As the Elections approach Effingham Residents Association website editor invited local candidates to say a few words about themselves and the issues. Here is the response from:
Lib Dem Borough Councillor Liz Hogger
What on earth am I doing standing for a fifth term as Effingham’s Borough councillor? This time last year, I thought very seriously about stepping down in 2015. Perhaps it was time for a new, younger face on the Focus leaflets. Perhaps my husband, children and grandchild deserved a bit more of my time. Perhaps it was time to stop crouching over my computer answering emails late into the night. Then along came the Local Plan.
The way that was handled by the Borough Council Leadership was deeply shocking for me. In the run-up to publication of the draft Local Plan, I had several reassuring conversations with senior planning officers, and I really thought they understood what would be fair and right for Effingham. The Parish Council also had a reassuring meeting with the Borough Council Leader and Lead Councillor for Planning. When the draft Local Plan was published in May last year, taking the village out of the Green Belt and extending the village boundary to allow room for well over a 30% increase in the number of households, we all felt utterly betrayed.
So I spent all summer last year working with the Parish Council and Effingham Residents Association to make sure residents knew what the draft Local Plan could mean for the village, and encouraging everyone to tell the Borough Council what they thought about these proposals. Out of that came a renewed determination that Effingham needed to get on with our own Neighbourhood Plan, as part of a broader Village Plan, and I’ve been working with other equally-determined parish councillors, alongside the Residents Association, to make that happen. Burning the midnight oil, we aim to submit that to the Borough Council in the next few weeks, so my most important task if I’m re-elected will be to push our Neighbourhood Plan under the noses of the planning policy officers and the lead councillors and make sure the next draft Local Plan takes proper account of what Effingham residents want for our village.
The biggest, most difficult, question is how many new homes do we need in the village, and where should they be built? The Neighbourhood Plan work started with a Housing Requirements Survey in late 2013, so we have hard evidence about the likely housing needs of village residents. That shows there is a requirement for around 90 new homes in the village over the next 15 years, especially two-bedroom homes for young families or for older people wanting to downsize. That’s a 9% increase in the number of households in the village, not 30% as the draft Local Plan proposed!
Hard on the heels of the draft Local Plan came the planning application from Berkeley Homes to rebuild the Howard of Effingham School on the land they own at Effingham Lodge Farm, the entire project to be paid for by building 295 extra homes in the village, all on Green Belt land. If I am to speak and vote on this application when it comes to the Borough’s Planning Committee, I’m obliged to keep an open mind until I hear all the arguments at that Planning Committee meeting. So I can’t give my opinion now, but I can say how immensely impressed I have been by the dedicated research into this proposal carried out by so many local people. There are nearly 600 representations to the Council so far, the vast majority objections.
So the Berkeley Homes application was another factor in my decision to stand again as Borough Councillor. This is the biggest planning proposal we have faced for years and could change the village dramatically. I want to use my 16 years’ experience on the Planning Committee to make sure the voice of Effingham is heard when that planning decision is made.
One of the great things about Effingham is that it is a real village – not a commuter dormitory, not a glorified housing estate, but an active caring community. As a borough councillor and also a member of the Parish Council, I’ve always felt like one of a local team, and party politics doesn’t make much difference to that local team spirit. I stand as a Liberal Democrat for the Borough Council because I value the support of the Lib Dem council group, and I can be more effective as a borough councillor by working with colleagues who share my values and principles. Lots of people on the doorsteps in Effingham tell me they’re voting for me but not my party and I really think that’s how it should be in local elections. Once the election is over, party politics genuinely makes very little difference in the village, and Lib Dem, Tory, Labour, Green – we do all work very closely together. Long may that continue.