Effingham Residents Association Chairman’s Report
Good evening and welcome to you all and thank you for coming. This will be a longer report than last year because so much has happened. Frankly we would not have had half the battles this year over development plans, saving our Green Belt and against the draft Local Plan had Guildford Borough Council, (GBC) taken the position now being put out by all major Political Parties as though they had always been our supporters.
So what happened over the last year:
– We launched our own website where we posted over 500 articles of local and wider interest and gained a readership over 1000 readers per month. Many thanks to our Surrey County Councillor, (SCC) Bill Baker who sponsored a well-timed grant to help build the site.
– We all fought the 72 Bed Care Home planning application. It was refused and went to Appeal. The appeal was dismissed.
Church St 72 Bed Care Home sketch
– The draft Local Plan was published we rapidly had to learn about things called NPPF, SHMAs and SANGs and much more. Then without warning, GBC proposed to remove Effingham from the Green Belt and double our Settlement Area as part of the draft Local Plan measures.
– We along with other village groups joined a new protest group called the Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG) in its campaign to protect our Green Belt. GGG has now become a political party which is something we cannot join as EFFRA is non political. We attended their earlier campaign meetings but not their political ones.
– Then at GBC the Head of Planning resigned. Then the Councillor in charge of the draft Local Plan was arrested and charged with seven serious fraud related criminal offences – she is not standing for reelection. Further allegations over expenses were made against another senior GBC Councillor, which are ongoing.
– The leader of GBC executive council accused us all of plotting against the first Councillor. We issued a Press Release demanding that he should resign. We wrote several times to him, our MP and to GBC. We even appeared in print in the local Press on a few occasions.
Lead Conservative Cllr Mansbridge asked to resign
– We circulated a village wide questionnaire about the GBC draft Local Plan and the Berkeley Hones plans to rebuild the Howard school funded by 295 new homes on our Green Belt. We received 350 responses the overwhelming majority of which were against both plans. This gave us a mandate to fight these issues including a road-side poster campaign. The GBC draft Local Plan stalled as a result of over 20,000 objections.
– We joined Effingham Parish Council’s two working groups. One group looked at the issues surrounding the Berkeley’s school development and the other without prejudice looked at what the village might want as compensation if the development went ahead.
– We objected to Wisley airfield development plans for 2100 new homes. We objected to development plans on the Green Belt at Send village on the Wey Navigation. In turn residents in those areas objected to the Berkeley Homes development here. Our protest group photograph featured in the Surrey Advertiser and in a local Political leaflet you may have seen. We virtually ignored domestic planning applications but raised matters of pollution and misuse of agricultural land with EPC, GBC and SCC Enforcement Officers and key councillors.
– We spoke up at our Parish Council meetings, GGG meetings, East Horsley Planning Meetings, Cobham Conservation & Heritage Trust AGM and at countless Working Groups and informal meetings, hopefully to good effect and always in the interests of the overwhelming majority of residents who responded to our questionnaire.
What will this year have in store for us?
– The Berkeley Homes Howard application decision was put back to September ’15. And the GBC draft Local Plan will be resurrected and no doubt the cause of further concern.
– Hopefully Effingham Parish Council will have submitted their emerging Neighbourhood Plan to the Borough. If accepted it may help prevent large development projects taking place where we do not want them. The Neighbourhood Plan is the best mechanism for ensuring Effingham’s views are listened to. It is vital that we all support the final plan to get it accepted by the Borough.
– We would like to become better known within the village and easier to contact. Subject to the views of our new committee we will aim to improve our current means of communicating at village events, the Internet and Newsletters. Frankly 2014 had us acting more like an Action Group than a Residents Association. Hopefully we will have the time to draw breath and take stock. This report is actually the first time in the past year I’ve stopped to consider what we have achieved together.