls” he meant breasts. Accordingly, the panel considered that whether the words “girls” or “tits” were said by Watkins, the difference was not significantly material.

Accepting his behaviour amounted to misconduct, Watkins denied that it reached the Gross Misconduct threshold as he had not intended to cause harm or distress to Officer A.

The panel concluded it had “no doubt” that the former officer’s  actions is likely to cause “reputational harm” to the police service and undermine public confidence in policing, This is particularly the case given the increasing societal concerns regarding acts of violence against women and girls, the hearing heard.

Superintendent Rundle added: “This is a very concerning case where PC Watkins displayed completely inappropriate behaviour towards a fellow colleague and displayed a total lack of respect for her.

“This is simply not acceptable, and we are very sorry that she was subjected to this in the workplace; a place where she should feel safe and respected by all colleagues.

“We recognise the impact this case will have both on the Surrey public and our own officers and staff, particularly with the current focus on standards. Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of our officers and staff are professional and a credit to the force, however, it is essential that we continue to root out those colleagues who do not meet our demanding standards and ethics.”

Image is illustration only and is not nor intended to represent any individual referred to in this report.

The fellowship of NESCOT

Honorary Fellowship award winners, Dee Mathieson Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Elekta (left) and Daniel Addo, Nescot staff member (right), with Principal and CEO of Nescot, Julie Kapsalis (centre).

Nescot (North East Surrey College of Technology) Reigate Road, Ewell, celebrated student success at the annual Higher Education (HE) Awards graduation ceremony at Epsom Downs Racecourse earlier this month (7th February). 110 graduands along with 300 family members and friends came together to mark the culmination of their hard work.

Degrees, diplomas and professional awards were conferred in over 15 subjects ranging from teaching to osteopathy. Colleagues from Nescot partners including University of Greenwich, Kingston University, Open University were on hand to assist Julie Kapsalis, Principal and CEO, with conferring the degrees.

Guests of honour for the ceremony included Councillor Robert Geleit, Mayor of Epsom & Ewell (Labour Court Ward), a former HND student of Nescot and Brian Finch, Chair of Epsom Downs Racecourse who kindly brought along the amazing Derby trophy. Brian who was the guest speaker, congratulated the graduates on their achievement and spoke about key lessons from his career journey in his inspirational speech.

At the ceremony, annual awards for outstanding endeavours and achievements were also presented by our guests of honour to six nominated students from the Nescot Class of 2023. The prizes included awards sponsored by the College and by the Rotary Clubs of Epsom and Ewell.

To mark Nescot’s 70th anniversary, Principal and CEO, Julie Kapsalis was proud to award the college’s first Honorary Fellowships at this year’s graduation ceremony. “2024 sees Nescot celebrate its 70th anniversary, to recognise this incredible milestone and achievement, the college is introducing a new Honorary Fellowship award, the highest accolade the college can bestow. It recognises exceptional achievement and excellence by individuals associated with the college,” said Julie.

The first Honorary Fellowship was awarded to Dee Mathieson, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Elekta. A former student of Nescot, Dee has had an exceptional career in the science and medical sector. Sharing her journey, she said, “I am very grateful to Nescot for helping me on my way to what has been a fantastic and varied career in cancer care.”

The second Honorary Fellowship on the day was awarded to Nescot staff member, Daniel Addo from our Security Team. Presenting the award, Julie said, “With his kindness and positivity he is a wonderful role model and encourages students to make the most of their opportunities both in the college and life.”

The student vote of thanks was given by Craig Clout, who graduated with an Integrated Masters in Osteopathic Medicine. Craig spoke about the supportive and collaborative nature of the college community that contributes to everyone’s success.

HE degrees and awards were conferred for the following subjects: osteopathy, animal management, sports therapy, counselling, early years, animal management, healthcare play specialist, food premises inspection, business, creative media (moving image), performing arts, computing, public services, sport and exercise science.

Image: Honorary Fellowship award winners, Dee Mathieson Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Elekta (left) and Daniel Addo, Nescot staff member (right), with Principal and CEO of Nescot, Julie Kapsalis (centre).

30 years’ smile stamped on local Post Offices

Nidhi Prashar outside Epsom Post Office

Postmistress Nidhi Prashar has reached her 30 years’ milestone of serving Post Office customers in Surrey. Three decades ago, Nidhi and her husband, Anil, bought Oxted Post Office and for most of that time Nidhi has served that community. Now Anil runs that branch since Nidhi became Postmistress for Epsom in July 2017.

