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Protests Balloon Over Berkeley Demand for 110 Extra Houses on Green Belt

Published on: 23 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 25 Mar, 2021

A sign advertising Berkeley Homes in  Effingham Lodge.

By Chris Dick

The rumble of resident resistance to the Berkeley Homes demand for 110 extra homes on Effingham Lodge Farm green belt is growing louder, even more voices raised in stubborn opposition.

Further questions to Berkeley Homes by The Dragon to help clarify the situation have been ignored and queries answered only by referring to a previous reply from Stonycraft, their public relations advisers.

See also: Berkeley Homes Demand 110 Extra ‘Enabling’ Houses in Effingham

Another mystery is why the initial BH demand for 55 houses has suddenly doubled in 18 months.

On August 16, 2019, representatives from Effingham Parish Council, Effingham Residents’ Association and others attended a meeting called at the request of Tony Pidgley, then chairman of BH, who has since sadly died.

Mr Pidgely said there was a financial shortfall, which meant 55 more houses needed to be built to enable the school build. Now BH wants 110 additional homes to meet the same shortfall, said to be £8 million.

See also: Let Us Build More Green Belt Homes Or No School, Says Berkeley

The Dragon asked David Gilchrist, the BH development director: “Was the shortfall caused by changes in specifications for the school and, if so, what were these specifications, who set them and when?” He did not answer that.

SCC Cllr Julie Iles (The Horsleys), Mole Valley MP Sir Paul Beresford, and Cllr Clare Curran (Bookham & Fetcham West), all Conservatives, strongly oppose the demand for 110 more houses.

The Berkeley Homes site cleared ready for consruction

Cllr Iles said: “Berkeley Homes advised [at the meeting 18 months ago that] the cost of the new school had increased from £32 million at the time of the public inquiry to £40 million.

“To fill the resultant funding gap they proposed to change the boundary between the school land and the residential land on Effingham Lodge Farm.

“Two pieces of land would come out of the new school site and be attached to the original residential site to be used for 55 additional dwellings. They talked about affordable housing and increasing S106 infrastructure obligations.

“They had considered other options for bridging the funding gap including reducing the size of the new school to just 1,600 pupils as it is now. But that would not provide sufficient savings to fill the gap, and the Howard Partnership Trust were unwilling to accept that proposal.

“They had submitted the reserved matters application for the new school to GBC and the reserved matters application for the residential site was to be submitted later that year. The additional housing sites would then be submitted as a separate planning application, for full permission rather than outline.

“The S106 Infrastructure was also touched on briefly, including drainage concerns and traffic.

“If an application is to be submitted for yet more housing, Surrey County Council would need to provide input as a statutory consultee on infrastructure needs, including matters such as drainage, primary school-place provision and traffic modelling.

“While we might all be able to appreciate the attractions of a new school, and the benefit that could provide to pupils, to foist an uplift of about 40% on the present number of houses in the village cannot be right.

“I have been clear in my objections to the original proposals for 295 houses and I’m certainly not in favour of taking even more.

“The deal to build a new school rests entirely with the academy trust and Berkeley Homes. The increase in the number of pupils (from 1,600 to 2,000) simply reflects additional students from the proposed increase in housing numbers and was not made out in school-place planning forecasts without that additional housing.”

Effingham Residents Association (EFFRA) welcomed the support by Sir Paul Beresford, an Cllrs Iles and Curran against the building of 110 more enabling houses in the village.

A statement said residents were very disappointed by the decision in 2018 by the Secretary of State to allow 295 enabling houses on green belt land in Effingham for a new and much larger Howard School after it had been turned down by Guildford Borough Council.

In addition to the irreversible damage to the green belt, they believed it was inappropriate in a small, semi-rural village and the local infrastructure, already under strain, would not be able to support it.

The statement added: “We have always believed the issues regarding the condition of the existing school should have been dealt with by refurbishment on the existing site rather than a rebuild of the school on a new green belt site.

“Increasing the school’s size from 1,600 to more than 2,000 pupils is inappropriate in a small village.”

Heavy plant by the site entrance

Founder of the campaign “Say No to Berkeley Homes”, Helena Lawrence, said: “There is such a strong objection to this proposal within the local community and several villages that will be affected, it was only right to put these questions to the wider objective community via the Facebook group.

“The following responses have been collated from an almost overwhelming reaction.”

