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GBC Decision on Howard of Effingham Houses Overturned on Appeal

Published on: 30 Nov, 2022
Updated on: 30 Nov, 2022

A developer’s CGI for the houses that will now be built at Effingham.

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

A development of 110 homes on the Howard of Effingham site will be allowed after a borough council’s refusal was overturned.

But inspectors have dismissed an appeal on the same development, for the details relating to 99 homes already approved.

Two separate appeals were considered for the redevelopment of the site, which was granted outline permission on appeal in 2018 for up to 258 homes to be built and for the school to be relocated to the other side of Lower Road.

In March, Guildford Borough Council’s planning committee refused two applications on the site, one hybrid application for 114 homes which developers said were needed to ensure the scheme was viable.

The other decision was for 99 homes on the current school site, which was turned down by councillors because of concerns about its impact on the neighbouring Little Bookham Conservation Area and the Grade II* All Saints Church.

The application allowed by government inspectors, in a decision made on  Monday (November 28), will mean 110 homes can be built on the North Lodge Farm site, with outline permission granted for a further four self-build homes.

This, known as appeal A by the inspector, is in line with officers’ original recommendations to approve the plans.

At the meeting on March 30, a planning consultant speaking on behalf of the applicant said the development was necessary to fund the new school to an acceptable standard for pupils.

Councillors at the time questioned if the school was “over-specified”, saying costs had risen from £ 38 million originally proposed to £53.5 million.

Developers said the length of time taken over the planning application had pushed the costs of the school up.

The inspector’s report said: “At the planning application stage the scheme was independently assessed in terms of costs and viability by suitably qualified consultants on behalf of the council.

“That assessment found the scheme to be unviable, broadly in line with the appellant’s submissions at that stage.

“I have found no good reason to disagree with the findings of that independent assessment.

“Indeed the most up-to-date, bespoke evidence on viability before me indicates that the scheme would be unviable without the appeal A development.”

Effingham Parish Council chairman Ian Symes

The second appeal, appeal B, related to the “reserved matters” including layout and appearance of the homes on the current school site, and was dismissed by the inspector.

Speaking at March 21 meeting where the application was refused by the council, Ian Symes, chairman of Effingham Parish Council, said there was not enough room on the site for the number of homes proposed, with “far too many larger homes”.

At the same meeting, Cllr Liz Hogger (Lib Dem, Effingham) raised concerns about the neighbouring Little Bookham Conservation Area and the Grade II* All Saints Church, and the harm to them was ultimately why councillors voted to refuse the plans.

Cllr Liz Hogger

The inspector’s decision said: “It is reasonable to conclude that a reserved matters scheme of some form for this part of the outline scheme could deliver all of the benefits of the appeal B scheme without harm, or at the least less harm, to the significance of the two heritage assets in question that would occur as a result of the appeal B development.”

At a meeting of the borough council’s executive on Thursday (November 24) more than £500,000 was approved by councillors for appeals including that on the Howard of Effingham School site.

The amount, to be approved by full council on December 6, also covered appeals relating to the Land at Ash Manor (£225,000) and Urnfield sports ground (£10,000).

The figure for the Howard of Effingham site included a buffer because it took longer than anticipated, and totalled an estimated £300,000.

Cllr John Rigg

Cllr John Rigg (R4GV, Holy Trinity) called the money a “serious burden” on the council and pointed out that refusing planning applications without policy backing could lead to an appeal, “huge costs and sacrificing council services”.

He added: “We must be very, very careful. We’ve got three major strategic sites coming up where we will be up against major developers with very deep pockets.

“I think it is incumbent on the leaders of all the political parties to make sure people understand the consequences of not supporting schemes that comply with policies.”

Councillors responded saying planning committee members were aware they could only refuse applications for policy reasons.

Cllr Fiona White

The planning committee chairman Cllr Fiona White (Lib  Dem, Westborough) said committee members took their role “very seriously”.

She added: “The council needs to be very careful not to imply that councillors should not use their discretion as planning committee members if they believe that there are sound policy reasons for overturning an officer recommendation.

“I really don’t believe that they do it lightly, and they are very clear that obviously there will be cost implications.

“Nobody wants to spend large sums of money unnecessarily, but the planning committee must be free to fulfil its function.”

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Responses to GBC Decision on Howard of Effingham Houses Overturned on Appeal

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    November 30, 2022 at 6:22 pm

    If you write a Local Plan without listening to rational comments from residents, then you reap what you sow.

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