Postmistress, Nidhi Prasahar, said: “I loved serving the people of Oxted, but there was suddenly an opportunity to take on a bigger, busier, branch as well at Epsom, so Anil now runs Oxted branch. First Epsom was temporarily based at Epsom & Ewell Town Hall to restore service to the town, then I opened my permanent branch and card and gift shop in the High Street in February 2018.

“I get on really well with my customers in Epsom too. Thankfully I’d just got settled before Covid struck, but that was strange as many businesses in the high street were closed, so those customers were not around. However, other people who would normally have been commuting to elsewhere, were suddenly working from home and visiting my Post Office, so there were lots of different customers to get to know. People were grateful that Anil and I were able to keep both Oxted and Epsom branches open.”

Last year Nidhi was filmed at Epsom branch as part of an episode of Stacey Solomon’s Sort Your Life out programme. A local family had their home de-cluttered and they came across lots of different foreign currencies, which was then converted into useful sterling at her Post Office. Many of her customers immediately recognised her from the programme.

Nidhi, said: “I love being a postmistress. It’s the people that you meet that make it so great. There aren’t many jobs where you have this great interaction with people. People come in regularly and you build up a relationship. Customers become like extended family.

“In Oxted there are no banks left and we meet the banking needs of the community – so it’s non-stop banking customers. In Epsom there are lots of banks and building societies, but we are open longer hours than all of them, so for some customers they find it more convenient to come here.”

At Oxted and Epsom customers also have the choice of DPD and Evri services in addition to Royal Mail and Parcelforce mail services.

Post Office Area Manager, Richard Wilder, presented Nidhi with a 30 Years’ Long Service Award. He said: “I want to thank Nidhi for being a first class Postmistress in Surrey for 30 years. Nidhi and Anil provide great customer service and they really care about the people that they serve in Oxted and Epsom. Both branches look great too with the retail alongside.”

The Post Office.

Epsom 3rd in a 2024 “Best Places to Live”

Epsom town centre

In the latest edition of national estate agents “Garrington’s Best Places to Live” index for 2024, Epsom has clinched the third spot after an assessment of rankings in a range of categories.

Garrington’s evaluation of over 1400 locales across England and Wales underscores Epsom’s strengths in various key aspects, including heritage, wellbeing, educational opportunities, employment prospects, and housing affordability.

With its longstanding association with the prestigious Derby and a rich historical backdrop, Epsom ranks high in heritage, landing at 90th place. Its commitment to community wellbeing, supported by a serene natural environment, earns it a respectable 282nd position in this category.

Moreover, Epsom’s strategic location near London, coupled with its excellent schools and robust job market, positions it favorably in terms of employment prospects and connectivity, securing the 99th spot in Garrington’s evaluation.

While property prices in Epsom reflect its status, with the average family home costing £810,809, a modest 0.4% increase in the past year underscores its resilience amidst market fluctuations.

According to Garringtons: “As the real estate landscape evolves, Epsom maintains its reputation as a stable and desirable locale, offering residents a blend of tradition, convenience, and quality of life.”

Jonathan Hopper, CEO of Garrington Property Finders, emphasizes the practical significance of the 2024 ranking, stating, “As the market stabilizes and borrowing costs decrease, buyers are re-evaluating their options. Garrington’s guide offers insights to help individuals identify locales that meet their needs and preferences.”

“Epsom remains attractive to homebuyers with its solid fundamentals and promising prospects for a fulfilling lifestyle.”

Related reports:

Housing need or desire?

Anchored in reason on local housing need?

Murder investigation in Epsom

Eleanor Avenue Epsom

A murder investigation has been launched following the death of a man at a residential address in Epsom on Wednesday (7 February).

Officers were called to Eleanor Avenue at 9pm following a concern for safety of a 47-year-old man. South East Coast Ambulance Service attended but the man was sadly pronounced dead at the scene. His family has been informed and are being supported by specially trained officers.

A 44-year-old man from Epsom was arrested last night on suspicion of murder. He remains in custody.

An investigation, led by Surrey Police and Sussex Police’s Major Crime Team, is underway to establish the circumstances of the man’s death and enquiries remain ongoing.

Senior Investigating Officer DCI Craig Emmerson said: “The investigation is in the early stages and a specialist team of officers are working around the clock to follow up enquiries. At this time I can share that we believe this is an isolated incident which poses no risks to the wider public.

“Our thoughts are with the victim’s family at this difficult time. There remains a significant police presence in the area and we would like to thank local residents for their cooperation as we conduct our investigation. We will provide further updates as soon as we can.”

