Effingham villagers speak out over plans to redevelop school into hundreds of homes


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Villagers have spoken out against plans to redevelop Howard of Effingham School and build hundreds of homes.

About 200 people packed King George V Hall in Effingham on Tuesday to raise concerns about the effect that plans submitted by Berkeley Homes would have on the green belt and the village’s infrastructure.

The proposal is for the school to be moved to new buildings at Lodge Farm, which would increase its capacity from 1,500 to 2,000 students.

The site would also have up to 159 homes, while the existing school and playing field would be developed for a further 136 homes.

The Effingham Residents’ Association is already campaigning against the proposals.

Tuesday’s meeting was organised by the parish council and apart from Councillor Liz Hogger, whose position on the borough planning committee means she is unable to express an opinion at this stage, councillors voted unanimously to object to the plans.

Work will begin on a submission, which will be debated by the council, to be lodged in time for the deadline on January 16.

Arnold Pindar, chairman of the parish council, said: “We don’t believe the planning application demonstrates the exceptional circumstances to remove the three sites from the green belt to build the new school and 295 new houses.

“We also believe that the additional strain on the infrastructure, especially the roads and amenities, would be disastrous for the village.”

He said that even without green belt consideration, the plans should be rejected because they would ‘wreck’ the village.

About 200 people attended the meeting and although there were a few people in favour of the plans, most had concerns.

The biggest worry for villagers was the impact any development would have on the roads, which could experience thousands more journeys each day if the school expands and the housing is built.

Chris Dick, chairman of the residents’ association, said: “The first objection is that the green belt here is doing its job and all these sites are in the green belt.

“They have to demonstrate very special circumstances – in other words, that need for a new school outweighs the need for the green belt.

“Berkeley Homes has not proven that.

“It forms a buffer between Little Bookham, the Bookhams and Effingham, and we are the first ward outside London surrounded by green belt. We are keen to protect that.”

Another concern for the residents’ association was the impact of construction vehicles in Church Street, Chapel Hill and Manor House Lane, which have only sporadic pavements.

Stephen Poole, of Water Lane, Little Bookham, objecting to the proposed development after his land, which is adjacent to the site, was flooded last winter.

“What they are planning to do is cover the soakaway in the field, which in my opinion will make it much worse,” he said.

Some parents have supported the plans which would provide improved sports facilities and classrooms.

The land in Effingham was included in Guildford’s draft local plan which was abandoned amid criticism of its approach to the green belt.

The plan will be revisited next May, after the council and general elections.