Fringe Box



Letter: The Plight of the Humble NIM-BEE

Published on: 26 Jun, 2024
Updated on: 26 Jun, 2024

From: Jan Davis

Chair of the Crossroads Residents’ Association, Effingham

An emotional on-going story of a developer, the planning system and a swarm of Nimbies is about to unfold! (We’re not actually Nimbies, just a bunch of mostly retired folk from The Crossroads Residents’ Association hoping for peace and quiet).

The Effingham Neighbourhood Plan allowed for six dwellings on the plot of one large house. Okay, no-one nearby especially wants this but it is going to proceed. Change happens.

But we live in a democracy, we thought, where everyone is given a chance to give their opinion and a compromise will be reached.

An invitation was sent in 2020 by the developer to meet with the neighbours in The Crossroads. Two charming young men showed us the plans and asked about our concerns. A list of our worries was made up and the developer gave us assurances that all our concerns will be dealt with.

Concerns such as ecology (bats etc), sunlight, the fact that we are in a dark skies area, safety and a pedestrian access gate at the other end of the site. All well and good so far.

So . . .  plans go in for eight dwellings, not six. Lots of letters go in to Guildford Borough Council’s Planning Department. Anxiety and worry for the neighbours. This application is turned down.

A new application goes in for six dwellings with lower roof lines to avoid blocking the sun from our gardens, retention of an old established hedge and wall and back gate closed off. This seemed a very good compromise, everybody was happy except the developer, and the plans are passed by GBC.

As the developer is not happy another application goes in for eight dwellings, practically the same as the first but a double garage with a pitched roof has been moved and is now blocking sunlight from a neighbour’s garden. This was approved by GBC (with numerous conditions).

Approved? Why? The first application for eight houses was not accepted.

More worry and anxiety ensued as we noticed that several of the conditions are being breached. More complaints are sent to the GBC Planning Department, eg the old established beech hedge is chopped down, trees marked for preservation by the Arboreal report are axed and the transport plan is breached.

Several retrospective applications are then submitted to change these conditions to suit the developer and seem to have been rubber stamped by the Planning Department. What is the point of having conditions if they can be so easily reversed in order to suit the developer?

This whole process makes a mockery of Effingham’s Neighbourhood Plan and the planning system as a whole and sets a precedent for over-development.

Recently 20ft tall trees have been planted, again blocking out light from our gardens. Apparently, this is an age-old tactic of developers when they are aggrieved by objectors.

What sort of a game is this that you can only play if you can make up the rules to suit yourself? Will this breach of planning also be discharged without regard to the neighbours?

The eight up-market homes, on very small plots, have been built, not all sold yet but with outside lights that stay on all night, in a “dark skies area” with bats, annoying the neighbours.

The next chapter of the saga is about to unfold. One of the properties has a long garden; this has been divided and a proposal for a ninth dwelling is submitted with access through a block of garages in a private road, exactly what we were promised would not happen.

The developer appealed to the Secretary of State before the application had even been decided. We get letters from the SoS which worry us because we do not understand what is going on. What sort of trick is this?

However, it is dismissed by the Secretary and GBC, so a new planning application has gone in.

Heavy lorries have already been using the area for deliveries etc for some time now although planning permission has not yet been granted. The surface is being broken up, a drain broken and a car scratched. Residents’ safety is a real issue here.

More anxiety and broken promises for the neighbours. We are exhausted with this whole process. Nobody listens to us. This proposal is outrageous. Does anyone read our letters of concern?

Does anyone ever visit the site in question? It seems not!

A bollard was erected to stop any more damage by these unwanted vehicles. Money was spent, arguments
ensued involving threatening and intimidating behaviour and the police were involved.

Extreme worry and anxiety now. Sleepless nights for all. The bollard was lowered.

A little consideration for neighbours and a little less greed could help to restore our faith in the system. Does the planning system exist just to support developers? Are developers ever refused their requests?

An Englishman’s home is meant to be his castle. Our homes are where we feel safe and cosy. As we get older we have no desire for drama, conflict or stress.

We are still hoping for common sense to prevail and that this application will be turned down.

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