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Epsom squandered its big housing land windfall

October 15, 2018 2:00 PM
By Ian Strutt (quoted by Barry Murton) in "Save the Wells Centre" facebook page

Wells Centre

It is quite ironic that Epsom's Residents' Association (RA) council is pushing to over-develop the site of the Wells social centre with a four-storey building of 23 flats. Epsom had the fantastic windfall of having the huge sites of five redundant hospitals made available to develop for residential purposes.

This town has gone down in history from Edwardian times as being almost a "dumping ground" for the mental patients from inner London that the authorities there did not have the facilities or determination to deal with locally.

Housing has always been in short supply in England. So this windfall of land was Epsom's golden opportunity to provide for its housing needs for almost the foreseeable future. However, the five sites were developed largely with low-density housing that private house builders would find easy to sell at high prices.

Epsom's RA council boasts about ruling Epsom continuously since the 1930s. So the enormous gaff of omitting social housing at a suitable level from these former hospital sites can be laid at its door. Mind you, even some 'executive' houses were crammed in. One buyer told me that his builder warned him never to open his kitchen window as he would be encroaching on his neighbours land!

Epsom council was one of the first to hand over its housing stock to be run by an outside company. Also, it is offering residents the opportunity of maintaining any houses put in the council's control for letting purposes. Council accounts show that, in the last financial year, it did buy two units for use as emergency accommodation.

At present, the council is desperate to identify any vacant building plots in the borough to stop it coming under pressure from the government in its belated drive to increase house building. So, Wells residents appear to be not only bailing out this council financially with its appropriation of the Wells centre site, but also paying the price for its past planning blunders.