A petition by residents in Epsom and Ewell that criticized government-imposed housing targets and demanded new housing strategies in the borough will be debated by councillors on Wednesday (December 18).

The petition garnered widespread support from over 1,800 resident signatories after it pointed out that the number of houses the government is asking Epsom and Ewell Borough Council (EEBC) to build each year could conflict with the council’s own Local Plan.

An EEBC framework for the Local Plan released earlier this year emphasized among other things the “desirability of maintaining an area’s prevailing character and setting”.

Petitioners argued the existing housing targets could force a compromise on this and related wishes of residents to avoid excessive development in the borough.

A spokesperson for EEBC said that the residents’ concerns raised in the petition would now be debated at full council.

“In response to a petition, Epsom & Ewell Borough Council is to hold a debate at the full council meeting on Wednesday 18 December about the strategy to adopt, in order to meet the Government’s housing target for the borough, while addressing petitioners’ concerns,” the EEBC spokesperson said. 

The council is currently assembling the required ‘evidence base’ required for the Local Plan -- itself is a process stipulated by central government -- in order to undertake a formal public consultation in the spring.

As the Comet has reported, EEBC previously released “six points” which it said would determine the future direction of travel for planning and house building in Epsom and Ewell.

Among them were limitations on the height and density of new developments and the need to build sustainably, protecting green spaces in the area. 

“The council’s forthcoming Local Plan is the formal strategy for delivering the Government’s housing target which is based on the Government’s assessment of housing need in the borough using their standard methodology.

“Within Epsom and Ewell the Government has determined that an additional 579 homes, plus associated infrastructure, needs to be built in the borough each year,” the EEBC spokesperson pointed out.

Text from the resident petition that will now be debated highlighted the concerns many residents in Epsom and Ewell have about future house building in the area:

“The building of eleven thousand new dwellings in the next fifteen years will change the nature of Epsom forever and in order to retain some control over the process, the Council must 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,” one passage in the petition – signed by 1,815 people between 25 September and 1 November 2019 – reads.

The debate will take place at the EEBC full council meeting on Wednesday 18 December.