Save Esher Green Belt views on Sandown Park

Save Esher Green Belt has written a lengthy and very thorough objection to the Jockey Club’s application to develop housing and a hotel on Sandown Park. They have kindly offered us a summary of their objections:

  • Although it has a Royal Charter, the Jockey Club is not a charity, it is a private company.
  • There is no explanation why the Jockey Club is not prepared to reinvest their enormous profits into Sandown Park – they invest at their other tracks. 
  • There is no business plan provided to demonstrate the Jockey Club can run a sustainable business once the improvements have been undertaken and that this is not simply ‘the thin end of the wedge’. 
  • There is no explanation why the former business plan created to support the 2008 and 2011 applications for a hotel is now redundant. In 2011 the hotel on its own would, apparently, secure a long-term future for Sandown Park and give them a ‘healthy surplus’. Why just 7 years later do they require a much larger hotel PLUS 318 dwellings?  
  • They appear to claim that the ‘planning system’ should support their business and protect their profits.  The role of the Green Belt is to maintain openness and be free from development, not to support a business.
  • From their viability statement it is not convincingly demonstrated that £38.09m is needed to refurbish Sandown.  We are of the view only approximately £11m is required. Of this, approximately £1m of painting/wood-work repairs to the stables is needed urgently, which can surely come out of the Jockey Club’s £44m 2018 profits. The further £10m refurbishment could be phased and be offset from future profits.
  • We believe the scheme could comfortably generate additional revenue to the Jockey Club in the region of £37.3m over and above that declared in the viability statement.
  • Assuming more realistic expenditure levels of £11m combined with revenue increasing by £37.3m, the Jockey Club would not ‘just make ends meet’ but would in fact make a profit from this scheme in the region of £64.3m.
  • The scheme is in conflict not only with the Council’s Development Plan but also with National Planning Policy. 
  • The scheme would have an enormous impact on the integrity of this important piece of Green Belt. The critical gap identified by the Council’s Greenbelt Review (2016) by Arup will be closed.
  • The residential sites are currently a range of virgin Green Belt, hardstanding, redundant stables and 7 small Jockey Club employee homes. To claim replacement with 3-6 storey residential blocks would not impact on openness is factually incorrect. 
  • Whether considered in isolation or as a whole, this is a huge amount of inappropriate development in a very sensitive part of the Green Belt. It will have a very significant impact on the openness of the Green Belt and it will cause substantial harm.
  • The applicant contradicts itself on numerous occasions by admitting that parts of the development are inappropriate and will impact on openness but claiming that ‘overall’ the scheme is policy compliant and appropriate. This makes no sense. We are of the view only 3 out of the 11 sites could be considered as being appropriate development in the Greenbelt. 
  • The five residential schemes are a huge over-development and are not in keeping with the area;
  • The hotel has been located in a very sensitive area and at 6 storeys is over-development.
  • The local community receives nothing back from this proposal – the new “community facilities” all exist in some form on the site already (nursery, playcafe) – so there is no real weight to this, and residents will have to pay an entry charge.  
  • The traffic impact will have a negative effect on the town, especially on the High Street and Esher Green.  Having taken advice from independent experts, they advised the significant impact from the development on the local highway network has not been mitigated to an acceptable degree.  The applicant has failed to demonstrate that there would not be an unacceptable impact on highway safety.  Nor has it been demonstrated that the residual cumulative impacts on the road network would be less than severe.
  • The scheme is being brought forward in isolation and outside of the plan-making process which, through an examination in public, is the only way to establish the accuracy and credibility of the assumptions surrounding the deliverability and developability of such sites, and to examine these against the required evidence of need.

The overall conclusion must be that any considerations in favour of the application are NOT sufficient (either individually or in combination) to outweigh the substantial harm this development will cause. The very special circumstances required to justify the development do not exist. For the reasons given above, the application should be refused.