Roland McKinney is a consultant and non-voting member of Effingham Residents Association, a founder member of Hands Off The Green Belt and Guildford GreenBelt Group. Following an article on this website by the Vice Chairman of EFFRA Vivien White and the comments that followed Roland offers his view.
As a member of the EFFRA committee, I feel the need to add my two pence worth, but this is at a personal level, not as any sort of official spokesperson. EFFRA has never suggested that Leewood Park should be recommended as a development site for 135 houses. What happened was that EFFRA suggested all potential development sites should be listed and then all sites evaluated against qualifying criteria. Given that EFFRA have disagreed with the Parish Council because the target of 62 houses for Effingham village was not fully justified it would be astonishing if EFFRA were endorsing 135 houses on one site. This did not happen, a site being added to a list is very different from a site being recommended for development.
This then brings me to the subject of Effingham Lodge Farm. Why should it, or part of it, not be recommended as a development site? Many reasons. A few examples.
Firstly, it may play into the hands of Berkeley Homes. Just because planning permission for the school and 295 houses was turned down by GBC does not mean that victory can be declared. A battle may have been won, but the war may yet continue. Berkeley Homes have very deep pockets and as yet there is no indication of their next move. Bear in mind that this is the company that the Telegraph newspaper reported as having set up the most generous incentive programme ever put in place by a British company. If they meet certain targets, about £1 billion will be distributed amongst senior managers, all of which would come from house buyers. Could this be a clue as to why housing is so costly? But ask yourselves – is this a company likely to forgo a massive profit opportunity?
Secondly, it requires an enormous stretch of imagination to accept the area described by EPC as previously developed land as just that. It is an area that is mostly under grass, not concrete, and there is considerable controversy over which buildings have permanent planning status and which do not. So why take a chance? Why provide lawyers a lever to fight with? GBC have said ELF is highly valuable green belt land – accept the gift from GBC, welcome it with open arms and say thank you, game over.
Then next, there is the question over whether or not a development of 30 houses on this area would affect the openness of the green belt. As my granny used to say, a blind man on a galloping horse could see that it would. The mass and bulk of 30 houses would be very different from the buildings that are on the site today. Openness would be severely affected.
Now consider traffic. Adding probably 50 cars to the morning and afternoon rush periods on Lower Road may not sound a lot, but this traffic will be attempting to turn left or right, and whilst doing so trying to avoid school traffic. A recipe for additional mayhem. And then consider the gift of the additional parking places for Howard pupils – a new housing estate to park in. What fun for residents!
This proposal for 30 houses would replace two houses built specifically for farm workers and Century Court, which is a single storey building, with at least one on-going business occupying Century Court, a nursery. If this development were to proceed they would lose their premises. This is entirely unnecessary.
Finally, there is the long term impact of such a development. It would remove most of the working agricultural buildings from ELF, plus farm workers houses, plus the pump house that could provide water. Basically, this would eliminate the potential of ELF to function as a farm. Access would be either eliminated or made much more difficult – so developing this area would turn a potentially fully functioning farm into a housing estate in waiting. Is this a good idea?
EFFRA have constantly maintained that the housing target within the neighbourhood plan should take account of windfall sites. Based on historical data, a minimum of about 50 is likely during the lifetime of the plan – there have been planning applications for 10 dwellings already in 2016, all of which are windfalls. EFFRA maintain that a windfall number should be a component of the housing target, which EPC have steadfastly refused to consider. So when evaluating which housing target (GBC or EPC) is better for Effingham consider these points:
• The housing number put forward as a housing target will be a minimum, not a maximum.
• The actual number of dwellings built is very likely to be well in excess of the housing target – add at least 50 to the declared target because this will be the number built on windfall sites across the ward.
• Houses built will not be preferentially available to Effingham residents, past or present. All that prospective buyers will need is the purchase price.
• Insetting the village will create a number of potential development sites not considered by either GBC or the Parish Council. Some of these will be developed as insetting means that green belt no longer provides any protection.
• Berkeley Homes have not gone away.