The meeting of Guildford Borough Council’s Planning Committee on Wednesday 9th March rejected the Howard/Berkeley Homes Planning Application for a new school and 295 houses
By Vivien White, Effingham Residents Press Officer
The meeting was well attended by Effingham residents but despite the Howard School having sent out an email encouraging parents to attend with their children and having mounted a major campaign to generate last minute support, there were relatively few supporters of the Application there. As a result the viewing gallery was full but not overflowing. The atmosphere was tense before the meeting, but both objectors and supporters of the Application were respectful of the occasion and the atmosphere of the meeting was calm and dignified.
Effingham was represented by two speakers from the Parish Council (Paula Moss and Keith Cornwell) and one from the Residents Association (Roland McKinney) who were each given three minutes to address the meeting followed by three supporters of the Application who consisted of a representative of Berkeley Homes, Rhona Barnfield, the Executive Head and the Chairman of the Governors of the school. Our Borough Councillor, Liz Hogger, was then given eight minutes to address the meeting and did a superb job of explaining the damage that the development would do to the Green Belt and Effingham. Effingham speakers emphasised that the village is proud of the school and would be supportive of its refurbishment/ rebuilding in an Application that was not damaging to the village or the Green Belt.
The Councillors’ debate was fairly short, but it was apparent that the Councillors clearly understood the circumstances of the Application. Whilst they had sympathy for the school seeking to replace old buildings, they were also appreciative of the rural character of Effingham and its Conservation Area and the damage this development would inflict. John Busher, the Planning Officer responsible for handling the Application, had produced an excellent, balanced report of the benefits and disadvantages of the Application and had recommended rejection by the Council. It’s rejection on a total of eleven grounds was proposed by Councillor Liz Hogger and seconded by Councillor Paul Spooner, the Council Leader. There was little reaction from the supporters of the Application or indeed for the objectors, as it was realised that there may well be an Appeal or a different Application submitted. There was however relief among Effingham residents there that the Planning Committee had resisted the pressure put on them to pass the Application and had properly decided the Application on planning grounds and a number of us, including EFFRA Committee members and parish Councillors, who have worked to fight this Application convened in the nearby pub for a quiet, celebratory drink.