THE leader of Guildford Borough Council has been accused of breaking promises made to Effingham parish councillors about the village’s future within the green belt.
The Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser report that Effingham Parish Council has condemned Stephen Mansbridge for allegedly going back on his word following a meeting in March about the village’s involvement in Guildford’s Local Plan.
Parish councillors claim Mr Mansbridge assured them that several pieces of land would not be removed from the green belt when the draft of the plan was first published in May.
In a statement, Effingham Parish Council said: “There appeared to be a constructive discussion on the plans which proposed small and logical additions to the Effingham settlement area.
“[Members] were, therefore, astounded and extremely disappointed when the draft Local Plan was first circulated to Guildford Borough Councillors on May 7.
“The plans for Effingham bore no resemblance to those proposed just weeks previously and large areas that had been excluded from the plans proposed were included in the inset area.”
One piece of land added to the plan against the parish council’s wishes was Effingham Lodge Farm, where the Howard of Effingham School hopes to relocate.
The move could see the student population rise from 1,600 to 2,000 and would be paid for by the creation of 310 homes in Effingham.
Following the meeting in March, Effingham Parish Council chairman Arnold Pindar said he had requested the agreed plans be sent to him, but Guildford officers refused.
He said: “Never before have I been treated so shabbily. The core planning principles set out in the National Planning Policy Framework include the fundamental principle that planning should be genuinely plan-led, empowering local people to shape their surroundings.
“Personally, following this experience, I have no confidence in the word of Mr Mansbridge and, from anecdotal evidence from across the borough, I cannot see how any borough or parish councillor or resident could trust his word in the future“
Mr Pindar said the parish council would now call on Guildford to “reinstate and honour” the plans proposed in March.
As it stands, Effingham, Shere, East Horsley and West Horsley could all lose their green-belt protection under Guildford’s first draft of its Local Plan. The policy will set out how the borough should be shaped for the next 20 years, covering issues such as jobs and the green belt.
Mr Mansbridge was asked for a comment but had not responded at the time of going to press.
An ongoing public consultation on the first draft is set to finish on Monday. To find out more, visit www.guildfordlocalplan.info
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