Fringe Box



Opinion: Time to Properly Thank the Residents Association for Its Neighbourhood Plan Input

By Chris Dick

former chairman of the EFFRA 2014-2016, now Guildford Dragon NEWS’ Effingham reporter.

Isn’t it time Effingham Parish Council (EPC) admitted the local residents association was right about some inputs into the Neighbourhood Plan all along?

As well as broadly thanking those who made our plan, now successfully approved by a referendum, they should consider whether Effingham Residents Association (EFFRA) needs to be singled out and thanked for their contribution.

Of course, EPC was right to be pleased with the Yes result. The 44% turnout and 94% vote in favour may have been no surprise. Nonetheless, it was well deserved. It followed the council’s hard work and dedication (see: Village Votes to Accept Neighbourhood Plan). But it was not without controversy and some relationships within the village suffered.

As one parish councillor wrote on, August 20, 2015: “I am very disappointed that EFFRA and EPC have arrived at this antagonistic position. I do not accept that the parish council have been intransigent.”

And again the following January: “I deeply regret the way the EFFRA – EPC relationship has deteriorated over the Neighbourhood Plan process, and hope it is not too late to repair that relationship.”

EPC poster photographed at public display showing the idea of up to 60 houses on Effingham Lodge Farm

The Neighbourhood Plan process started about five years ago but in March 2015, EPC held a public display at the King George V Village Hall. At that display, they put forward their ideas that included up to 60 houses on Effingham Lodge Farm, opposite the Howard of Effingham School.

Many villagers, including all but one of the Effingham Residents Association Executive Committee, felt let down by the parish council.

Local residents including Effingham Residents Association (EFFRA) committee members with parish councillors pictured standing in Lower Road, Effingham protesting against building on Effingham Lodge Farm’s green belt.

Residents felt this way because only two months earlier, in January 2015, they had stood shoulder to shoulder with several parish councillors including the chairman and vice chairman protesting against the Berkeley Homes plan to build on the farmland.

Together both village organisations had objected to development plans on Effingham Lodge Farm under the Guildford Borough Council (GBC) draft Local Plan and then the Berkeley Homes’ plans for 295 new home – about 150 of which were destined for Lodge Farm.

Yet just two months later the parish council, on their own initiative, put forward the idea of 60 new homes on a site they had previously been protecting; a farm located outside the village “settlement area” and in the green belt.

EFFRA, having sought the views of Effingham residents, supported the overwhelming majority view and objected to the parish council’s idea. Yet the association’s every effort to negotiate and reduce the housing numbers was overruled by the parish council.

Indeed the council was so determined to include Lodge Farm in their development plans that they even submitted a pre-application to GBC in their efforts to include it, even though it was Berkeley Homes which owned the land.

Two “health check inspectors”, employed by GBC Planning Department to offer the parish council advice on the formation of their plan, were critical of the high housing numbers and some of the sites because they were within the green belt.

Then finally, before approving the draft Neighbourhood Plan for a referendum, the Examining Officer recommended limiting the number of new homes on ELF to just six and, quite separately, on the Church Street site, he reduced the density from 20 to up to nine dwellings.

So the 60 became six and the 20 became nine. These changes only came about due to EFFRA’s tenacity and determination to be listened to.

Effingham Parish Council’s February 27 meeting

In a poorly attended parish council meeting, held on Tuesday (February 27, 2018) at the King George V Village Hall, residents association chairman, Vivien White, said in a speech, delivered quietly and calmly: “EFFRA is very pleased that the village has voted so decisively in favour of the Neighbourhood Plan which EFFRA was happy to recommend to residents.”

Vivien White chairman of EFFRA

“EFFRA was consistent throughout the Neighbourhood Plan process in its views on housing numbers and housing sites which were in line with the NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework] but in disagreement with the views of the parish council.

“EFFRA regrets that despite numerous attempts we were unable to persuade the parish council that EFFRA’s views were correct. In the end, of course, EFFRA’s views were upheld by the Examiner and are now encapsulated in the Neighbourhood Plan housing policies.”

Let’s be clear, Effingham’s Neighbourhood Plan is a great piece of work and Effingham Parish Council is right to be proud of what they have achieved. It is right that they generally thanked others who took part.

But they would go a long way towards repairing the damage to community relations if they were to sincerely thank EFFRA for its crucial contribution.

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4 Responses to Opinion: Time to Properly Thank the Residents Association for Its Neighbourhood Plan Input

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    March 2, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    Having worked on Burpham Neighbourhood Plan the first in Guildford – I know just how much work goes into such a plan – I could write a somewhat similar backstory but it would be tomorrow’s chip wrapper.

    What is important “The plan” is in place and it was accepted by the community. It does not matter a jot whether Fred or Sue wrote the introduction or worded the policy. Apologies and thanks are ‘nice’ but if they are not forthcoming without encouragement they are in reality worthless. It’s time to enter the next phase to ensure it is followed by Guildford planning department.

    Good cheer to you all involved. Congratulations and well done.

    • Liz Hogger Reply

      March 3, 2018 at 12:57 pm

      Thanks to Jim Allen for his sensible remarks and good wishes for the future of Effingham’s Neighborhood Plan. He’s quite right about the chip wrapper and that we all need to move on to the next stage, but I do think it important to set the record straight as I have attempted to do in my longer comment [published as an opinion piece].

      Councils come in for a lot of unfair criticism, as happened here, and in the interests of democracy, we need to defend ourselves.

      Liz Hogger is the Lib Dem borough councillor and a parish councillor for Effingham

  2. Stuart Thompson Reply

    March 2, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    Reads like the dispute between The People’s Front of Judea and The Judean People’s Front!

  3. Simon Bisson Reply

    March 3, 2018 at 8:36 pm

    The main thing is that sanity prevailed in the end.

    The EPC-EFFRA spat was regrettable but I believe that we should now focus on holding GBC’s feet to the fire and making sure the plan is followed.

    Let us all pray too that the Berkeley Homes appeal is rejected. If it is accepted then the plan lies in tatters from day one.

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