As the ward councillors Chris Ames, Kate Chinn and Rob Geleit are saddened to hear of the death of a man after the incident in Court Ward. Kate Chinn said: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the victim of this tragic event at what must be a difficult time. The police do not consider there is any risk to the wider public. We would like to thank the emergency services both the ambulance staff and the police who responded to and managed the incident.”

If you have any information which may relate to this incident, including any dashcam, CCTV or doorbell footage or any information which may help the police, please get in touch as soon as possible quoting PR/ 45240015016 via:

– Webchat on the website https://www.surrey.police.uk/
– Online https://www.surrey.police.uk/tua/tell-us-about/cor/tell-us-about-existing-case-report/
– Calling 101 

If you do not wish to leave your name, please call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Another news in store for Epsom!

A bm store

Following Primark‘s announcement it is opening in Epsom we have a further welcome boost to the local economy, B&M are thrilled to announce the launch of its brand-new store in Epsom, Surrey. The launch of the new store will create 60 jobs for local people.

The discount retailer has taken possession of a previous Wilko store which provides a space of 26,548sqft. which will undergo a comprehensive internal and external refurbishment programme before officially opening its doors at 8am on Friday 1st March 2024.

Customers can expect to find a wide variety of branded groceries for the best possible price including a range of food, drink and pet food. There will also be a fantastic selection of quality health and beauty products, homeware, electricals, DIY essentials, toys, games, gifts and plenty more to explore.

The store manager from B&M said: “We’re feeling extremely positive about the creation of more jobs for local people, and we hope customers are going to be delighted with their new store.”

“We are all really excited to get the doors open and welcome new customers through the door.”

Related reports:

Primark to open in Epsom

5 Shops that could replace House of Fraser in the Ashley Centre

Epsom PC is tough on crime and the causes of crime

PC Bethan Evans-Jones

Police Constable Bethan Evans-Jones has been working to reduce shoplifting in Epsom & Ewell including working with one prolific individual who has recently been convicted of 24 counts of theft. Thanks to her interventions, he is also being supported to break out of the cycle of crime.

Bethan joined Surrey Police in 2022 via Police Now’s National Graduate Leadership Programme, which recruits, trains and develops talented graduates to excel as neighbourhood officers across England and Wales. Previously training to be a solicitor and working in her local MP’s office before deciding to become a police officer, Bethan speaks to us about her role on the frontline and her passion for supporting vulnerable people in the community.

Last summer, Bethan investigated a series of repeated thefts that targeted a petrol station in the borough of Epsom & Ewell.

Bethan began to visit the petrol station as part of her regular patrol route, and developed strong relationships with the staff, to ensure she would be directly alerted to any incidents while in the area.

She was subsequently able to intercept and arrest the offender as he attempted to shoplift alcohol. Thanks to the evidence she gathered during her investigation, he was convicted of 24 counts of theft at a local magistrates’ court. He was given a Community Protection Warning prohibiting him from entering any local businesses without the means to pay. He is also required to undertake drug rehabilitation and to pay compensation for his offences.

Police Constable Bethan Evans-Jones said: “I’m pleased to have been able to support staff at the local petrol station, who have the right to feel safe in their place of work.

“It is also important to me that the offender is supported to break out of the cycle of crime he had fallen into and receive the help he needs. He is well known within the community and, despite the crimes he committed, the shop staff spoke kindly of him – so it was important to all of us that he receive help.

“I referred him to local partner agencies, and he was able to get help from a charity that supports those with drug addictions and was also assigned a social support worker. He recognised that these were the first steps to ‘getting better’ and we believe that this will be an important step to prevent him from re-offending.

“Drugs and drug misuse has become a particular area of interest for me, because of the often-vulnerable nature of the offender themselves, as well as the need for victim support. This is the kind of thing that neighbourhood police officers can really support with, through strong partnership working with local charities and organisations, as well as compassion and a real understanding of what the vulnerable members of society experience. Getting to know people in the neighbourhood and being on patrol is what ultimately enabled me to apprehend this individual.

“That’s one of the reasons I decided to join the force via Police Now’s neighbourhood programme, where I knew I could embed myself in the local community and build relationships to make a difference. The programme also offers other development opportunities and I have successfully secured a four-week secondment with the Home Office to work on county lines policy. This will be a great opportunity to develop my skills further and bring key knowledge back to my neighbourhood, to better support residents across Epsom and Ewell.”

West Surrey Intelligence Manager, Inspector Alan Knight, said: “Bethan is a very competent and capable police officer. She has the principles of community policing at the heart of all the work she undertakes, and this is reflected in what she has achieved.

