EFFRA Vice Chairman offers her point of view

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Effingham Residents Association Vice Chairman Vivien White offers her views on the GBC Local Plan and the Parish Council’s Neighbourhood Plan

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Effingham Lodge Farm as viewed from Lower Road

EFFRA has spent the last year challenging the Parish Council about its plans to build on what we believe is protected Green Belt land with its representations being discounted and largely ignored. We were concerned that when the Parish Council put the draft Neighbourhood Plan out to the village for consultation they would be asking the village to endorse building on protected Green Belt land which we believed it would not be legal to build on under the Green Belt Regulations. If we were correct that would have made Effingham the first village to propose building on protected Green Belt surrounding it. That was not a first that we believed Effingham residents would want, particularly in the light of the results of our 2014 Questionnaire to the village which showed overwhelming support for not building on Green Belt. It has been a difficult and unpleasant year, but it is part of EFFRA’s remit to monitor the activities of the Parish Council. Indeed, EFFRA was formed over 50 years ago to fight a corrupt parish council, but normally we work well together and complement each other.

EFFRA had been concerned that the Parish Council had not learned from Bookham’s experience (who were stopped from looking at Green Belt sites by a Government Minister) and particularly about the proposals for the so called previously developed land at Effingham Lodge Farm. Brownfield on Green Belt can be legally built on, but not if the buildings were formerly agricultural, and the number of 30 units proposed by the Parish Council was way beyond the size of the possible brownfield. We felt that the Parish Council was playing straight into the hands of Berkeley Homes.

EFFRA has been in continual contact with Guildford Borough Council (GBC) over the last year and we trust that our representations have positively influenced their proposals for Effingham. GBC’s housing proposals for Effingham are sensible. They will provide 43 mainly small houses close to the village centre that the village needs, on sites that can be legally built on. Unfortunately, the village being inset in the Green Belt is the price we will have to pay. EFFRA is therefore asking the Parish Council to endorse GBC’s housing plans for Effingham.

Everyone gets things wrong sometimes, but not everyone is able to admit it. It would be helpful if the Parish Council admitted that it had got its proposals wrong this time. We all need to learn from this unfortunate episode. I hope that it can be put behind us and that EFFRA and the Parish Council can once again work together for the good of Effingham.

9 thoughts on “EFFRA Vice Chairman offers her point of view”

  1. Thank you for putting foward a detailed reply as to what has been going on this year. I have indeed read the proposed new Guildford plan and was amazed that it was better for Effingham than the proposed neighbourhood plan.

  2. It is interesting that GBC has decided in the emerging Local Plan to protect the Green Belt by proposing not to develop on any of the High Sensitivity Areas of the Green Belt, whilst the current Neighbourhood Plan has two proposed sites for development on High Sensitivity Areas of the Green Belt at Lyons Field and part of Effingham Lodge Farm.
    Good to see that Wisley Airfield planning application was rejected, and hopefully it will get removed from the emerging Local Plan.

  3. I am sorry that I feel compelled to do this and I did approach EFFRA first to ask them to review the above. They declined but did say they are happy to print my response. Here it is:
    I’m not sure what is sadder, the fact that the above article is so woefully, deceitfully misleading, or the fact that the writer might actually believe it is true.
    For the sake of S.Taylor and others who might read the above, I feel I must point out the inaccuracies in the above statement:

    It is true that EFFRA has been battling with the Neighbourhood Plan Group and EPC, but to suggest that EPC has somehow campaigned to build on the Green Belt and EFFRA has somehow ‘saved’ the village is a total fabrication of the real position. To be clear:

    1. Neither EPC nor the Neighbourhood Plan Group has EVER , and will NEVER, put forward proposals for inappropriate building on Green Belt land. We have put forward some options for residents to consider to meet the aspiration in the village for some affordable housing on small sites that EITHER offer the opportunity to recycle Previously Developed Land. (Orchard Walls, and a SMALL section of Effingham Lodge Farm, on which there is currently several PERMANENT concrete buildings un-connected to forestry or agriculture) OR represent infilling of small plots where the land is currently enclosed on 3 or more sides (Lyons Field & Church St.)

