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Berkeley Homes Demand 110 Extra ‘Enabling’ Houses in Effingham

Published on: 13 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 17 Mar, 2021

Click on image to see letter

By Chris Dick

On March 1, The Dragon published a letter from Ms Heléna Lawrence, founder of the Say No to Berkeley Homes Campaign, opposing the building of 110 extra homes on green belt land at Effingham. Her letter attracted seven responses, nearly all in support.

Ms Lawrence had cited reasons for her campaign, claiming Berkeley had issued what appeared to be an ultimatum, saying they would not build The Howard of Effingham School they had agreed earlier if they were not allowed to build the extra homes, as well as the 295 agreed.

Follow up story expected soon. Please check back.

That 295-house plan was won in an appeal to the Secretary of State after their initial application was refused by Guildford Borough Council.

Berkeley Homes “coming soon” sign

Apparently, Berkeley now says new specifications for the school would cause a financial deficit in their development masterplan and only the 110 extra houses would make that up.

The letter from Ms Lawrence was clearly from one side of the story, so to be fair the Dragon contacted the development director of Berkeley Homes, asking questions and hoping for informative answers that would help clarify the situation for concerned residents in Effingham, Bookham and the Horsleys.

But the Berkeley reply was disappointing. The questions were:

  1. In the light of the “110 more green belt homes or no school” option, is Berkeley Homes making a new application, with that revision, to Guildford Borough Council?
  1. When did Berkeley first become aware building the school would cause a financial deficit in your overall development?
  1. Can you specify the size of the financial deficit you believe the original school building would have cost?
  1. After your successful planning appeal to the Secretary of State, have you made his department aware that the cost of the school would leave you with a financial deficit and the original planning application is no longer viable?
  1. Could you please tell us the specifications set out by Rhona Barnfield, CEO of The Howard Partnership Trust, now envisaged for the school?
  1. When were those changes made to the school specifications?
  1. Do Ms Barnfield and the Trust feel exclusion of a new school can be justified or are they willing to adjust their specifications?
  1. Why in a parish with a population of 2,700 people occupying approximately 1,060 households, do you believe a school with a 2,000-pupil capacity is the best solution, even with the addition of 295 new Berkeley households?
  1. Why have you so suddenly predicated the building of this new school dependent on constructing 110 more Berkeley homes on green belt land?
  1. Given that Berkeley optimistically envisages a total of 405 new homes and families, what infrastructure measures are being proposed to cope with the hundreds more vehicles this would inevitably bring?

This is the answer The Dragon got, although obviously this came from Berkeley public relations advisers, the author omitting name, title or position.

The Berkeley Homes reply:

Following our successful webinars last month, attended by more than 500 people, we would like to thank Guildford Dragon for giving Berkeley the opportunity to update readers on our plans to facilitate the delivery of the already approved new home for the Howard of Effingham School. There has been a lot of activity on the project in the last couple of weeks including the approval of our construction management plan by Surrey Highways and Guildford Borough Council. All construction traffic, including contractors and delivery vehicles, will use Effingham Common Road to access the site, and not use The Street or Lower Road.

We are now finalising the planning application for the 110 additional enabling homes for land to the north of Lodge Farm and improvements to the masterplan.

Berkeley first proposed building a new much-needed school in 2014, funded through enabling residential development at a cost of £32m. This assumed a planning consent and start on site in 2015. Now, over 6-years on, the costs for delivering the school have risen by circa 35%. Together with The Howard Partnership Trust (THPT), we have explored many options to bridge the funding gap and deliver the new school. This has included a design review exercise resulting in the sports hall and sixth form centre being combined into one single building. This creates design efficiencies that drive a cost-saving whilst neither reducing the quality nor total area of provision for these two separate uses.

However, there is still a significant funding gap which can only be bridged through the delivery of additional enabling homes on the Lodge Farm site.

We understand from our conversations with the community this year that the new home for The Howard is still the most important factor of our plans and that the process for delivering the school has been too long and frustrating. The Howard remains a very popular choice for parents locally (in Effingham, neighbouring Bookham and the Horsleys) who welcome the new facilities and opportunities the approved plans will bring their children.