Helena Lawrence

What are your thoughts about the transport arrangements being proposed over the four to six years estimated for construction (Effingham Common Road)?

There is no alternative. All other routes were not allowed but, inevitably, large vehicles will not follow the correct route and travel down The Street and Lower Road.

There is fear of inadequate risk assessments along Effingham Common Road with local primary schools, meaning young children are crossing an already very busy and very dangerous road, and we also have safety impacts on horse-riders and cyclists.

We have an already unstable Effingham railway bridge, with no up-to-date structural report, causing huge concern. A severe accident is bound to happen.

A legal case is being discussed against BH by some residents for existing properties suffering potential future damage by increase of traffic, inclusive of 40-tonne vehicles, causing vibration to the foundations and personal health deterioration.

Will double-yellow lines be put in along both Lower Road and Effingham Common Road because Berkeley Homes claim their masterplan will ease traffic on already congested roads?

Four-bedroom houses are proposed with only two parking spaces and the inclusion of narrow roads within the masterplan means cars will be parking on Lower Road and also use Effingham Common Road to park, completely ruling out their idea of helping the known problems.

Where will all those wanting to use Effingham Railway station park, especially once the Wisley development of 2,000 homes takes off? The carpark is insufficient at present with no preventative measures on neighbouring roads for parking taken into account by BH for residents wanting to commute.

With 2,000 pupils, many from outlying villages, how do Effingham and Little Bookham residents feel about the prospect of 500 or more cars running through to and from the school twice a day, five days a week during term time?

An estimate of 500 cars seems a little low and this is only the start of the problem. Have you tried driving along Effingham Common Road, Lower Road at peak times and school rush-hour? It’s gridlocked now.

Throw into the mix even more sixth-form students driving to the school and travelling in from Horsley, Effingham and Bookham and it’s going to cause severe disruption.

Add to this the estimation of a further 800 cars to the village due to the number of houses wanted on the site and the whole area at peak times will be unbearable and dangerous for pedestrians, cyclists and horse-riders.

Air quality could be severely affected. What are your concerns about the infrastructure measures being proposed to alleviate the potential problem?

The site is close to several nursery schools, a primary school and the secondary school as well as residential properties. Not once have The Howard Partnership Trust asked for views from parents of younger children within the Trust at neighbouring schools, only ever secondary-school parents.

Where is the survey to other parents asking them if there are any concerns or ascertaining asthmatic children numbers close to the site?

Once the construction traffic starts and continues for years and if building work starts on the site then there is a real concern for those living with underlying health conditions, especially with Covid now a further factor.

Also with skylarks known to be nesting on site, BH should not be doing anything on site at all. The local nature and hive of activity will be destroyed.

What are your thoughts about the infrastructure measures being proposed to alleviate the potential problems of for example surface and foul waters?

Will BH be underwriting the flood insurance for the new school and new houses due to the houses and school being built on a land mass with well-known underground springs?

Effingham Common Road and further surrounding roads frequently flood heavily and have done for decades due to the land type.

Will BH be providing written letters to all immediate neighbours of the site reassuring them that no flooding will take place within their properties due to the build-plan and if houses do start to flood will BH admit liability?

Ms Lawrence added: “Enabling development, now that’s a thought. When this story started it was the new houses enabling a new school. All very above-board.

“How things have changed. Now it’s the new school doing the enabling. It’s in danger of enabling not only another 110 houses but more green belt destruction, more congestion, more pollution, and, of course, more profits for the developer.”

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test 11 Responses to Protests Balloon Over Berkeley Demand for 110 Extra Houses on Green Belt

  1. Mike Jacobs Reply

    March 24, 2021 at 10:07 am

    What on earth is this charade of local Conservative representatives opposing the application. Surely it’s governmental responsibility to finance education.

  2. B Johnson Reply

    March 24, 2021 at 11:15 am

    We need the school; we must find a compromise ASAP.

  3. David Roberts Reply

    March 24, 2021 at 6:00 pm

    You want a school? You find the money. Education should be a public service and thus funded from taxes which most Surrey residents can well afford – or, failing that, from voluntary contributions. Many fine schools have been fully funded in both these ways for centuries.

    Parents beware: trading bits of our countryside with property developers is a pact with the devil that will only lead to ever more housing, ever higher demand for school places and thus the need for ever bigger schools. In other words, running faster and faster to stand still.

