Fringe Box



Effingham Eye: Parish Council Openness, Traveller Incursions Plan, Berkeley Homes Saga Latest

Published on: 4 Apr, 2021
Updated on: 6 Apr, 2021

Chris Dick offers some views on local matters with an account of two village meetings, a project update, a possible end to traveller incursions, how developers drain village resources, and shop news.

Parish Council Openness

Effingham Parish Council held a lengthy Zoom meeting on March 30. It lasted around one and half hours.

Having sped through the preamble, the first item debated, took ages. It was a motion to suspend a standing order. Yet as readers’ eyes start to glaze over, a metaphorical grenade had gone off.

They were discussing openness and journalist access to audio recordings of their meetings!

Was this Effingham Parish Council or had some evil entity taken it over? Was this some sort of devilish early April Fool’s prank? Could a parish council actually improve its openness and accountability?

The answer is simply: yes.

Two of the more free-thinking councillors had put forward the idea of suspending the instruction to destroy the draft minutes and recordings of meetings once the formal minutes had been approved.

However, they had gone further. Much further.

Citing the practice of Guildford Borough Council, which makes its video recordings available to all via its website, the councillors proposed making their council’s audio recordings available to journalists to ensure they were accurately reported.

But hang on a moment, there is currently only one journalist who attends these meetings. Need I say more!

With a couple of councillors voting against and one not voting, the motion was carried in favour of making the recordings available. [I think I got that right … but ironically I hadn’t recorded the meeting].

Either way, this was a bold step for the council and one which this journalist fully supports.

My only concern is that I might have to listen to their meetings a second time!

Butchers closer to reopening

Bevans butchers to reopen soon.

A year after the fire at the Effingham shopping parade, Bevans the butchers is finally getting nearer reopening.

This time the shop is being enlarged to accommodate the sale of fruit and vegetables. Work is progressing rapidly having suffered from a delay over the funding.

Orchard project 

Land opposite the Methodist chapel cleared of grass and scrub by Andy’s Gardening Services from Claygate.

It’s good to see that the St Lawrence church orchard project – financially supported by the parish council – is progressing well.

Andy’s Gardening Services, seen here clearing the site, is well known in Effingham having carried out work for the golf and rugby clubs over the years.

At the Zoom parish meeting mentioned above, the parish council heard from Cllr Arnold Pinder, one of the project volunteers, that the land opposite the Methodist chapel in The Street had been cleared of all but the most tenacious ground elder. Plants and fruit trees were going in the ground over the next three weeks, as well as an additional layer of topsoil.

No final decision had been made regarding how the orchard would be maintained. However, the matter would be resolved in the next few weeks.

Traveller incursions

Travellers at St Lawrence church hall gardens in 2020.

After years of campaigning and supporting local communities like Effingham, who have had to cope with illegal encampments, Sir Paul Beresford (Conservative MP Mole Valley) issued a statement.

Travellers on the King George V recreation grounds in 2020.

The statement described the recent progress of a new act which is progressing through parliament.

Sir Paul Beresford pictured in East Horsley.

This legislation, which will understandably be welcomed by many who have had to deal with a growing number of illegal incursions, will give police power to tackle illegal traveller invasions.

Paul Beresford wrote: “Over recent years, the numbers of these illegal land-squatting camps have increased. If access is inhibited by barriers, gates, or any form of obstruction, they are broken down or removed, and generally damaged.

“The legislative change criminalising this type of illegal camping is exceptionally welcome and has been long-awaited. It is for the protection of local people – my constituents.”

To read more about this subject and some of the opposing views and opinions it click here and here.

Annual meeting of Effingham Village Recreation Trust

The trust (EVRT) held its annual meeting on March 16, via Zoom.

Effingham recreation grounds – this time without Gypsy trailers.

To those used to these meetings, it was much the same as previous years but perhaps a little longer and more complicated because of the impact of Covid-19 and being obliged to use Zoom.

Indeed, the complicated presentation on the financial position was apparently for the period 2019-20, rather than the current year.

Once again there was talk about changing the charity status from a simple charity to a Charitable Incorporated Organisation. If I’ve got this right it means changing to a hybrid between a charity and a company, which has some technical advantages while being subject to both charity law and company law.

Little would change in the relationship between the trust and parish council. The latter would no longer hold the deeds but continue to support the trust financially and nominate some trustees.

On the plus side, the volunteer trustees would enjoy limited liability. The audience was told that further details would be made available on the trust’s website.

If any of the above is inaccurate the trust is invited to comment – unfortunately, recent questions to the trust have gone unanswered.

It is worth adding that the chairman’s annual report was useful. It covered much of the work carried out by the volunteer trustees and the difficulties they had faced throughout the year.

High among those difficulties were the two Gypsy incursions that resulted in the village hall and recreation ground car park closure and some unplanned additional security costs.

