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Howard of Effingham School Housing Plans Rejected

Published on: 23 Mar, 2022
Updated on: 24 Mar, 2022

Plans for houses at Howard Of Effingham School. From developer\’s design and access statement.

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

Plans for 99 homes on the site of the Howard of Effingham School based on an outline plan already approved by the Secretary of State have been rejected by Guildford Borough Council.

Members voted against officers’ recommendations to approve the plans in Lower Road in Effingham by eight voting against, five for and one abstention.

GBC’s Planning Committee on Monday night (March 21) heard councillors voice concerns over “bonus rooms” in the planned houses, but ultimately decided to reject the plans based on harm to heritage assets in a neighbouring church and graveyard.

The plans, which were 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, related to the final 99 homes to be built on the current school site.

Councillors and public speakers mentioned the risk of “bonus rooms” in the plans, including dressing rooms, TV rooms and studies, being used as bedrooms.

The officer report noted that 12 of the homes had “bonus rooms” and outlined that a “worst-case scenario” of all of them being used as bedrooms would mean “ten of the proposed three-bedroom units becoming four-bedroom units and two two-bedroom units becoming three-bedrooms.”

Parish Council Chairman Ian Symes

Ian Symes, chairman of Effingham Parish Council, spoke to object at the meeting. He said the “bonus rooms” and housing mix caused concern for the parish council and said the inspector had made clear when granting the appeal on this site that there would be a chance to control housing mix and development at the reserved permissions stage being considered.

He said: “There is not enough room on this site for the dwellings proposed, there are far too many larger homes.

“If this proposal is allowed, it would lead to an overdevelopment, giving a cramped and urban appearance for this important part of the village, which abuts the Effingham conservation area and the Little Bookham conservation area.”

Cllr Liz Hogger

Cllr Liz Hogger (Liberal Democrats, Effingham) said she believed the harm to the heritage assets in the neighbouring Little Bookham Conservation Area and the Grade II* All Saints Church was greater than the harm the inspector recognised at appeal and this ultimately was the reason for refusal voted on by councillors.

A comment from Mole Valley District Council officers included within the council documents, because the development borders its district, said the boundaries of the site were different from those agreed in the already granted hybrid application.

The report said the “scale and orientation of the buildings now proposed in this location would have a stark and overbearing appearance towards the setting of the heritage assets”.

Cllr Tony Rooth

Cllr Tony Rooth (R4GV, Pilgrims) raised concerns about the garages on the plans not being big enough for modern SUV cars and said “bonus rooms” sounded rather “bogus” to him.

He also pointed out that the affordable housing provision on the site had been reduced from the borough council’s required 40 per cent to 20 per cent, and that more market discount sales than affordable rents were being offered, contrary to the council’s guidelines.

He said: “It is actually typical of developers that they want to reduce the amount of affordable housing as much as possible, so they can make more money out of the market.”

Berkeley Homes, the developer, has been contacted for comment.

Councillors also granted approval for three additional homes to be added to a development in Poyle Road in Tongham, which had seen 54 letters of objection raising issues such as drainage concerns, impact on ecology and lack of infrastructure.

David Neame spoke on behalf of the developer in support of the plans.

He pointed out that the original application for 35 homes “attracted only a limited number of objections” and was not brought to a committee, and said the scheme would “provide an uplift to all of the relevant planning obligations, most notably education, health care, and the Ash Road Bridge.”

The council has asked for a contribution of £409,084 towards Ash Road Bridge, as it works towards a long-term plan to close the Ash level crossing.

An application for 26 homes in White Horse Yard, off the High Street in Ripley, was deferred to allow the council to consult with Historic England. A total of 27 letters of objection had been received to the scheme, with Ripley Parish Council also objecting.

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