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Mixed Views As Berkeley Homes And The Howard Win Planning Appeal For New School And 295 Homes in Effingham

By Chris Dick

Three sites for 295 homes and new 2,000-pupil school at Effingham have been granted planning permission two years after the scheme had been rejected by Guildford Borough Council.

Effingham Lodge Farm where new school and homes will be built.

The development will in effect result in a 30% increase in the number of houses in the village, most of which will be outside the “settlement area” and within the green belt.

Opposition from village groups and residents has been vociferous, although supporters of the new school had been equally vocal.

Guildford Borough Councillor for Effingham Ward, Liz Hogger said: “This is a shocking decision. It rides roughshod over the wishes of Effingham residents, who just four weeks ago gave a 93.5% vote in favour of our Neighbourhood Plan to provide around 50 homes to meet local need and protect our environment and green belt.

Cllr Liz Hogger.

“Now we have 295 houses imposed on us as well as a new enlarged school, and our green belt will be devastated. Of course we would all like to see improved facilities at the Howard School, but not at that price.

“This decision shows up the Government’s pronouncements about protecting the green belt as a total sham. Rather than providing proper public funding for rebuilding schools, they are prepared to sacrifice the green belt and ignore local democracy. If this is the new business model for funding state schools, then the future of our green belt and countryside looks bleak.”

Commenting on the decision by the Secretary of State to approve the planning application Helen Pennington, headteacher at The Howard said: “We are very pleased that our plans have been approved. It has been a long journey and there is still much to be done, but we can now move forward to rebuild the school to be fit for the 21st century.

“We would like to thank everyone who has supported the scheme throughout the lengthy planning and appeal process. We are looking forward to working with the whole community in the development of these plans.

“The Howard educates up to 1,600 students and is a high-performing, very successful school. Our results are achieved in spite of the limitations of our current accommodation. Year on year this has proved increasingly difficult.

“Our current success is a credit to the excellent teaching and leadership throughout the school, in conjunction with the efforts of all staff and students. Our focus in this project has always been the well-being and education of local children in an appropriate and fit-for-purpose environment. We are excited about taking the next steps in achieving our goal.”

The £35 million plan will involve rebuilding the school on Effingham Lodge Farm, enabled by the development of 295 houses built across three sites.

In a statement from Effingham Parish Council, its chairman Arnold Pindar, said: “Effingham Parish Councillors are devastated by the decision.”

He echoed comments above made by Cllr Liz Hogger regarding the overwhelming support of residents to Effingham’s Neighbour Plan, adding: “The replacement school and up to 258 new dwellings will be built on green belt land, destroying a wildlife corridor and resulting in urban sprawl by joining the villages of Effingham and Little Bookham. No longer shall we claim to be the first village with a clear separation of green fields between Effingham and surrounding villages as you travel out from London.

“A further 37 houses are to be built on land that the Neighbourhood Plan designates as local green space.

“This decision brings into question the fundamental basis for the Localism Act – putting local decisions in local hands! Do Neighbourhood Plans actually carry any weight in upholding the wishes of local residents?”

He also added that Effingham Parish Council will take advice from its own barrister and consult with Guildford Borough Council. If there is sufficient legal basis for challenging this decision, the parish council shall pursue it “if we possibly can”.

In reaching his decision the Secretary of State had agreed with the planning inspector that the existing school premises were not fit for the purpose of meeting modern educational and social need and that the replacement of the school in order to facilitate this carried very substantial weight in planning terms.

“He also agreed that there were very significant issues with the fabric of the school and the ongoing funding of its repair and maintenance in the current budgetary context. He further agreed that in seeking to address conditions as well as suitability and sufficiency, the least expensive option was the rebuilding of the school on the only other available identified site.

In the same vein, the Secretary of State agreed with the planning inspector inspector that there is a demonstrated demographic need for additional places within the joint planning areas of the school.

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15 Responses to Mixed Views As Berkeley Homes And The Howard Win Planning Appeal For New School And 295 Homes in Effingham

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    March 22, 2018 at 8:53 am

    It seems that the planning inspectors are living on a different planet than the community.

    Localism was promoted as the main stay of future planning, so what price neighbourhood planning?