The most popular element of our landscape-led approach to the improved masterplan was the protection and management of the existing ancient woodland at Thornet Wood along with the provision of enhanced public open space, play areas, riverine swales, community orchards and community gardens. 62% of the additional land will be public open space, thereby improving the overall masterplan with new community benefits and green infrastructure

The S106 Agreement for the consented new school and Phase 1 homes secures financial contributions including £2.65m for the redevelopment of the KGV community building and junction improvements and highways works to help overcome localized traffic at peak school times.

Our technical consultants for the additional homes are holding pre-application discussions with Council officers regarding areas such as drainage and traffic. GP and local primary provision would be determined by Guildford Borough Council using metrics set out by Government.

We are also pleased to be able to announce that we will be starting enabling works on-site for Phase – the new school and 159 houses on Lodge Farm – during the Easter holidays, including the site entrance on Effingham Common Road. Readers can watch a film about the plans here.

To interpret the reply, the answer to Question 1 is that Berkeley is preparing their application for 110 additional “enabling” houses to Guildford Borough Council.

Question 2 was ignored.

To work out the rather vague answer to Question 3, we believe the new cost of the school could be hovering about £43 million, although interest rates are much lower now than they were in 2014 when, Berkeley implies, original costs were being worked out.

Question 4 was ignored as was largely Question 5, although an attempt was made to cover the latter by referring to “a design review exercise resulting in the sports hall and sixth form centre being combined into one single building”.

Questions 6, 7, 8 and 9 were also ignored.

Question 10 was answered reasonably adequately.

The Dragon believes Berkeley’s reply has not clarified the situation and makes sweeping generalisations, including: “The Howard remains a very popular choice for parents locally (in Effingham, neighbouring Bookham and the Horsleys) who welcome the new facilities and opportunities the approved plans will bring their children.”

No verification was supplied, nor how these conclusions were reached.

Heléna Lawrence

The questions and reply were shown to Ms Lawrence, who did not agree with the rather rosy picture painted by the public relations advisers at Stonycroft.

She said the Berkeley Group 2020 annual report showed a pre-tax profit of £503.7 million, having delivered 2,723 homes (plus 435 in joint venture).

“With the 295 approved Effingham homes, this suggests they are set to make about £54 million pre-tax profit. As BH stated, the original school price tag was £32 million now with a supposed 35% increase in cost, so to understand why an extra 110 homes are needed to fund the school build is difficult.

“A financial deficit in the school build is just as difficult to see but looks more a dent in Berkeley Homes profit.

“And there are other development problems. The planning condition on Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SuDS) has been discharged by Guildford Borough Council only for the school build; the BH SuDS scheme for the build of the houses has yet to be submitted.

“The foul-water drainage strategy is also yet to be approved by GBC. So the enabling works can start but the build process, even for the already approved homes and school, cannot.

“Of course, Berkeley Homes are unable to build anything, including the already approved homes and school, until a contract has been signed with The Howard Partnership Trust (THPT) to agree to deliver the new school and provide evidence of this to GBC and SCC.

“At present, there is no evidence in the public domain of such movements. No more than 50 residential properties can be occupied until the school has been practically completed and transferred to THPT.

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“There still is no comment on who will be paying for damage to Effingham Common railway bridge, if used by 40-tonne lorries to and from the construction site, nor is there a suitable diversion route should the bridge require maintenance.”

Ms Lawrence ended by saying: “My ‘Say No to Berkeley Homes’ campaign was set up to object to the proposed extra 110 homes. A Berkeley statement put the school build at risk, saying “if approval for the additional homes is granted then Berkeley aim to have the New Howard of Effingham school ready for opening”.

“The campaign has drawn more than 1,300 signatures on the petition, delivered 3,000-plus leaflets local to the site, attracted more than 300 members on the Facebook group alone and signing up almost 200 people to the mailing list who requested assistance on how to object to the proposal.”