“By tackling the core issue of the matter and diverting offenders from the vicious circle of reoffending to fund an addiction, Bethan has not only supported her community by preventing future criminality but is inspiring neighbourhoods that feel safe. I hope that the results in this case will provide reassurance to victims of crime that we are focused on pursuing those responsible.

“Bethan’s work has shown that working with communities and victims of crime promotes the partnership sharing of intelligence and information which is so vital when combating all levels of criminality.”

Epsom MP cuts ribbon of new nursery

Chris Grayling cuts ribbon at new Vale nursery

Children at a new nursery welcomed MP Chris Grayling who cut the ribbon to officially open the new provision at an Epsom school.

The Vale Primary School now offers a curriculum for two to 11-year-olds and its nursery already has 23 children on the roll with more joining in the spring. 

Mr Grayling, MP for Epsom and Ewell, joined Julian Drinkall, CEO at GLF Schools, in cutting the ribbon to officially open the nursery on Wednesday 7 February.

“I was delighted to be invited to attend the official opening,” said Mr Grayling. “The additional nursery places will support the government’s expansion of childcare support to working parents and offer the local community free, funded 15 and 30 hour early years places for two, three and four-year olds. It is clearly going to be a really happy nursery,” he added.

The school is a member of the GLF Schools Multi-Academy Trust which has a strategy to promote school readiness by ensuring as many as possible of its primary schools can cater for children aged from two to 11 with a school-run nursery on site.

Sarah Leyland and Cathy Browne, co-heads at The Vale, said they were both very proud of the hard work and community collaboration which has seen the creation of ‘such a positive environment for our young children.’

To add to the celebration aspect of the event, a specially made cake depicting the school logo and an array of cupcakes were made by a former parent of the school.

“I am delighted for our community and the parents and carers with us today that GLF can offer this new nursery provision. GLF’s nursery strategy emphasises the importance of ensuring our youngest children have access to high quality early education and being ready to start school,” said Mr Drinkall.

“It was clear today that our new nursery at The Vale Primary School is quickly becoming an integral part of the local community and provides local families with the opportunity to access a new and exciting two-11 curriculum.”

The nursery will be holding an open morning on Wednesday, March 6 and Friday, March 8 and visits can be booked at the school on 01372 273639 or via info@thevaleprimary.org 

The Vale Primary School website also has details on how nursery funding is changing and how parents can apply for funded places for 15 hours childcare for two-year-olds. More details on www.thevaleprimary.org

Primark to open in Epsom

Ashley Centre Epsom

Primark will occupy 44,000 sq ft in the former House of Fraser space in the Ashley Centre, Epsom, utilising two floors and sitting adjacent to the scheme’s central square near retailers such as JD. Forming the destination’s anchor tenant, the new store will feature Primark’s full offer, incorporating menswear, womenswear and childrenswear, as well as accessories, beauty, home, and lifestyle. The store is expected to create around 100 jobs for the local community and is set to open in early 2025.

Louisa Butters, Head of Retail Asset Management UK at CBRE IM, commented: “Primark’s signing is a milestone moment for the Ashley Centre. The opening will mark the final stage of our two-year repositioning project that underpins our long-term strategy for the revitalisation of the Ashley Centre, ensuring that it continues to serve the needs of the community in every way possible. We are looking forward to welcoming Primark early next year, and delivering an optimised and enhanced experience and environment for our visitors.”

Philippa Nibbs, Director of Sales UK, London and the South East at Primark, also said: “As we continue to invest in the UK high street, we are delighted to announce our new store in Epsom that will open next year. We look forward to becoming a part of this community and playing a central role in the refurbished Ashley Centre.”

Primark in Epsom will join Newbury, Berkshire, as the next locations confirmed for Primark in 2025. This follows the recent news that Primark will be investing more than £100m in its UK stores this year, as it celebrates 50 years of Primark on the Great British High Street. Local shoppers in Epsom and the surrounding areas looking to get their Primark fix in the meantime will be able to visit the nearby Sutton, Kingston or Woking stores.

In 2023, the Ashley Centre welcomed a raft of new openings such as JD, Deichmann, and GAIL’s Bakery, forming a key part of the centre’s leasing strategy to evolve its retail and F&B offer. The centre’s £7 million refurbishment will also work in tandem, seeing the reconstruction of the East entrance and enhancements to the interior, creating a refreshed and modern look.

Related Reports:

5 Shops that could replace House of Fraser in the Ashley Centre