Two new blocks of flats will be built next to Epsom Railway Station after planners gave the go-ahead.
Planning applications for 16 new homes on the corner of East Street and Kiln Lane and for 20 flats where West Street and Station Approach meet were approved by councillors on Thursday (June 8).
With just two affordable homes over the two developments, both will be subject to a review before completion, to determine if the schemes could provide more than are currently proposed.
Councillors at the Epsom and Ewell Borough Council planning committee meeting raised concerns about the “dreadful design” and “ruined” entrances to the town regarding the West Street development. But an attempt to refuse the application failed, when a motion put forward by Councillor Neil Dallen (Residents’ Association, Town) was lost and the application was approved with six votes in favour and three against.
The development of 20 homes, over five and six storeys, is planned for the former corn and coal merchants which was previously the home of Gillespies Bakery.
The 1905 building will be demolished for a development that was put forward by the developer as a sustainable location for homes that would benefit businesses in the town centre as well as creating jobs during construction.
Councillor Bernie Muir (Conservative, Horton Ward), who has spoken out about previous plans for the site, said the site was within the town centre conservation area and within view of multiple listed buildings. She said she wasn’t against something going on the site but worried the conservation area was “meaningless” with no reference to the surrounding buildings in the plans.
Had the designs had “some nod” to the look of that part of the town, Cllr Muir said she would be saying something different. She added: “If we don’t embrace our conservation areas and what that actually means, then we’re just another urban sprawl. And if we want to be another destination high street, this is the beginning of it. This is the one entrance to the town that hasn’t been ruined so far, and that matters to the economic life of the town.”
She and other councillors recognised the need for more housing in the borough, with the council in March having put a pause on the process to develop its plan for homes in the area.
Councillor Clive Woodbridge (Residents’ Association, Ewell Village Ward) pointed out that developers had responded to comments and designed a smaller building than plans that had been previously refused on the site. He said you “couldn’t get more sustainable” than a block of flats built next door to the train station and within walking distance of the town centre.
The East Street application, like the one on West Street, had also had previous applications refused and been amended before being approved at Thursday’s meeting.
The development of 16 flats, none of which will be affordable because the scheme would otherwise be deemed non-viable, will be allowed to go ahead after changes to previous plans.
Government inspectors had dismissed an appeal on a previous application because of concerns about pedestrians crossing the access road to the block, off Kiln Lane towards Sainsbury’s.
But after four year’s work on the proposal, which now includes pitched roofs and is of a lower height, plans had been changed and a new footpath had been added to give direct access to the site, avoiding blind corners that had been a concern.
With 18 parking spaces, a suggested condition put forward by Councillor Jan Mason (Residents’ Association, Ruxley Ward) was agreed by the committee, to allocate the spaces per flat. Cllr Mason said she wanted to avoid “fisticuffs” as there were at similar developments in her area when residents did not have allocated spaces.
She questioned the “viability” claims of developers, saying houses in Epsom sold “at a premium”, while Cllr Kate Chin (Labour, Court) called for a briefing for councillors on affordable housing and what the council could do to ensure more was built.
The scheme of eight one-bed, five two-bed and three three-bed flats was unanimously approved by the committee.
With a decision yet to be made on plans to turn the former Epsom police station into a 96-bed care home, which was due to come to a cancelled committee meeting in April, the committee’s next meeting is due to be on July 20.
Image: Before and after – West Street.