    Guildford borough’s population is scarcely due to rise in the next 20 years, and there is no need for schools to suck in students from other areas just to assuage the egos of certain school governors and headteachers. As amateurs in the property market, they will always be outsmarted by professional speculators. Let’s, therefore, stop commoditising local children in this shameless game of financial leverage and protect the green space that they will need long after they leave school.

  4. Paul Beresford Reply

    March 25, 2021 at 10:33 am

    Mr Jacobs should note that the County and Parliamentary elected representatives related to this application are united in wanting the new school and oppose the new extension housing application.

    He is correct, they are Conservatives elected by local voters who they are representing. That is called democracy and the united front strengthens their position.

    Sir Paul Beresford is the Conservative MP for Mole Valley

  5. Roger Adams Reply

    March 25, 2021 at 2:45 pm

    As Liberal Democrat District Councillor for Bookham North, I am totally opposed to the Berkeley Home’s housing development on this site. Not only will it affect Effingham it will have a severe detrimental effect on the lives of my constituents in Bookham. Already, roads, car parking, medical facilities, etc, are overstretched.

    We would all like to see a new school, sufficiently large to accommodate every child from Bookham and surrounding villages who wishes to go to the school. As an academy, it is the responsibility of the central government to pay for the school, not to expect a property developer to build it in return for being allowed to profit by concreting over a large stretch of green belt land.

    I and many others would like to know who proposed this way of providing the new school in the first place.

  6. Julie Iles Reply

    March 25, 2021 at 6:33 pm

    If Cllr Adams was to read the article or pay sufficient attention to the background and previous application he would have picked up the answer to his question. See above for this extract:

    “The deal to build a new school rests entirely with the academy trust and Berkeley Homes. The increase in the number of pupils (from 1,600 to 2,000) simply reflects additional students from the proposed increase in housing numbers and was not made out in school-place planning forecasts without that additional housing.”

    Therefore there is no funding required from the Department of Education School Basic Need allocations.

    Julie Iles is a Conservative county councillor for The Horsleys.

  7. Liz Hogger Reply

    March 26, 2021 at 12:32 pm

    The detailed background to this scheme, including the original permission given at appeal by the Secretary of State in 2018, is set out on Effingham Parish Council’s website here.

    It is clear from the planning inspector’s report that the lack of an alternative source of funding, from the government or the county council, carried substantial weight in the decision.

    Those of us who gave evidence at the Public Inquiry were extremely concerned that the scheme would set a precedent by which public facilities such as an improved state school could be funded by allowing development in the green belt. That will be thoroughly tested out when the planning application for this latest proposal is considered against current government planning policy.

    Liz Hogger is a Lib Dem borough councillor for Effingham

  8. Keith Francis Reply

    March 26, 2021 at 10:24 pm

    Due to the village not having a doctors’ surgery for some years would you like a medical centre in Effingham which could be paid for with some of the monies at an estimated cost of £1 million received by Guilford Borough Council? This is something I campaigned for on your behalf with the former Surrey Downs CCG.

    A new surgery would greatly relieve the Great Bookham doctors especially as residents this side of the Borough boundary were in a survey I am given to understand “concerned with the capacity at our GP surgeries.” Whether this current medical provision was made worse by the pandemic it was not possible to say.

  9. S Cheverst (Mrs) Reply

    March 30, 2021 at 4:25 pm

    I greatly object to building houses on the green belt in Effingham and Bookham. We have congestion already on the Lower Road during rush hours and have great difficulty in obtaining an appointment with our GP.

    More houses would mean more infrastructure and more places required at the Howard. The Howard should be refurbished at our government’s expense. We also have natural springs which flood the Lower Road from time to time.

    Effingham is only a small village and would be overwhelmed with more cars and very little parking at Effingham Station for commuters. The pollution would be terrible.

  10. Mike Jacobs Reply

    March 31, 2021 at 2:04 am

    Mr Beresford may very well be “wanting” the new school but local democracy charged him and his government with responsibility to provide it, with policies enabling builders to build it.

    If the builder cannot afford to do so without adding to the original application then government policy is failing local voters.

  11. Christopher Robinson Reply

    July 6, 2021 at 8:04 pm

    One wonders how much Berkeley Homes has contributed to the Conservatives? They have certainly lost my vote. This development is a disgrace!

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