    2. In contrast EFFRA have put forward and championed a large number of sites that EPC considered inappropriate to build on within the Green Belt. These include : Leewood Park (135 homes on completely Green undeveloped land beyond settlement, and within the SPA protection zone that would require a car park at Effingham Common), Grove Fields – beyond settlement and a Green Gateway to the village – rejected by GBC) The paddock land in Orestan Lane (OPEN Green belt land within the Conservation Area, and a number of community assets including The Haig, The British Legion and the little business centre in the old Village Hall. I have the minutes of the official meeting of EFFRA (When I say EFFRA it was only attended by 3 people including the writer of the above article) demanding that EPC consider these sites ahead of the Previously Developed Land at Lodge Farm. Here is a direct quote from those minutes sent to EPC with the demand that “All actions need to proceed without delay”

    Minutes from EFFRA meeting on 20-3-15 at 5, Orchard Gardens:
    5. Sites which should be considered. Those above 1 acre in size would probably require the settlement area to be extended
    5.1 Church St. field Use 1 acre of the site as a rural exception site for single storey, 1-2 bed dwellings designed in sympathy with existing buildings in Church St., eg. Almshouses, Church Cottages, etc. AND reserve the balance (approx. 1 acre) for extension to the Parish Burial Ground.
    5.2 Lyons’ field, Effingham Common Road This site is opposite Leewood way and between St. Lawrence School and a row of 5 houses in Eff. Common Road. Development of this site would not contravene item 1 above.
    5.3 Grove old school field This site is between existing houses on Guildford Road and the Grove House site. There are existing houses opposite. Development of this site would not contravene item 1 above.
    5.4 Field on N. side of Orestan Lane to W. of and adjacent The Plough This site would be an infill between existing residential areas of Orestan Lane and Leewood Way. The field to its W. should be left as a green corridor. Development of this site would not contravene item 1 above.
    5.5 Possible windfall sites
    • Colet’s Piling premises
    • Douglas Haigh site
    These should not be excluded on grounds of being “Community Assets”
    • White’s garage, Guildford Road.

    3. And specifically on the merits of Leewood Park (LP) – the site was constantly championed by EFFRA and opposed by both EPC and GBC. Please see this quote from the EFFRA Chairman in an email requesting its inclusion as a development site:

    “I understand the request to not circulate this proposal to the world as Leewood Park (LP) could cause a lot of distress. That said I guess you will publish the Minutes at some point. I have circulated a note to EFFRA with the same request for the same reasons and said that LP appears to have merit for several reasons. Indeed the LP option was the first one that appeared to have promise in terms of deliverability, acceptability and impact. But Keith’s point about where this could lead if the NP doesn’t nail it down is important and well made.

    You no doubt can appreciate that EFFRA is interested in this LP option having suggested it whilst flying in the face of GBC initially rejecting it. We thought the site should always have been included because it has merit.”

    EFFRA have continued to oppose the inclusion of the Previously Developed Land at Lodge Farm under the mistaken belief that this would jeopardise our case with Berkeley Homes. They were wrong about that and they are wrong about the current Local Plan being better for Effingham than the Neighbourhood Plan. Please do not believe that the housing allocations explicitly mentioned within the current draft of the Local Plan represent some kind of strategic housing target or capped target for the village. They are purely guides for the number of houses that might be accommodated on sites already put forward for development within the inset area. The Draft still includes a number of concerns that EPC is reviewing. For example, it is proposed to inset the village, but there is no proposed settlement boundary, and there remains provision within the Draft for small scale developments / infill where the case can be made for local housing or affordable housing. It is true that we could ignore this and wait for something to happen that we don’t like or we could plan proactively, as we did with the policies on wildlife corridors, and Local Green Spaces within the Neighbourhood Plan, that are providing protection for open areas of the parish. Please also note that Browns Field is now explicitly included within the proposed inset area and does not now have protection under Green Belt legislation. EPC are tackling this question currently.
    To really appreciate the positive impact your Neighbourhood Plan is having you only need to look at the scramble within other villages to follow our example:
    https://www.streetlife.com/conversation/3u9ahixj68zsy/

    I am at a total loss to understand why EFFRA remain dogmatically oppose to any development on Previously Developed Land and why they continue to support use of open Green Belt land in preference to recycling out of use buildings.
    Perhaps the clue is in Vivien’s own piece:
    “Everyone gets things wrong sometimes, but not everyone is able to admit it.”

    1. Yes Paula, as Chairman of EFFRA I attended your Neighbourhood Plan Effingham Parish Council meeting with individuals representing the owners of Leewood Park. I attended as an independent third party at the request of the Parish Council. And yes I did indeed ask for the Minutes of that Meeting to be published on your Parish website. They were not published because, as I was told, the site had been discounted by the Parish Council and the Pegasus Report and if published might have caused unnecessary distress to residents. That was a Parish Council decision – not mine.

