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Effingham Eye: Covid Jabs, Unusual Parish Meeting and Threat to Neighbourhood Plan

Published on: 5 Feb, 2021
Updated on: 10 Feb, 2021

Chris Dick writes about: a local flood, a parish meeting like no other, lack of vaccination centres and another half-decent wildlife photograph.

With more forecast, snow has already caused flooding

A view of Effingham during the recent snowfall.

After the first fall of snow came some heavy rain. And then, by Thursday, January 28, the runoff added to the snow melt caused minor local flooding. Whitedown Lane became impassable for all but HGVs and heavy plant vehicles.

Whitedown Lane flooded.

The southern end of Effingham parish is its highest point being part of Ranmore Common. The flood is at the start of Whitedown Lane from its junction with Ranmore Common Road and covers about 20 foot towards the old drovers’ track, which is the parish’s southernmost boundary.

The ditches on both sides have been cleared several times over the years but with the amount of mud and debris brought down off the higher ground the drains soon became blocked. At the time of writing, a week after the above photograph, the road remains flooded and becomes impassable with every downpour.

This reoccurring flooding problem has been reported to Surrey County Council.

Effingham Parish Council update

Effingham Parish Council held its second Zoom public meeting of the month on January 26.

Effingham Parish Council’s online meeting using Zoom on Tuesday, January 26.

When I first drafted this part of the Effingham Eye I thought the main topic of interest would be the Berkeley Homes’ proposal for a further 110 homes. It was not.

Berkeley Homes

Berkeley Homes proposes to build 110 additional homes to cover what it claims is a shortfall in the funding. There is nothing new here as virtually since day one the company has claimed it did not have sufficient funds to complete the new school.

At the latest parish council meeting, and as a direct response to this proposal, the council agreed a small budget to seek advice on this proposal as well as the Church Street planning application (see below) and formed a working group to handle these matters and report back.

If approved, the new proposal would put an ancient woodland and local wildlife at significant risk.

These proposals seem to have placed the parish council in a difficult position.

It will be split between those residents who think they already pay too much in local taxes and do not want funds potentially wasted on yet another abortive attempt to prevent further loss of the former green belt. And, on the other hand, some might rather die in a ditch than give in to developers. Clearly something to follow up in the coming months.

Effingham Neighbourhood Plan (ENP)

As mentioned above, the main topic of interest was whether the Effingham Neighbourhood Plan (ENP) and Neighbourhood Plans generally are worth the time, effort and costs.

The issue revolved around an application from Millgate developers to build 17 homes on a field in Church Street, Effingham. Taking into account the hundreds of other homes that are going to be built in the village, it seemed a fairly minor application and unlikely to draw much interest. Wrong!

The ENP had stipulated up to nine dwellings but, since its adoption, it had been superseded by Guildford Borough Council’s Local Plan. Coupled with the loss of the green belt protection the ENP policies were in effect under attack.

A lively discussion between parish councillors took place. While not establishing an answer, it caused quite a stir in the meeting and became the subject of another article (click here).

The latter attracted an unusually high number of comments from all over the borough both in the Dragon and my own inbox.

Then on Wednesday February 3, Guildford Borough Council’s planning committee met via webcam to discuss the contentious Church Street application.

The planning officer’s report recommended that the planning committee should approve the application.

However, to the surprise of many, the borough committee took a different point of view. The application was refused in a vote, eight to four.

This matter will be reported in another article.

What can be noted here is that, while the limit on the number of houses in the Neighbourhood Plan had been superseded by the Local Plan, weight in planning terms should still be applied by the decision makers to the other policies contained in the Neighbourhood Plan.

In summary, the ENP had proved to be effective.

Other items on the Effingham agenda

Other items such as: the unresolved HGV access to the Berkeley Homes development sites, the policy on council nominated trustees for the playing fields’ committee and the working group reports, ensured that this was perhaps the most interesting meeting in years. Nothing seemed straightforward.

The parish council climate change working group had provided detailed minutes of its activities which can be found on the council’s website.

Of particular interest were two short presentations. One from Clare Courtier of Surrey Wildlife Trust and another from John Budd the course manager at Effingham Golf Club.

Mr Budd spoke about how the team manages the 264 acres of land and how the ecology of the land is his passion. He rightly mentioned that the golf club won the annual coveted national award for the club’s biodiversity.

The highways group had received some suggestions but appeared to have made no progress since its formation. Indeed there did not seem to be a date set for its upcoming spring meeting.

This apparent lack of action may in part be because there is already an effective liaison group in place working with Berkeley Homes, the borough and county councils and residents’ association.

Trustee nomination

The parish council is expected under a charity scheme to nominate a number of trustees to manage the village hall and playing fields.

This subject seemed to draw out some undercurrent of tension perhaps regarding how candidates should pass through a selection process. Or maybe it was felt for some other unknown reason. The names of the candidates were not mentioned yet at the January 5 meeting one candidate had been warmly referred to by name.

Why this matter should be subject to an interview process by councillors was not clearly established.

The most efficient approach might be to leave the actual interviewing and candidate selection to the trustees themselves as it is they who know what sort of person they need and might feel comfortable with.

On the other hand, if the council feels background checks are needed to ensure that its candidates have no criminal records then that would be reasonable. There again, perhaps the council, as the custodial trustee, has taken advice on this matter from the Charity Commissioner.

Covid news

Worth mentioning although not on the agenda was Cllr Paula Moss’ contribution. She drew attention to the lack of local places to receive the Covid-19 jab.

Having researched the matter thoroughly Mrs Moss questioned why local surgeries were not being used. She pointed out, for instance, that our local medical centres were more than capable of administering the vaccine as they gave the flu jab every year.

As it stands the nearest vaccination centre is either in Guildford or Epsom.

In bearing out Cllr Moss’ concerns one elderly, partially sighted resident told me he had initially been offered the vaccination at the O2 centre in south-east London. He declined and common sense prevailed as he was eventually found a slot at Epsom Downs Racecourse.

And finally … a sitting duck

Parker & Sons is doing a brisque trade in bird feeders and food seen here recently being visited on a cold sunny day by a blue tit.

Eventually, having discarded more than a dozen photos, this one actually looked passable. The problem then was how to include this ‘sitting duck’ in a piece about Effingham.

Here goes… Throughout the pandemic Effingham residents and near neighbours have had access to a local mini supermarket, bakery and hardware store.

Cheryl and Barry Warren outside Parker & Sons, The Street, Effingham.

The hardware store, Parker & Sons, is run by Barry and Cheryl Warren who over the years have both diversified and increased their range of products.

Apart from a myriad of hardware items you might expect from a larger outlet its range now includes eco refills for hand washes, washing up liquids, non-bio fabric laundry softeners and an ingenious bathroom spray refill.

Inside Parker & Sons’ store.

Barry explained: “When your spray is empty you simply drop in the refill capsule and top up the container with water. The capsule dissolves.

“We intend to stock more eco-friendly items as well as reduce our carbon footprint by avoiding products that damage our environment and oceans.”

Barry said that its best selling items were the bird feeders and their tempting range of seeds, fat balls and nuts. (See, I managed to get my sitting duck a mention).

He said: “After buying one or more of our prefilled bird feeders customers soon return to buy more food. They start with a kilo but this quickly becomes three-kilo bags. Which are cheaper.”

All this is true as I can attest that the birds are eating us out of house and home!

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