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test 10 Responses to Berkeley Homes Demand 110 Extra ‘Enabling’ Houses in Effingham

  1. Mike Jacobs Reply

    March 12, 2021 at 4:51 pm

    Beggars belief a developer can say we can’t build your school unless we get permission to build another 110 houses in the green belt.

  2. Julie Iles Reply

    March 12, 2021 at 6:43 pm

    With regard to this part of Berkeley Homes statement as above “GP and local primary provision would be determined by Guildford Borough Council using metrics set out by Government”

    It is not the borough council that determines place planning for schools at either primary or secondary level. This is a matter for the county council.

    It suggests that they really don’t know what they are talking about.

    Julie Iles is the Conservative county councillor for The Horsleys

  3. Stephen Poole Reply

    March 12, 2021 at 6:50 pm

    Berkeley Homes state that the school was proposed in 2014 but the costs assumed starting the build in 2015, which was optimistic in the extreme.

    Is it really beyond the capabilities of a major developer to factor in a contingency in case of delay or unexpected cost increases? Or were the costs underplayed in order to get the planning inspector to agree?

    Several people with expertise in the community have looked into new build costs for similar schools and they come nowhere near this amount. These figures can be found online.

    Also, house prices have increased significantly since 2014 meaning greater profit per house. I do not believe school building costs have gone up that much unless the Academy Trust is demanding more than the normal specification for a school.

  4. Malcolm Wych Reply

    March 13, 2021 at 10:59 am

    The statement from Berkeley Homes is, not unexpectedly, vague, and one-sided. Issues are avoided if, by answering, there is an outside chance of “putting their feet in it”.

    Bottom line is that outside of their fancy rhetoric they are only interested in making the maximum amount of bottom-line profit from the development.

  5. James Nicholls Reply

    March 13, 2021 at 3:48 pm

    I believe the articles written by Chris Dick and Ms Lawrence are some of the best I have seen on the subject, since this idiotic scheme was proposed.

  6. Clifford Simpson Reply

    March 14, 2021 at 8:43 am

    Having lived in Weybridge during the Brooklands development, which in my view ripped the heart out of the once tranquil area, I, my wife and family sought pastures new.

    Effingham village offered us the country life which we enjoyed back in Weybridge 1972. What with Berkeley Homes original proposal of adding an extra 33% new properties to the village sent shivers down our spines.

    Now to add an additional third on top would be a nightmare, it would be an explosion of over-development similar to Brooklands.

    Do we have to keep moving on to find rural peace of mind because of greedy developers with nothing but profit on their agenda?

  7. Adam Aaronson Reply

    March 14, 2021 at 11:49 am

    Regarding Question 11. How much has the Berkeley Group, Berkeley Homes, and associated companies and their directors and shareholders donated to any political parties over the last ten years and to which ones?

    • Keith Francis Reply

      March 15, 2021 at 9:39 pm

      Mr Aaronson’s comment is most unreasonable. Why should he expect an answer unless he is personally prepared to pay the vast cost of a survey? He should look for himself at the Berkeley Group Accounts to find out whether it makes political donations.

      How many objectors, who subscribe to political parties, have delayed this project for far too long as otherwise the new school could have been built and in use next year (2022)?

      I know some of the objectors who themselves having received private schooling are now preventing a better education for the wider areas’ children.

      • Adam Aaronson Reply

        March 18, 2021 at 7:44 am

        I’m not against the developer building a school in accordance with the terms originally granted. What I do object to is the threat that the school won’t be built unless the terms are varied in the developer’s favour.

        As to the “vast cost of a survey”, the developer could make this available at little or no cost to themselves because they have the information at their fingertips. However, developers in general prefer this information not to be made public, because they do not wish the electorate to see the clear correlation between developers’ political donations and planning regulations and Local Plans being adjusted in favour of developers.

        Quite apart from this, I consider that it is the duty of government and local government to build schools as necessary and I consider it is inappropriate for schools and other amenities to be used as a bargaining chip by developers.

  8. Keith Francis Reply

    March 15, 2021 at 9:51 pm

    Isn’t Guildford Borough Council responsible for handing some of the money it receives from this building project, say £1m, to Surrey Heartlands CCG for a new medical centre?

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