      Cllr Hogger initially asked EFFRA and ‘Handsoffthegreenbelt’ in January 2015 to work with the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group to put forward every site we could possibly imagine might be considered. It was always clear that this was a joint effort to make sure you did not later have residents saying that you had not considered their land. However, when we came to discuss this matter more formally you (as chairman) got angry with me and left the meeting half way through, leaving others to pick up the pieces. The relationship between the Parish Council and Effingham Residents Association has regrettably been problematic ever since. The main reason for this has always been that the Parish Council put forward an idea to build on part of Effingham Lodge Farm right from the start and have doggedly stuck to it regardless of anyone else’s opinion including CPRE and the Independent Neighbourhood Plan Health Check Examiner.

      Referring to Effingham Lodge Farm – contrary to what the Parish Council keep repeating it cannot be referred to as ‘previously built on land’ or as ‘brownfield’ because it comprises of former agricultural buildings and land. It is therefore specifically exempted under the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework)
      Please do read it as it seems fairly clear and probably accounts for why the Borough Council left it out of their latest plans for development and instead gave it the highest protection value for green belt land they could provide. As you know I have written to GBC to nail down this issue and await their reply.
      Extract from: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/398745/Brownfield_Consultation_Paper.pdf
      “13.‘Brownfield’ (previously developed) land is defined in Annex 2 of the National
      Planning Policy Framework as:
      Land which is or was occupied by a permanent structure, including the curtilage of the developed land (although it should not be assumed that the whole of the curtilage should be developed) and any associated fixed surface infrastructure.
      This excludes: • land that is or has been occupied by agricultural or forestry buildings;…”
      Until we hear back from Guildford Borough Council on this matter it is probably disingenuous to keep referring to any part of Effingham Lodge Farm as ‘previously developed land’. On the other hand if you consider your idea to build on part of Effingham Lodge Farm does come under the NPPF definition of ‘brownfield’ then please explain how this is so and then we can all welcome the developer.

      1. From GBC from the recent planning application: (p30 para 4)
        “…Whilst it is acknowledged that a portion of the site (sic ELF) could be classed as previously developed this is mainly limited to the commercial buildings, day nursery, and a portion of the existing hardstanding.” John Busher Senior Planning Officer at GBC
        So it is not disingenuous to refer to this within our plans, and this being the case the charges levelled against the EPC and the NP team is unfair and unwarranted. That is the point I was making.

        1. This is probably not the right forum to debate backwards and forwards the use of a particular word.

          We are waiting for John Busher’s reply that we will happily share with you. If you have any other concerns I would ask you to contact the residents association secretary.
          Editor

  4. Paulam – I believe from the comments that you are the chairman of the neighbourhood plan group. I as a resident ask you not to knee jerk reply as you did on street life. Certainly your comments and attacks on someone with a differing point of view will not change my mind on the neighbourhood plan. When the neighbourhood plan goes out to the village for comments, I think we are intelligent enough to make up our own mind. Citing the sites that Effra put forward and in the manner you did in your rant is frankly appalling. Will anyone ever come forward with ideas – who put up Effingham lodge farm in the first place (a Greenbelt highly contentious site) – I believe it was the parish council! Certainly at the first public display Effingham Lodge Farm was already on the boards for people to put yes or no stickers on. Funny that!

  5. S.Taylor – That’s quite all right and it’s not knee jerk. I am writing as a resident of Effingham. Same as you. I will let people make up their own minds. I asked Chris to reconsider the very one sided and misleading statement made by Vivien. He refused and encouraged me to reply. That is what I have done. I will not comment further.

  6. I have no wish to descend to the abusive level of remarks from PaulaM but cannot let her inaccurate rant go unchallenged.

    The sites she mentioned were proposed by EPC. EFFRA challenged (a) criteria used to select sites and (b) continually counselled that the NP should not include sites.

    EFFRA never championed Leewood Park (135 dwellings). EFFRA simply said that if EPC thought building on ELF was a good idea, it would be better to consider 9 dwellings on Leewood Farm given that it abuts the Settlement Area and the next village is some 3 miles away to the North, unlike Lt. Bookham only quarter mile to the East. I can recall specifically correcting PaulaM. on this point at a meeting.

    I regret to say that on the subject of ELF, the NP steering group have clearly been proved wrong and no amount of mud slinging and inaccurate spin will alter that fact.

    I trust that EPC will graciously accept the sites and housing numbers (43) put forward for Effingham in the GBC draft Local Plan and incorporate in the Neighbourhood Plan without further procrastination.

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