    We hear a minister pronouncing 15 minutes for a 30-minute fire door is acceptable, an over seeing body (Ofwat) claim 40 years between inspections of our sewers is acceptable, a planning inspector stating as no children have been hurt ‘yet’ we don’t need to consider their safety.

    Now without exceptional circumstances and without a change in the Local Plan, green belt can be used to make a profit.

    What next a dictatorship run by central government? Oops sorry we’re not in Russia yet.

  2. Tony Edwards Reply

    March 22, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    Tory assurances that the green belt is safe with them are shown to be a complete sham.

    And what’s the point of the much-vaunted localism policy if the local council’s rejection is reversed by the inspector on appeal?

  3. Jules Cranwell Reply

    March 22, 2018 at 5:40 pm

    If only Cllr Hogger had felt so strongly about GBC’s Local Plan, with its disastrous impact on the greenbelt, rather than supporting it. Is this not the ultimate Nimbyism?

    And yes, this will be an equal disaster for Effingham. The road past the Howard is already impassible at school in and out times. How on Earth will this work with the massive increase in traffic along a country lane?

    So much for the mythical localism!

  4. Stuart Barnes Reply

    March 23, 2018 at 9:04 am

    Another disgraceful overturning of democracy. There is no doubt that we are living in a disguised dictatorship. That is one reason why people voted for Brexit.

    The sinister slipping in of 295 houses gives the real reason why this outrage is happening. How can this little country continue to have hundreds of thousands of legal immigrants, and who knows how many illegal ones, each year, and not cover what is left of our green spaces in concrete?

  5. J S Palmer Reply

    March 23, 2018 at 11:43 am

    If Helen Pennington really wants to work with the community perhaps she could organise a public meeting so we can all hear the bright future she has mapped out for the village? Or maybe it’s just more empty rhetoric from the Howard Partnership?

    Let’s be clear what this means. This isn’t just building 300 homes in a spare farmer’s field. This will involve physical changes to the infrastructure of the village well removed from the immediate area of construction. Roads, paths, crossings will all be altered. There will inevitably be consequences for rail users, local surgeries, and other public services. None of this will bother Helen Pennington because the Howard Partnership’s focus has always been a New School, and everything else is someone else’s problem.

    But more than that, this is a Stalinist imposition from central government. There is no official document from an expert source or body which has ever stated unequivocally that the school needed urgent attention, amounting to either a complete rebuild on the existing or a new site. There is no official report which states that an enlarged school at this site fits into the overall plan for education in the immediate or wider area.

    What this amounts to is a business over-riding those public bodies whose responsibility is education in Surrey, demanding that only their belief that they need an entirely new school, with no cost too great, is valid. This is endorsed by a planning inspector who, as far as I know, has no remit in this area of education policy either. He has accepted a set of bogus and mendacious arguments as support for the contention that new housing, even on the green belt, overrides every other consideration.

    This is the state condoning and supporting evidence-free beliefs. This has the effect of destroying local democratic decision-making and any faith we might have that there is a system which will support local democracy. Ask yourself this: when the next proposal for hundreds of new homes arrives at Effingham Parish Council, why should anyone there feel they want to commit to years of research and bitter arguments over it when due process will prove to be meaningless and the inevitable appeal is so stacked against them? Why should GBC planning department spend time and money considering and debating it, when a Government planning inspector will ignore their expert findings?

    That’s why this matters, why this has got so far out of control where education and planning policy is being formulated by corporate entities.

    I’m surprised that there’s apparently been no official response from GBC as there was to the outcry over the Solum farce. From the perspective of Effingham, it would be supportive to know someone in GBC gives a damn about us.

  6. Helena Townsend Reply

    March 23, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    Any neighbourhood plan that featured just 50 homes was flawed in the first place. Every single area of the borough should help with our housing need and I am glad the Planned NT Inspectorate has made a sensible decision here.

    The school will be like Aldi and Waitrose in Guildford – filled to the brim with all of the people that objected to them.

    • Jim Allen Reply

      March 24, 2018 at 3:26 pm

      I objected to Aldi – and have never set foot in their store and never will. Objections to Aldi – fitting a quart into a pint pot with no consideration to safety – is somewhat different to building on the green Belt – where space and safety are not the primary considerations.

