Residents in Epsom and Ewell are 'hopeful' of progress as they campaign against existing plans for new housing in the borough.

Specific pressure groups, such as the Stop Stoneleigh Tower Block Action Group (SSTBAG), are hoping to work with the council and developers to influence the direction of individual projects — like the proposal for tower block at Station Approach — towards something more acceptable to residents.

More generally, the campaigners have voiced concerns about the pressure from central government on Epsom and Ewell Borough Council (EEBC) to build many more houses in the area in the coming years.

Your Local Guardian: Epsom Well. Image: © Copyright Ian Capper via Well. Image: © Copyright Ian Capper via

After EEBC released a "masterplan"document informing on proposals for future developments in the borough, a number of residents criticised the content and proposals in the document.

Some of the comments took aim at EEBC's assertion that the plan had been "guided by a comprehensive public consultation in 2017" and that "residents wanted new development to focus on the existing built up areas".

Both points were disputed by residents involved in the campaigning — they want to change the current direction and content of new housing proposals in the borough.

One of them is Michael Michalakopoulos, a Stoneleigh resident who is supporting the SSTBAG campaign in Stoneleigh.

"Initially it was just about this development, and it still is in a way. But it's clear from our meetings that the council have plans for the whole borough," he told the Comet.

"My understanding is that the council is under pressure to build more homes in the borough, especially in a few specific areas including Stoneleigh and Epsom town centre, and they want to maximize the density," Mr Michalakopoulos said.

Echoing the sentiments of many in the residents group now opposing the current plans for a tower block on Station Approach, the Stoneleigh resident stressed that he was not opposed to building more housing at all.

Rather, the discussion was about the kind of housing that needs to be built, and about where that should happen.

"My personal feeling on this is that I don't disagree with development at all, I just disagree with maximising it in this way.

"Me and others I have spoken to have read the council documents and said 'why don't you (EEBC) push back against the government on this?'"

"I think it should be more appropriate development — yes, build flats if you have to but this is overdoing it," Mr Michalakopoulos said.

Your Local Guardian: Artist impression of proposed development on Station Approach in StoneleighArtist impression of proposed development on Station Approach in Stoneleigh

The SSTBAG campaign is at the forefront of residents demanding greater inclusion in the council's plan for future development in Epsom and Ewell, and seems to be gaining momentum.

A prominent supporter is Councillor Peter Webb, who represents Auriol Ward on EEBC for The Residents' Association party.

"The consultation and engagement with local residents was singularly lacking or in short supply over this particular one, and that encouraged a response from residents," Cllr Webb told the Comet.

"Had the planning and consultation taking place earlier, a lot of this might have been resolved," he added.

Since that was not the case, the SSTBAG has gathered momentum and is now "hopeful" of changing the plans for the Station Approach planning application.

The action group met with the developers in July and have been in touch ever since.

"They have been very communicative," he said.

"We are hopeful that anything coming back from the developers will a go a way towards meeting the concerns of residents and that our feedback will be taken on board for a redesign.

Responding to a request from the Comet, EEBC issued a statement regarding the planning application on Station Approach in question.

"The Local Planning Authority have received the planning application 19/00668/FUL and as part of the process of assessing the application, will have regard for any comments that are made.

"Should you wish to make any comments, these can be posted on the Public Access which is on the Council’s website," a spokesperson for EEBC said.

Nevertheless, residents are now campaigning for a greater say in developments in the borough more widely, and the SSTBAG campaign might provide a handy blueprint for them.

Tim Humphries of the Residents' Association for College Ward helped launch a petition on the council's website that has already attracted a number of signatories.

It calls for EEBC to "have a plan to achieve the target which is more acceptable to the residents than handing control over to the government which is the government's default strategy if we do not fulfil the imposed number of dwellings each year or have more than a few planning proposals appeals upheld by Government."

Signatories also urge the council to make sure all future consultations are "well advertised" and "are accompanied by a public information campaign".