Effingham Parish Councillor Paula Moss states her views about the Berkeley Homes HoE Planning Application in a letter to Guildford Borough Council Planners
I am contacting you to update my opposition for the HoE / Berkeley Homes planning application. I understand the school has written to every parent with a ‘bounce on’ opportunity to contact you to oppose the application. They have included within that email misleading information about the Effingham Village Plan. As a resident of Effingham I am therefore writing to appraise you of my concerns.
The Effingham Neighbourhood Plan is reviewing the potential for sustainable development within the village that meets the needs of the local community, contributes to the strategic needs of the borough, and does so in a way that respects the 2003 Local Plan, and the NPPF. We are therefore reviewing the potential for use of the PREVIOUSLY DEVELOPED LAND on Effingham Lodge Farm for a small residential development of upto 30 starter homes / affordable housing – excluding all the open Green Belt Land and upon condition that the existing temporary glass houses are cleared. This is consistent with paragraph 89 of the NPPF and RE3 (RE9 / RE10) of the existing Local Plan. The Howard are misrepresenting this to parents as support for their plan to build 156 houses on the totality of the site.
Having objectively reviewed 19 sites as part of the Neighbourhood Plan process we have REJECTED wider use of the ELF total site as inappropriate development within Green Belt as any development on the expansive area of open and undeveloped green fields and woodland will seriously impact upon the openness and permanence of Green Belt, and undermine the 5 primary purposes of the Green Belt, especially that pertaining to urban sprawl, and merging of villages / towns. It is also beyond settlement and does not represent either limited infilling or reuse of Previously Developed Land. We have also proposed Browns Field as a Local Green Space as it is currently a community recreational asset and this is in opposition to the development currently proposed within Application number 14/P/02109.
We oppose Application number 14/P/02109 and believe it will seriously undermine the attempts of local people to propose sustainable development plans as part of Neighbourhood Plan initiatives, and we earnestly believe that for GBC to allow such bullying and misleading tactics to undermine community initiatives on Neighbourhood Planning will have far reaching consequences, being likely to discourage communities from embracing positive development for fear of being undermined and misrepresented in this manner.
The proposers of this application have had a considerable period in which to make a case for exceptional circumstances and have still failed to do so. The only additional support they have offered is with regard to the new regional centre for autism, however the NAS have indicated that their support for the application is general and not specific (They would support any initiative that promotes additional resources). It is also likely that siting the centre in Effingham will be to the detriment of children in the South East of the borough which is currently under served with regional centres because if the Howard proposal is accepted 3 of the 4 regional centres will be in the North / West of the borough. This is demonstrated in the map below.
The school continues to meet demand within the catchment area as has been the case now for at least 6 years: According to SCC published data:
HoE 2015/16 admissions : HoE met 233 applications from within the catchment area (PAN240) including siblings and all children applying from a feeder school and a number who lived within catchment but not from feeder schools, regardless of preference stated. Beyond their fundamental obligations HoE offered places to a further 14 others including 11 who lived beyond catchment, and met no other criteria within the admissions policy. The furthest distance travelled to the school in deciding between non catchment / non criteria applications increased from 2.9km in 2014, to 3.6km in 2015. Hence the school is increasing its reach. (Or going further beyond catchment to fill its places)
The school is clearly fulfilling local demand within the published catchment area and within the current admissions policy. An argument for demand can not be made to support ‘Exceptional Requirements’
In addition, The Howard of Effingham is one of the least over subscribed schools (in terms of ability to accept preferences beyond catchment and beyond the published admissions criteria.) Local demand can not be used to justify exceptional circumstances.
Locally the following schools are more in demand / less able to meet 1st preference applications from beyond catchment and have a greater number of overall applicants per place:
1. St Andrews – meets 63.3% of 1st preference applications – 4.1 applicants per place
2.Cobham Free School meets 65% of 1st preference applications 3.9 applications / place
3. George Abbot 73.1% ast preferences 3.1 applications per place
4. The Priory School – 80.5% of 1st preference applications – 3.1 applications / place
5. The Ashcombe – 85.7% 1st preference applications – 2.7 applicants per place
6. The Howard – 88% of 1st preferences – 2.6 applicants / place
7. Fullbrook School 95% of 1st preferences – 2 applicants / place
SCC / GBC should be supporting such schools for expansion ahead of HoE, which more than adequately fulfils demand for within its catchment area and for those applicants meeting its published recruitment criteria.
Finally should the proposed secondary school for the Wisley application progress this will provide further choices and places in an area with already abundant choice of places and school types. This site if it progresses will be better supported with necessary public transport links and infrastructure that can support such a development – Far more so than The Howard. It is also likely to attract a large number of applicants that would normally opt for the Howard so demand is in fact likely to drop for HoE.
In summary, the application clearly does not meet the requirements for ‘exceptional circumstances’ and does not represent appropriate development within Green Belt under either the existing strategic policies of GBC (2003 Plan) or the NPPF. Neither does it represent sustainable development based on lack of supporting infrastructure and it is completely out of character with the surrounding area. If it is allowed to proceed it will cause immeasurable damage to the efforts of local communities to proactively participate in sustainable development via Neighbourhood Plans, and it will undermine the Effingham Neighbourhood Plan and I would urge GBC planning officers to recommend it is rejected.