The Royal Automobile Club has come under fire over plans to develop its greenbelt estate and for allowing a historic walled garden to fall into disrepair.
The prestigious members-only club has submitted a planning application for a motor heritage wing, spa, golf driving range and children’s swimming pool on its 350-acre Woodcote Park estate in Epsom.
Both are on the English Heritage’s at risk register
The RAC has also applied for outline planning permission to build two homes in a residential road, the Ridge, on land which it owns there, in order to fund the restoration of a derelict Grade II listed walled garden and gardener’s cottage.
Within the Victorian walled garden, the club wants to create a children’s swimming pool, outdoor play and games areas and a bowling lawn.
Surrey County Councillor Tina Mountain, who lives in the Ridge, and represents Epsom Town and Downs, has criticised the club for wanting to improve its facilities "at the expense of the greenbelt" and for not spending money to repair the wall for the past 40 years.
Coun Mountain said: "I applaud the RAC for wanting to improve its facilities but not at the expense of our greenbelt.
"We have been fighting to keep our greenbelt yet here we have a private members club who are applying to breach the use of this conservation land because although they are happy to spend their member's money expanding the club house and building a separate spa solely for the use of its members, they are not prepared to use it repairing a wall."
In a statement, the club said it recognised the "sensitivity" of the greenbelt site and the importance of conserving heritage assets on the estate.
Michael Bedingfield, head of communications, said: "It has been challenging over the last 40 years to sustain an economically viable use for the walled garden.
"We now have an opportunity to re-establish a sustainable use and restore the garden, made possible by sale of the two enabling plots.
"We very much hope that we will be supported in this once-in-a-generation opportunity to breathe life back into an historic part of the estate."
In a statement submitted to Epsom Council as part of its plans, RAC club secretary Miles Wade said economic, heritage and landscape benefits of the proposed development provide the "very special circumstances" needed to develop in the greenbelt.
But Conservative campaigner Daniel Race has created a petition, signed by 2,000 people, to save the greenbelt from threats including the RAC development.
Councillor Tina Mountain, Jane Race and Daniel Race
The petition said: "RAC private members club are negotiating with Epsom planners to abuse the greenbelt in order to expand their facilities. This area is now surrounded by potential breaches of the greenbelt."
Sarah Sear, who signed the online petition, said: "I don’t want Epsom’s greenbelt to be encroached upon, for building or for the RAC club. I want it to stay as greenbelt."
Carole Snalune also signed the petition in opposition to the RAC trying to develop their land. She said: "Whilst we support their improving sports facilities, we do not support their potential abuse of conservation land and we do not want residential development on our greenbelt."
See the plans, with reference 14/00562/FUL, at www.epsom-ewell.gov.uk/EEBC/Planning/
See the petition at www.petition.co.uk/save-epsoms-green-belt/