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