Can we predict what is likely to happen here in Effingham during 2016?

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Will your vote count in the Neighbourhood Plan process? Can you trust election promises made during the General Election 2015 to protect the Green Belt? Is Green Belt protected by law in perpetuity?

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The answer to all three questions appears to be “no”

By Chris Dick, Editor

Whilst nothing is guaranteed in this life except death and taxes we have learnt that in April the new draft Local Plan will be ready for consultation.  Big changes are expected for Effingham and not just from the Effingham Parish Council (EPC) Neighbourhood Plan (NP), the Guildford Borough Council (GBC) Local Plan but also maybe a bit later from the Boundary Commission.

Regardless of whether you approve or disapprove of it, over the past year Effingham Parish Council has worked closely with GBC Planners over their NP for our village and come up with a number of solutions. Albeit that their NP is still in draft and has to be put to the vote we understand that:

–    Effingham Lodge Farm (West) will probably be developed. The land is owned by Berkeley Homes and can provide immediately available land for GBC. GBC are required to provide land that is ready to develop within the next five years.

–    Unless planning policy permits this development outside the Settlement Area (but perhaps still within the perceived Settlement Area) we can expect the Settlement Area to be enlarged to cover this potential development site.

Effingham History Map

Effingham Lodge Farm shown in purple at top of map

–    The remainder of Effingham Lodge Farm will hopefully be excluded from the above increase in Settlement Area and, even without an increase in the Settlement Area, protected from development. But, you may well ask, for how long… ?

–    The strategic gap between Effingham and Little Bookham will be maintained on Lower Road – houses will probably replace farm dwellings. Building homes in Effingham Lodge Farm (West) will be limited to the previously built on land in that same area. This means less houses than Berkeley Homes were planning to build but still more than many might wish to see in this area.

–    The Berkeley Homes planning application for 295 new homes and a new school may fail, at least in the first instance, as there are so far no “very special circumstances” to justify building on the Green Belt outside the Settlement Area.

–    The smaller sites such as the Church Street field and Lyons Field, Effingham Common Road will also be developed.

–    Some of the village may be taken out of the Green Belt but North of the A246 will probably remain ‘washed over’.

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–    The six new gypsy traveller pitches will go ahead.

But will your vote regarding this Neighbourhood Plan make a difference to the outcomes? Well you can work that one out for yourself. 

Other possible big changes

Harder to predict, but from what we have heard, in September this year the Boundary Commission is likely to consult residents over plans to change our electoral boundary. Currently Effingham comes under Guildford Borough Council for local borough elections, services and council tax but under Mole Valley for our MP. So whilst Guildford has Anne Milton MP we have Sir Paul Beresford MP. This is likely to be changed as it does not make a huge amount of sense. The Commission is likely to recommend that Effingham comes under Mole Valley. In other words we will sever all our connections with Guildford Borough Council. The Horsleys will probably change and go fully into Guildford. Residents will have a say in this idea.

However, will we have a seat on the Mole Valley District Council (MVDC) or will they follow the Elmbridge model and cut down the number of council seats? Effingham is a large Ward in terms of landmass but has a small population so it could just be sucked into the Bookham Wards. Would we have a dedicated district councillor on the Effingham Parish Council if say several councillors represented the area?

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And what about the former Wisley airfield known as Three Farms Meadow. Highways England have issued a list of concerns about the application to build there. Pollution levels are high and could present a serious risk to health for those with respiratory problems.

The infrastructure and local transport options cannot cope and so perhaps now is not the time to bank on this application succeeding. Of course councillors cannot predetermine how they will vote on this application, as there is some brownfield land there.  The developers face the same problems over justifying building on the Green Belt as Effingham – they must prove “very special circumstances.”

This article is pure ‘crystal ball gazing’ based on what has been talked about in recent months by those in the know. If you would like to contribute or comment please do so in the Comments section below.

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