Write to Raab – about Sandown
Linda Stotesbury, our lead campaigner against the Sandown Park planning application has just written to Dominic Raab and Robert Jenrick.
A FINAL REQUEST – if you can, could you email Dominic Raab, either with this letter attached or in your own words, saying you are a supporter of Save Esher Greenbelt and that you would like answers to our questions.
There is also an online form that can be used to contact Robert Jenrick regarding planning matters: https://forms.communities.gov.uk
The full text of the letter is as follows:
Save Esher Greenbelt and the Esher Residents Association
7th December 2020
The Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP
Dear Mr Raab
Sandown Park Planning Inquiry
You will be aware of the planning appeal by the Jockey Club regarding their scheme at Sandown Park for a 150-bed 6 storey hotel and 3, 4 and 6 storey blocks of flats totaling 318 units. This has been called in by the Secretary of State for Housing, Mr Robert Jenrick, because it is entirely on the Greenbelt.
As a representative of a campaign group, Save Esher Greenbelt, and as a committee member of the Esher Residents Association, I am writing on behalf of a large number of residents who strongly object to the Jockey Club’s proposed scheme.
Over 640 residents signed our petition and 680 submitted letters of objection. The Jockey Club does not have the support of the local community. Indeed, of the 84 letters in support of the scheme, only 6 were from the local KT10 postcode.
The planning application was unanimously refused consent at Planning Committee by Councillors of cross political parties: Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Local Residents.
This scheme will cause a great deal of harm: to the Greenbelt, to the character of our town, to traffic congestion, and to air pollution. It will fail to provide benefits which outweigh the damage caused.
As our MP, we would like you to ask the following questions of Mr Jenrick on our behalf:
Elmbridge’s Greenbelt is the first to be reached along the A3 out of London, it’s the first line of defence against urban sprawl.
• Does he agree that the Greenbelt is precious, it’s a nation-wide asset which should be protected?
There are no 4-6 storey buildings of this magnitude anywhere in Esher. On some parts of the site the buildings proposed represent an increase of over 1800%.
• Does he agree that building 4 – 6 storey buildings on previously undeveloped or partially developed sites will cause significant harm to the openness of the Greenbelt?
Regardless of its Royal Charter, the Jockey Club is NOT akin to a charity (as it tried to claim at the Inquiry), it is a private business.
• Does he agree that building on the Greenbelt to pay for doing-up a private companies’ facilities does NOT meet the definition of Very Special Circumstances?
• Does he agree the Very Special Circumstances definition is intended for things that really benefit the community such as a school or affordable housing. Not for facilitating days out at the races?
The Jockey Club has failed to provide policy compliant affordable housing (it should be 45%) offering just 20% as they claim the money is needed for the stadium.
• Does he agree that a scheme in which 80% of dwellings will be expensive private apartments overlooking the racecourse does NOT address the housing affordability crisis?
The Jockey Club says the new family centre (soft play, playground and cycle track), which is primarily to benefit racegoers, will be available at a discounted price for local residents. They claim this will benefit “the more deprived parts of Esher” north of the railway – but there is already a playground north of the railway and there is already a soft play centre at Sandown.
• Does he agree that what is needed for the pockets of deprivation in parts of Esher is more affordable homes, not discounted soft play?
As the largest commercial horse racing organisation in Britain, the Jockey Club had an annual turnover of £214m and underlying profits of £48m in 2018. Turnover increased by 68% in the last 10 years. Under their Royal Charter the Jockey Club promises to reinvest every penny back into British Racing. When they claim a profit of only £4.5m, this is AFTER they have spent underlying profits on prize money for wealthy horse owners (£27m) and its AFTER they have spent money on capital improvements to their racecourses (£10m spent on other racecourses in 2018).
• Does he agree that having spent all their profits, they cannot then claim they haven’t got any profits and so must sell off the Greenbelt to make some more?
• Does he agree that if the Jockey Club can’t afford it themselves, they must wait until such time as they can, just like any other business?
• Does he further agree that allowing this scheme to go ahead will set a very dangerous precedent that would allow anyone to develop on the Greenbelt providing they use part of the profits to enhance a sports facility?
They claim the scheme will provide new jobs, but other than the hotel (for which there is an existing planning consent) the jobs already exist at Sandown Park – this is not new employment.
They threaten that without the scheme, they will let Sandown decline. But they also say Sandown is a nationally important sporting venue – is it really likely they will let it fail? In fact, the Jockey Club refurbished the Grandstand View Suite into two brand new luxury spaces at the exact same time as the planning committee meeting last year.
• Does he agree that creating luxury facilities does not suggest they are unable to afford improvements or that they are actually going to let the racecourse decline?
The Jockey Club claim the scheme will not impact traffic congestion or air quality, despite creating new car spaces for all the flats and the hotel, and re-providing the existing car parking for race goers and town centre visitors on a greenfield site.
• Does he agree that sending an extra 690 cars (displaced by the new development) to an entrance to the race course directly opposite an 8-form entry secondary school and accessible only from a road that is single lane under a railway bridge or across a junction on Esher Green (one of the most notorious accident black spots in Surrey) is a supremely dangerous idea?
Despite its size, Greenbelt status, and the fact it includes a significant amount of greenfield land, the scheme is an outline application.
• Does he agree that allowing a scheme of this enormity on the Greenbelt without requiring a detailed matters application which properly considers the impact on the character of the town is completely unacceptable?
If this scheme is consented the Jockey Club will be left with a much-enhanced stadium, a brand new high-quality hotel and a significantly increased revenue stream. Esher will be left with a reduced and damaged Greenbelt, a family centre we don’t need, and just 64 affordable flats located on a congested and polluted high street.
• Does he agree that the balance is NOT in the local community’s favour?
• Does he further agree that if he approves consent for this scheme he will be sending a clear message to the public that this Government prioritises subsidising a private company’s profits over the importance of protecting the Greenbelt, providing policy-compliant affordable housing, or meeting the needs of a local community?
We, your constituents, believe our Councillors were entirely correct to refuse consent for this scheme. We ask that you, as our elected MP, support us in this matter.
I look forward to receiving Mr Jenrick’s responses to our questions shortly.
On behalf of Save Esher Greenbelt and the Esher Residents Association
Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP – Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government
Councillor S Waugh – Conservative Member for Esher Ward
Councillor D Archer – Conservative Member for Esher Ward
Councillor R Williams – Esher Residents Association Member for Esher Ward