  7. JSPalmer Reply

    March 24, 2018 at 1:02 am

    Going by my school days, the HoE will be filled to the brim with children, not objectors.

    The point is that the Neighbourhood Plan is a policy which the electorate voted for when it returned the Tories to power at national, county and borough level. This is a plan which requires an immense amount of effort to work through, engage the local population, and then enact. Whatever your politics, its stated aim was to empower the local population in having a say in the future of their locale. And you have the gall to say that what the people of Effingham voted for was flawed. If you want to be a demagogue and impose what Helena Townsend thinks is right for people, maybe you should seek a job with Donald Trump. There’s an open position almost every day.

  8. John Perkins Reply

    March 24, 2018 at 8:08 am

    In a functioning democracy, apparatchiks should not have the power to impose their will on others, even if their decisions appear sensible to some. Nor should they be allowed to claim there is a housing need just because their computer says so, especially when they won’t allow anyone else to see the screen.

    People should not be criticised for using things on the basis that they opposed them. I don’t want the BBC (at least, not in its present state), but I use it because I’m forced to pay for it regardless.

  9. Valerie Thompson Reply

    March 24, 2018 at 10:34 am

    It is not the duty of those producing Neighbourhood Plans to propose any particular sites or suggest numbers of houses. Effingham was divided on whether to do this at all and came down on the side of offering certain areas as suitable for development. It seems this was not a good idea as those sites will be built on as well as the 295 houses that Berkley Homes will impose, in exchange for the new school.

  10. Diane Poole Reply

    March 24, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    As a member of the team that produced the Bookham NDP, I am saddened that they seemingly have no defence against Big Builders whose £s speak loudly.

    If the school is not fit for purpose, the government should do something about it, rather than sanction such an increase in the size of Effingham which will have negative effects on infrastructure over a much wider area.

  11. David King Reply

    March 24, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    What happened to government of the people, for the people, by the people?

    This decision is not democracy; its malevolent despotism.

    Umpteen Tory politicians, including the PM, have declared that the green belt is sacrosanct. (I have the newspaper cuttings).

    The clear policies in the NPPF have simply been ignored and overridden. It’s nothing short of a scandal.

    This needs to get into the national press. Who is going to write to The Telegraph?

    • A Wright Reply

      March 25, 2018 at 9:03 am

      This is a sad week for Effingham and Bookham. The villages will never be the same the traffic in this area is already busy it will get a lot worse on badly kept roads and as for getting to the doctors with hundreds more people around here. Bookham has got a lot bigger over the years with the infilling. Enough is enough. This overruling just gives a green light to build on more green belt.

      Will it be Wisley next? So sad that local people are not listened to.

  12. J Dickinson Reply

    March 25, 2018 at 11:43 am

    This is a failure of local politicians, particularly the parish and borough councillors, to do as they are required to do, which is to work with schools and other public service providers that are part of our communities (not competitors to their own facities), to ensure that the essential services that our communities need can be delivered cost-effectively.

    In my submission to the original planning application, I argued for the rugby club and school to be moved to Lodge Farm, perhaps in conjunction with The British Legion, all of which could have co-existed there with very little impact on the green belt.

    With local political will behind that scheme, additional grants and funding could have been secured, the sports facilities that the school and sports clubs need would be provided and maintained without all the obvious defects the exist at KGV. The land released at Browns Field and the school site could then be used to provide a smaller number of houses of the at the centre of the village that are of a size and design determined as being needed locally, particularly for down-sizers and next to the facilities that elderly people need to remain active in their community for as long as possible. This would have allowed the derelict greenhouses and old school buildings to be replaced by well designed buildings that are fit for purpose.

    KGV could then become something that village actually needs in its centre. Why on earth does a village the size of Effingham need a disproportionately large, expensive and under-occupied village hall complex on KGV when it has scouting complex with a large hall on site, it also funds the Parish Rooms, and there are two schools with halls in the centre plus at least two church halls?

    Perhaps a medical and dentist surgery with an on-site pharmacy, surrounded by parkland and play facilities that encourage people to focus on all aspects of their health would be a better use?

