EFFRA writes to Sir Paul Beresford MP to express our concern at his apparent support for a new school and 310 new houses in Effingham
Dear Sir Paul 17th September 2014
We are writing to let you know the views of your Effingham constituents on the draft Guildford Local Plan and the Berkeley Homes/Howard School proposals. In July of this year the Residents’ Association sent out a questionnaire to the approximately 1,000 household in Effingham seeking their views on these issues as they propose major changes to Effingham.
We have recently released a statement to the press about the results of this questionnaire, which has been reported on in detail in the Guildford Dragon News and Surrey Advertiser. A copy of the Press Release is enclosed.
350 questionnaires were returned from the 1,000 households in Effingham. The overwhelming majority want Effingham to:
– Stay in the Green Belt (97%) and
– Do not want any extension to its Settlement Area (89%).
We believe that the arguments by GBC for proposing both are deeply flawed. The village is also overwhelmingly against the proposal to build a new larger school in the village with enabling development of 310 homes, which would constitute nearly a 33% increase of homes in a small, central area of the village adjacent to the conservation area where traffic congestion at busy periods is already severe.
We have been very pleased by your support for the Green Belt, but are both puzzled and concerned by your stated views on the Berkeley Homes/Howard School proposals that “I support the reasoning as regards the Howard of Effingham proposals,” (your letter of 3rd July 2014 to C. Cllr. Mrs. Linda Kemeny). We and the village residents believe that there are no convincing arguments in favour of this proposal and that it would be totally against the Green Belt policy in the NPP Framework. We are concerned that GBC in the draft Plan is proposing to take Effingham Lodge Farm (where it is proposed to resite the school and build many of the enabling housing) out of the Green Belt and include it in the village Settlement Area. We understand that this was done by the Executive without reference to the fullCouncil. We consider that this prejudges a planning application that has not yet been submitted and we will be very strongly challenging the legality of this proposal.
Currently, as the proposed new school and housing would be built on Green Belt land the planning application would have to prove sufficient special educational circumstances. We do not believe that these exist. The Joint Venture is basing its case on claims by the school management that a larger school is required at Effingham, the existing buildings are unsuitable and that the school’s playing fields are too small for its size. We consider that the case fails on all three.
There is no established need for a larger school and a larger school is not desirable.
Surrey Education Department has said that increased places are not needed at the Howard School. Only about 60 Effingham children go on to the Howard each year and the majority of pupils are bussed in or brought by car from the surrounding area. The school currently has about 1,600 pupils and its results are classified as “average.” Schools of over 1,000 pupils are known to have lower results and an increase in size would further lower standards.
The Existing Site and Buildings are suitable.
Surrey County Council figures show that only about £500,000 is needed to bring the buildings up to a required standard. Some of the buildings are quite old, but some have only recently been re-built. There is no reason why the school cannot continue to run a rolling programme of replacement of its buildings as many other schools have done. This may be disruptive to the school in the short term, but when this is weighed against the effects on the village and the Green Belt of the alternative, it is surely the best solution.
The playing fields used by the school are 40% larger than regulations require.
The school uses the KGV playing field adjacent to its site, an arrangement which has suited both the school and village for many years. Figures show that very few academies own their own playing fields and that the Howard has access to 40% more field space than is required. Two sets of playing fields in a small village would make no sense at all, especially with the eco damage this would cause and the loss of Green Belt good agricultural land.
We would be grateful if you would clarify why you are in favour of these proposals as we think that the arguments you used in your letter of 3rd July 2104 against the Clandon site – “that a development of this size will be totally out of keeping with the rural nature of the village, that local roads are not sufficient to meet the increased traffic flow which would result…” equally apply to Effingham. If you would like to come and talk to us and residents about this matter, we would be happy for you to do so.
We look forward to your response.
pp David J. King (Hon. Sec.)