Opinion: Time to Properly Thank the Residents Association for Its Neighbourhood Plan Input

Chris Dick has written an article in the Guildford Dragon about some of the history of Effingham Neighbourhood Plan, which may be read here

7 thoughts on “Opinion: Time to Properly Thank the Residents Association for Its Neighbourhood Plan Input”

  1. In the interests of accuracy and to defend the Parish Council against unfair criticism, I have added the following comment to this Dragon article:

    I was closely involved in the preparation of Effingham’s Neighbourhood Plan, as both parish councillor and borough councillor for Effingham, and I find Mr Dick’s very muddled and inaccurate account of the Neighbourhood Plan’s preparation and the part played by the committee of Effingham Residents’ Association (EFFRA) extremely disappointing. Since this misleading account will remain on the public record on the Dragon’s website, I do need to put that record straight.

    Ably led by parish councillor Paula Moss, from the very start Effingham Parish Council (EPC) worked hard to listen to everyone’s views, not just the ‘usual suspects’ of parish councillors and the residents’ association committee. The Neighbourhood Plan’s Examiner commented in his report recommending the Plan for adoption: “The extent of interest and participation by residents in the plan at the various stages is impressive”.

    EPC asked Effingham residents how many new homes were needed in the village, and where those homes should be built. That was quite a challenge in a village washed over by green belt, and inevitably provoked a backlash from those who thought not a single blade of grass should be lost.

    The option of putting 60 houses on previously developed land at Effingham Lodge Farm (ELF) was just one of several suggestions for residential site allocations in the early days of plan preparation, and in fact received lots of support (shown by the smiley green faces on the EPC poster!). After more detailed consultation, EPC went for the preferred option of several smaller sites for new homes rather than one big site.

    In the draft Neighbourhood Plan that went to the first formal consultation in 2016, the ELF site was allocated for up to 6 houses, not 60, and those 6 houses were conditional on the developer clearing the derelict glasshouses and returning the vast majority of ELF to open green belt. Far from villagers who opposed the Berkeley Homes proposals being ‘let down’, the aim of the Neighbourhood Plan was to protect this farmland. Six homes on ELF would be consistent with planning policy in the NPPF for previously developed land, and the allocation included protection of the rest of the site as agricultural green belt.

    The 2016 consultation showed that most residents agreed with EPC and strongly supported the draft Plan. Two thirds (66%) of the 739 residents who responded to the formal consultation survey supported the ELF site allocation. Pleasingly, 73% supported the overall housing target of 62 new homes for local people, and there was majority support for all four of the site allocations for new housing.

    Taking on board various comments made during the consultation, we then sent the Neighbourhood Plan for a second ‘health check’, which provided very positive and helpful advice on technical planning aspects of the Plan. Mr Dick’s remark that the health check inspectors ‘were critical of the high housing numbers and some of the sites because they were within the green belt’ is a gross distortion of what this inspector actually said in her report.

    The Neighbourhood Plan Examiner confirmed that the allocation of ‘up to six’ new houses on ELF was the right number, and helpfully suggested some extra wording to strengthen the Plan’s protection of the rest of that green belt land and to ensure the allocation was deliverable. He asked for deletion of one of the residential site allocations and a reduced numbers of houses on another, because of uncertainty about the definition of ‘limited infilling’, but firmly supported the Plan’s overall housing target, now set at around 50 new homes to help meet local housing need.

    So what part did EFFRA’s committee play in this? Whilst supporting many elements of the Plan, they very publicly opposed the housing target initially, and fought the site allocations throughout the whole process, resisting the allocation of any houses at all on ELF until near the very end. I do not agree with Ms White when she states that ‘EFFRA’s views were upheld by the Examiner’. The Examiner simply upheld the views of the majority of Effingham residents which were enshrined in the Neighbourhood Plan, including the limited residential development on ELF and on two of the other three site allocations.

    Thanks are due to many involved in preparing the Effingham Neighbourhood Plan: to the Borough Council planning officers who gave us so much helpful advice and support, to all the organisations, including EFFRA, who took the trouble to give us their views, but most of all to the residents of Effingham parish. Grateful thanks are owed to the volunteers on the advisory group, to the individuals who contributed to the detailed policies in the Plan on the environment and wildlife as well as housing, and to the hundreds of residents of Effingham who gave us their views and then turned out on a cold February day to give a massive vote of support in the referendum.