    The real tragedy of this whole saga is this missed opportunity, all because more time, focus and effort has been spent pursuing personal vendettas rather than stepping back to work out how best to serve the needs of all of its residents.

    As a result of my submission, I was asked to give evidence to the inquiry, the transcript of which is as follows:

    “I submitted evidence to Guildford Borough Council in support of the school’s relocation. I grew up in Effingham and went to the Howard, but when my husband and tried to buy our first own home, we couldn’t afford Effingham’s house prices. We returned to the area in 1995 with our baby, buying our current house which is less than a mile from The Howard. Both our children have been pupils and our youngest leaves its sixth form this month.

    Since becoming a comprehensive in the 70s, the Howard’s had exactly the same capacity – 8-form entry with a large 6th form. Large year groups such as my own in the 80s have “bulged” to 9-form-entry. But many years of infill housing means that these days, the Howard’s catchment area is much smaller, yet its perverse admissions’ tie-break allocates places to areas 3 – 4 miles away in preference to those on its doorstep. In large years such as 2007 and 2008, the school was forced to turn away children living less than a mile away and children from Bookham had been allocated to schools in Banstead and Chessington, not Leatherhead.

    I have served as a governor in local schools since 2001, including four years at The Howard until 2014. I’ve been involved with “Safe Routes to School” since 2005 and a qualified cycle instructor too, so I was pleased to volunteer in that capacity. I also monitored PE.

    I speak to you today as someone who knows the constraints posed by Howard’s existing site very well.

    I’m shocked that prefabs are still in operation long after their designed-lifetime; they were “tired” when I was taught in them! The basement boiler room by the old gym still floods, which closes the school if it happens during a cold spell. Disabled children and adults still have to take long detours just to get into some parts of the buildings, others are completely inaccessible and there’s no space for lifts.

    Safeguarding incidents arising from footpath 75 that crosses the school grounds close to the main buildings have been raised with Parish Councillors. These date at least as far back as the 2005 incident that gained a national profile. Despite lengthy, well-intentioned discussions, Parish Council minutes demonstrate the councillors’ repeated failure to broker an alternative route. They couldn’t even reinstate the shared footpath on the school’s boundary with Effingham Lodge that had served as the school’s main pedestrian entrance for decades!

    When the Effingham Place housing estate was built around the Grade II listed building, there was a sudden increase in congestion. For decades there had been informal parking on the very wide verges opposite the Howard but developer funding that was supposed to make these parking spaces safer was instead used to force those cars (against school advice) onto the road, to act as “traffic-calming” chicanes. All but the most confident cyclists have been scared off the road, and no one would describe it as “calm”.

    Nevertheless, the school’s travel data shows that ~870 children (56%) still walk or cycle, and a further 380 (25%) are known to arrive by bus. Given the numbers known to car-share with siblings or other families, this implies that there are fewer than 150 cars for a school of 1,544 pupils. In stark contrast, most of the girls at Manor House and St Teresa’s schools are driven to school, as are the toddlers at multiple private nurseries.

    The Howard’s relocation will not only benefit its own pupils’ journeys through dedicated drop-off zones and large off-road car parks, but freeing up the old school’s site will allow Manor House girls to have off-road pedestrian and cycling access to the Lower Road so these children will be able to travel sustainably as well. Drastically cutting congestion in this way will give most pupils the confidence to cycle on local roads once more.

    The photos supplied in my evidence document the impact that the area’s springs have of pupil journeys, particularly the groundwater flooding “desire-line” from the springs that rise in KGV’s woodland to the Water Lane/Manor House Lane junction with the Lower Road.

    Local residents are justly impressed to see hundreds of Howard’s pupils stoically wading through mud and flood water on their way to school, even though the school’s woeful shortage of the space means lockers that are too small to store wellingtons and coats alongside PE kits and books. Relocation would free up the “Mole Valley” part of the school’s old site to create a balancing pond to dry-up this persistent wetspot, benefitting the long-suffering residents downstream in the aptly named “Water Lane” and by the Vineries Garden Centre as well as Howard and Manor House pupils.