The trustees coped well with the problems but, as the chairman reported, they lost one of their trustees, who resigned over the behaviour of one or two highly vocal individuals complaining about the car park closure.

Perhaps the trustees could have communicated better with residents but, leaving communications aside, the antisocial behaviour of those few was inexcusable.

Developers should fund local councils

Last month The Guildford Dragon NEWS published an article by Hugh Coakley entitled: Most Of Us Don’t Have A Clue About Parish Councils.

Parish council precept rates for the Borough of Guildford..

The article showed that Effingham residents pay more in their local taxes (precept) than any other parish in the borough. Yet no one appears to be blaming Effingham Parish Council for this dilemma.

The council had to spend thousands of pounds in legal fees defending the village from over-development projects. No sooner did the borough council turn down one application than a different one came along or there was an appeal.

Set against developers such as Berkeley Homes, with around half a billion pounds profit year on year, Effingham’s paltry £50,000 or so in local tax is nothing. Our councils cannot match the resources of these developers.

The solution could be an addition to the developers contribution, known as CIL or Section 106, for every major planning application.

In other words, apart from contributing to the community amenities in the event of a successful application, the developer should pay a significant proportion of the councils’ legal costs regardless of the outcome.

Residents should not carry the burden of speculative development planning applications.

Berkeley Homes should quit while it is ahead

Effingham Lodge Farm development site clearance.

Several articles, letters and comments have appeared in The Guildford Dragon NEWS about Berkeley Homes’ plans for a further 110 homes on the former Effingham Lodge Farm.

A letter from Heléna Lawrence started a rash of comments. This was followed by a lead article that attracted 10 responses.

According to a parish council note it was only 18 months ago (August 2019) that Berkeley Homes had asked parish councillors and members of the residents’ association to support plans for 55 homes on the former Effingham Lodge Farm.

So what has happened in those 18 months that now required Berkeley Homes to look for twice as many additional enabling housing to meet its claimed shortfall?

Berkeley Homes declined to answer our questions.

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test 2 Responses to Effingham Eye: Parish Council Openness, Traveller Incursions Plan, Berkeley Homes Saga Latest

  1. Keith Francis Reply

    April 6, 2021 at 7:34 am

    As posted elsewhere on Guildford Dragon about the Guildford station development, the developers, Solum, have also applied for more properties due to costs having risen in the years since these developments were discussed. Protestors have delayed everything.

    Do they or don’t they want a new suitable school for children in Effingham? It’s not just their children that are affected and if they play their cards right they could get a doctors’ surgery for the village?

  2. Jeremy Palmer Reply

    April 7, 2021 at 6:03 pm

    Mr Francis is wrong to say that protestors have delayed the Berkeley Homes/ Howard of Effingham plans. This is the timeline of events:

    The planning application (14/P/02109) from Berkeley Homes to rebuild the Howard of Effingham School on Effingham Lodge Farm, paid for by enabling development of 295 new homes, was refused at Guildford Borough Council’s Planning Committee meeting on 9 March 2016.

    However the planning committee on 9 March 2016 followed the officer recommendation to refuse, which was based on planning policy not the number of objections.

    Berkeley Homes and The Howard Partnership Trust appealed against the refusal of planning permission, and a Public Inquiry before a planning inspector Mr David Morgan was held from 16 May – 2 June 2017

    The appeal was allowed by the Secretary of State on 21 March 2018.

    Then there was a delay of 17 months after the appeal decision before Berkeley Homes submitted the first reserved matters application:

    19/P/01451 | Reserved matters application pursuant to hybrid application 14/P/02109 for the replacement of Howard of Effingham School to consider the detailed design, associated playing fields, MUGA, parking and landscaping works (amended plans received which alter the size of the sports hall from 33m x 27m to 34.5m x 25.87m). | Effingham Lodge Farm, Lower Road, Effingham, Leatherhead, KT24 5JP
    Application Received Thu 15 Aug 2019

    19/P/01760 | Reserved matters application pursuant to outline application 14/P/02109 for the development of 159 dwellings with associated access, parking and landscape works. | Effingham Lodge Farm, Lower Road, Effingham, Leatherhead, KT24 5JP
    Application Received Tue 08 Oct 2019

    Reserved matters application pursuant to hybrid application 14/P/02109 for the replacement of Howard of Effingham School to consider the detailed design, associated playing fields, MUGA, parking and landscaping works. | Effingham Lodge Farm, Lower Road, Effingham, Leatherhead, KT24 5JP
    Application Received Fri 27 Nov 2020

    At no point has any third party protest been responsible for delaying a stage in the planning process. The timing of each stage has been determined either by the work put in by the borough council, the planning inspectorate, or the Secretary of State, or by when Berkeley Homes chose to submit their planning applications.

    Jeremy Palmer is an Effingham parish councillor.

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