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Effingham Eye: Aftermath Of Homes And School Planning Decision

Chris Dick‘s roundup of Effingham News, featuring…

The aftermath of the Secretary of State’s Berkeley Homes decision

Summer Fete and Dambusters Talk

Toddlers’ playground appeal donations

No fireworks but some good bonfires on the KGV

 

Berkeley Homes and the Howard of Effingham gain planning approval from Secretary of State

Parish Council meeting in King George V (KGV) Village Hall on March 27, 2018.

A disappointed parish council met on Tuesday March 27, 2018. News of the Secretary of State Sajid Javid’s decision in favour of the Berkeley Homes/ Howard of Effingham School appeal had not been well received.

Looking back, from the point of view of those against the plans, is it possible to pinpoint what had gone wrong? One commentator in The Guildford Dragon NEWS: Mixed Views As Berkeley Homes And The Howard Win Planning Appeal For New School And 295 Homes in Effingham (J Dickinson) incorrectly concluded that Effingham Parish Council (EPC) had not engaged with the school and developers during the run-up to the application.

However, records available on the EPC website show otherwise. In the run-up to the application’s submission EPC met representatives from the developers, school, Surrey County Council’s highways department, Guildford Borough Council’s planning department and Effingham Residents’ Association (EFFA) several times.

Indeed, if EPC had not engaged with the various parties it is unlikely that the Section 106 developer’s contribution would have been successfully negotiated to such a level. As it stands the village will be compensated to the tune of £2.64 million to be spent on community projects – likely to be the rebuilding of the somewhat dilapidated dysfunctional make-do-and-mend 1960s village hall.

King George V Village Hall could be rebuilt with developer’s contribution.

Effingham Parish Councillor James Nicholls also commented in a letter to The Guildford Dragon NEWS Effingham Parish Council ‘Dropped the Ball’ in Its Handling of the Neighbourhood Plan. He suggested that EPC’s Neighbourhood Plan (NP) should not have named sites such as Effingham Lodge Farm, where the new school and one of three new housing developments will now go. EPC should not have included housing numbers or have been submitted the NP for approval before Guildford Borough Council’s Local Plan had been approved. 

Against advice from EFFRA and CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) that recommended leaving Effingham Lodge Farm out of its NP, EPC maintained its opinion that the Secretary of State would give its approved NP significant weight in planning terms. Unfortunately, neither the appeal inspector David Morgan nor the Secretary of State did. The appeal Inspector balanced the NP against the needs for a new school and new homes in favour of the latter. And the Secretary of State agreed.

In his report to the Secretary of State, the inspector had considered that there had been “very special circumstances” that justified a new school on the green belt. Indeed, for those in favour of the plans, the new Howard school will bring significant benefits to the education of our children and children’s children. New families moving into the village will provide jobs and boost local economy. And, taking into account the new autism centre, the Howard should be congratulated for fighting for what it considered was right.

Effingham Lodge Farm now due for development.

Perhaps what had gone wrong was that once Guildford Borough Council had identified Effingham Lodge Farm in its 2014 draft Local Plan as a potential development site the die was cast. A view borne out by the inspector’s report (paragraph 364) which said: “Moreover, the greater site (Effingham Lodge Farm) does lie within the perceived boundary of the village. Whilst currently within the Green Belt boundary, the consensus view of both Borough and Parish Councils in both future PSLP (Local Plan) and SENP (Neighbourhood Plan) (is) that the greater site should be removed from the Green Belt.”

Will the future of the KGV be about what the growing community needs or what the current users want? 

Residents now know that this year they will have to collectively pay 33% of the running costs for the King George V Hall and Playing Fields (KGV) in their local tax. This is about £31,000 for FY 2018-19 with perhaps more for individual KGV projects funded by the parish’s community fund.

In its recent circular EPC said: “The Parish Council contributes to the cost of administering and maintaining free-to-use facilities at the KGV, managed by Effingham Village Recreation Trust (EVRT).”

Nobody should underestimate, least of all the new trustees, what this means when we look at the state of the building and the ongoing difficult tasks ahead.

Photograph showing fairly typical state of KGV building.

When considering a rebuild it should be noted that, at two separate meetings in 2017, both EPC and EVRT displayed plans on how they proposed to spend the – then only dreamed of – £2.64 million. These plans offered little to meet the needs of a growing number of residents. The plans centred on just rebuilding the sporting half of the facilities. Not the village hall or the ground-floor clubroom.

That said, in order to meet planning deadlines for the Section 106 developer contribution, EVRT had to rush the plans and therefore they were completed without seeking the considered views of users and residents alike. Perhaps this haste also resulted in the parish council taking the decision to deter The Guildford Dragon NEWS from publishing those plans, citing copyright permission had not been granted.

EVRT 2017 annual meeting with plans for new sporting facilities.

More recently EPC has said that with EVRT it will present costed options and ask residents for their opinions. But some residents have concerns about how open this process will be given the ease at which EPC agreed to fund this financial year’s KGV shortfall of £16,000.

What do residents actually need and what are they prepared to pay for? Perhaps the rugby club should now have its own separate club building? Indeed, should it be granted a 25-year agreement in order to secure the necessary funding from the Rugby Football Union? Should the village hall rebuild provide a drop-in café, a health wellbeing centre, chemist and doctor’s surgery?

As EFFRA has just posted on its website: “The feasibility proposal for upgrading the KGV Hall is only a partial upgrade of the hall on the sports side. The proposal was presented at the Effingham Village Recreational Trust (EVRT) AGM, but has not been consulted on widely. Given that Section 106 money is meant to benefit the community, hopefully users of the KGV facilities and Effingham residents will be able to have some say in how the money is spent on upgrading the KGV Hall.”

Needs, costs and financial sustainability are key to these and other questions. As it stands some residents believe that they are currently simply being asked to, in effect, subsidise non-resident users like some members of the rugby club who live outside the village. I wish the new committee of management trustees well as it is a thankless task at times and needs first-class communication skills and the support of residents and all users alike to succeed.

Summer Fete

The St Lawrence Church Fete will start at 11am Saturday June 2, 2018 and end at 3pm. More details will follow, but now is the time to note a talk about Barnes Wallis and the Dambusters Raid, by the 617 Squadron historian. It will take place in St Lawrence Church at 7.30 pm the evening before the fête, Friday, June 1. It will last an hour and be followed by questions from the audience. The event is free on a first come first served basis. There will be refreshments afterwards. All donations will go towards the St Lawrence lighting appeal.

Talk on the Dambusters Raid 75th anniversary.

Toddlers play area in King George V recreation grounds

Since writing about this appeal last month it is good to report a positive result. The recent Welly Walk raised more than £600 and with two donations, one from a local resident of £5,000 and another £1,000 from the A.J.Brown & Sons Ltd. The total raised has more than doubled to about £12,000. The target figure of £18,000 now looks achievable.

No fireworks but a good bonfire on the KGV

EFFRA chairman Vivien White with her husband Graham.

Large bonfires marked the final clean up after the Gypsy Traveller incursion on to the KGV last summer. In a joint venture organised by EFFRA, members of the trustees group, parish council, residents’ association and myself worked together to burn off the piles of garden refuse.

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