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.