EWCA contacted each of the four Epsom West Division candidates in the upcoming 6th May SCC elections, to ask their views on the Wells Centre and the future of the Karibu children’s home.
Dear Epsom Wells Community Association,
Thank you for asking me to explain my position as the candidate for the Labour and Co-operative Party for Epsom West in the Surrey County Council Elections on the future of the Wells Centre and SCC Karibu Children’s Home.
I am fully supportive of, and actively working towards, saving the Wells Centre.
I have lived in Epsom a long time and am a member of the Epsom Wells Community Association along with two other Labour members. All three of us are working very hard constructively in an apolitical manner to save the centre.
I have worked with local resident Ian Strutt to publicise the closure of the centre across social media posting articles on and off since 2017. David Rudland and I have been working on the finance side of the association creating the initial business plan and now creating a new one with the association in line with what we have been told Epsom and Ewell Borough Council will find acceptable.
I have acted as a liaison point with the local Labour party leadership who form the official opposition on Epsom and Ewell Borough Council to the Residents Association.
Epsom and Ewell Labour Party have been the chief critics of the proposals to bulldoze the Wells Centre at council planning meetings and also at Open Council meetings. I have personally held a number of informal discussions with other councillors to persuade them to back the sale or lease of the centre to the Epsom Wells Community Association.
I am fully committed to saving the centre.
I am already doing much to save it and would do as much as I possibly could as County Councillor to save it.
If I was the County Councillor for Epsom West, not only would the people of the Wells have a strong advocate as County Councillor, they would have a member of the Epsom Wells Community Association as their County Councillor.
To me, the decision to close the Centre is, and always has been, an outrage and a disgrace.
Solutions should have been sought to make the centre sustainable by the Council. The Residents Association led Council failed to run the Centre properly and as it went into a loss, they then used this to close the Centre.
The truth is that the Epsom and Ewell Residents Association led Council not only ran the Centre badly, but they are also running their planning processes very poorly too.
Rather than use brownfield sites, unused office space and retail space to create new housing they have resorted to bulldozing historic and social buildings and replacing them with large blocks of flats. This is because they have no plan and are not proactive.
They wait for developers to suggest solutions who surprise surprise suggest large blocks of flats to maximise profit on almost any available piece of land. The plans at the Wells and Clayhill Green near West Hill where there is a proposal to bulldoze two historic houses and replace them with a large block of flats are a complete disgrace and would cause great damage to the character of Epsom.
I would oppose these and other such developments strongly if I was your County Councillor.
I would take the same position with the Karibu centre. If it is to be sold, as is rumoured, by the Conservative led Surrey County Council then it should be done in a sensitive way that creates a sustainable development with minimal alteration to the existing building and sufficient on site parking for residents and visitors. Disruption must be reduced for local residents to an absolute minimum.
Across Epsom, I would only back sensitive developments and I would lobby along with the local Labour party for the Borough Council to have a credible proactive plan that uses brownfield sites, unused office space and retail space to create the new housing units that Epsom and Ewell needs.
Labour would also back a large part of these being council owned social housing and affordable housing so homes are built for all not just millionaires. The Conservative Central Government are placing very large new housing demands on Epsom and Ewell – around 500 new housing units per year!
There is insufficient spare space in Epsom and Ewell to build these. Conservative policy needs to change to reflect how much space there is in towns. Therefore, the local Conservatives cannot claim that they are nothing to do with the issue as their Government’s excessive demands are the root cause of the problem.
I would lobby Central Government, Robert Jenrick and Chris Grayling to reduce the housing quotas put on Epsom and Ewell and, with what remains the local Labour party, if in charge, would get the Council to develop a good part of the housing ourselves in a sensitive good quality fashion using existing buildings, brownfield sites and industrial land.
Unless the people running your Council get more proactive and inventive Epsom is always going to have these planning problems.
I hope that this answers your questions and presents a credible plan as to how we get ourselves out of this mess created by the Residents Association and the Conservative Central Government.
I would be very happy to provide further answers or clarification as necessary and residents can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out more about EWCA and our campaign to reopen The Wells Centre, please send us an email or join our email list.