    1. Councillor Hogger, has your response been agreed by the rest of Effingham Parish Council? If not I suggest that it would have been better, less confrontational and more helpful if an agreed response had been delivered by the Chairman.

      1. Like anyone else, Simon, I am entitled to express my own opinion, and will do so if necessary to set the record straight.

  2. Also posted on the Guildford Dragon site

    The main thing is that sanity prevailed in the end. The EPC-EFFRA spat was regrettable but I believe that we should now focus on holding GBC’s feet to the fire and making sure the plan is followed. Let us all pray too that the Berkeley homes appeal is rejected. If it is accepted then the plan lies in tatters from day one.

  3. Is anyone in Effingham allowed a differing view? As a resident of Effingham and one of the 56 per cent who didn’t vote on the Effingham plan referendum( may I say for the first time in my life I did not exercise my right to vote) , I thought long and hard about the whole process and could not bring myself to support it. I lost faith when having stood side by side with councillors protesting against Berkeley homes at Effingham Lodge Farm, they then included it in the plan. That was a defining moment for me. But that was not the gist of the article that is being criticized. The article was about building up a community spirit again after a well noted and documented fractious time. I would have welcomed a less controversial response from the councils spokesperson about the actual issue raised. In fact I would have preferred a response from the chairman of the parish council, and less of what is becoming the usual knee jerk reactions to even the most minor of criticism. It is predictable and frankly becoming rather boring.
    Judging by Councillor Hoggers combative response(yet again!) I do wonder whether we can repair or gain a sense of community unity. We’ve lost the fireworks, wasted thousands of pounds attempting to evict a user group from the KGV, lost the lucrative Howard of Effingham funding – isn’t it time to get our community back together again. Thank you to the reporter for trying. I fear you may be wasting your time! Maybe the parish council should make the rebuilding of the community their new pet project now that the neighbourhood plan is done and dusted. Good luck!

  4. (Also on Dragon Site)
    I read the original article by Chris Dick and thought it reasonably balanced but in favour of building bridges within the community. What’s wrong with that? It praised the Neighbourhood Plan but gently pointed out the divisions that had occurred. I presume that both past and present chairs of EFFRA would have firsthand insight as to what went on.

    So in my opinion it is a shame that the borough councillor is still not allowing anyone to speak out, about Effingham’s neighbourhood plan, without criticising them even when they praise it. Was the process perfect? Is it gold plated or something! Only 44 % of Effingham turned out to vote.

    Also, is Cllr Hogger the parish chairman? I’m surprised if she isn’t because she comments on so many aspects of life in Effingham. And if she is not then perhaps she should be. But I wonder if other members of the parish council have a voice?

    I found Cllr Hogger’s comment regarding ‘fighting over every blade of grass’ to be insulting and mocking to everyone who had followed the call to protest against the Berkeley Home development. What does the borough councillor think of her electorate? In the run up to the 2015 borough council elections I thought she stood to protect the green belt!

    Whilst the article is about about unity Cllr Hogger is commenting on red stickers! Effingham must be a weird place to live! I can’t wait for the next episode of Stickergate!

    Where are you GGG and independent candidates? 2019 is suddenly looming large!

  5. So here is my reply to Ms Davis as on the Dragon website:

    At the risk of causing further offence to Ms Davis for commenting so much about issues in my borough ward, I would point out that I did not, and never would, mock those protesting against the Berkeley Homes proposed development in Effingham.

    Having spent much time last year, working with both fellow parish councillors and EFFRA, to prepare and give evidence against the Berkeley Homes proposal at the Planning Inquiry, I regard that fight as a major team effort opposing proposals that would devastate our village.
    We will know whether we have won that fight when we get the Secretary of State’s decision, now due by 22 March. I am optimistic that the Neighbourhood Plan policies, including the controversial site allocation at Effingham Lodge Farm, will help defeat the Berkeley Homes proposals.

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