    I took the photos and videos of the springs during 2014 on this tablet. Flooding first impacted the footpaths on 18th January, by 22nd January flooding had started to impact the roads and on 5th February, they had broken up the surface of Manor House Lane and the Police were drafted in to stop the traffic so children could wade through the shallowest parts of the road. “Grips” were cut through the verges on the 6th February, but the streams flowed steadily for several more weeks. I note from the application’s Flood Risk Assessment (Annex 14.1), that groundwater affected all 11 of the boreholes on the school site, there was flooding from basement (ie by the main boiler house for school) and that two boreholes didn’t get a dry reading until June.

    The springs rise every 2-3 years both in the summer and the winter, affecting this playing field and very often rendering KGV’s “training pitches” unplayable. If springs rise during the summer exams when the school’s inadequately sized gym and halls are commandeered, all PE lessons have to be held outside whatever the weather, or cancelled.

    As a reluctant sportswomen at school, I didn’t mind that but the rest of my family love their sports. My husband and son have played for Effingham, my husband coached the juniors throughout my son’s schooling and is still a London Society referee.

    As wife and mum to rugby players, I know that Effingham Rugby Club regularly experienced similar issues to the school. Both paying a great deal towards the upkeep of the sports facilities but as mere licensees, managers felt powerless to address the deficiencies themselves. Misbehaviour by a small core of residents lets everyone down. Dogs invade pitches that are in use and on the schools playing fields. Their owners blatantly ignore mess that their dogs have deposited on pitches even though they see them used daily by children playing contact sports. This is the reason that Brown’s field is so valued by the Rugby Club. School pitches are securely fenced and dogs are prohibited. I am very reassured to learn that it is the Howard will continue to protect Effingham’s most vulnerable rugby players on its clean pitches, offer them age-appropriate changing rooms, toilets and clubrooms on a single site together with properly designed, on-site parking facilities.

    I cannot fault the Howard’s commitment to its pupils. Our daughter has gained fantastic exam results as well as achieving her sporting ambitions. She is the GB U19 Ladies Captain in her chosen sport, and will compete in Australia next month. As part of the GB squad since she was 15, she is required to attend weekend training camps in Leeds most months including throughout her exams. Her teachers have rearranged her lessons so that she hasn’t missed work, helped her to plan her revision timetable around these commitments.

    The Howard is an outstanding school but, despite the best efforts of its staff, who do their utmost for every child in their care, the school’s facilities are in “special measures”.

    Mr Morgan, The Howard has played a pivotal role in our community for generations.

    I hope you can agree to its relocation which will:
    1) Transform poor provision on the existing school site by:
    • replacing all school facilities
    • removing constraints imposed by the small site
    • improving site security
    • removing the reliance on deficient sports facilities
    • addressing overcrowded buildings
    • addressing SEND / Accessibility issues faced by pupils & staff
    • making a step-change in carbon efficiency, lowering the school’s environmental impact
    2) remove congestion from around the school
    3) address School Capacity issues within it existing catchment.

    Thank you for giving me the chance to present my views.”

  13. Kay Boorman Reply

    April 6, 2018 at 10:16 pm

    Is this your standard response on every post about objections to the Howard application?

    No-one is denying the Howard needs money spent on it, but it should not be at the expense of the local area, residents and countryside.

    If the original plan was much more sympathetic to the area and included a new doctors’ surgery why was this not appealed on instead of the much bigger more devastating one?

    There are more children that do not use/benefit from the school sports facilities/rugby club than those that do and not many children receive the support and time that your daughter clearly did.

    Far more children and residents use the local open spaces to play and walk.

    As well as these houses there has recently been an application for 25 dwellings on the Preston Farm stables which has been approved, so the catchment area for Howard is surely going to reduce, causing more children not able to get places in their local school.

    I can only think of one year when the year size increased to nine classes instead of eight, or were there more?

    Surely you must see the residents’ concerns about the amount of traffic, lack of doctors and primary school places that this amount of housing is going to cause, let alone the precedent it is setting.

    Or is getting a new school the only thing that matters? This is giving the go ahead for government to sell off land to developers to pay for local issues that our taxes should be paying for.

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