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Fresh Howard of Effingham School homes bid refused as councilor brands meeting ‘bun fight’ in random phone call

More than 110 new homes on a Guildford school site have been rejected by Guildford in a meeting described as a “bun fight”. The 114 additional homes linked to the development at Howard of Effingham School had been turned down by Guildford Borough Council’s planning committee last week.

A separate bid for 26 homes in Ripley High Street was also refused, at the council meeting which councilor John Redpath attended remotely described as a “bun fight” while taking a telephone call without realizing his mic was unmuted.

Councilor Redpath (Residents for Guildford and Villages, Holy Trinity) said at the meeting on March 30: “Just one sec. Yeah, we’ve got a bun fight going on at planning tonight over the Howard of Effingham School.”

Read more: Howard of Effingham School transformation into nearly 100 homes rejected by Guildford planners

He was called on by the meeting chair, Fiona White (Liberal Democrat, Westborough) to mute his microphone in a meeting where she had to remind councilors of their responsibilities on the planning committee more than once.

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 a final 99 homes proposed on the current school site.

But developers said the length of time taken to get to this stage of planning had pushed the costs of the school up, and the new application for 114 additional homes was needed to make the scheme viable – putting the future of the new school under uncertainty.

Speaking on behalf of the applicant, John Rhodes, a planning consultant, said the current school site was not fit for purpose, with many classrooms not meeting “modern basic standards”.

Mr Rhodes said: “The evidence is established and has been independently reviewed. This development is necessary to fund the new school and there are no other ways in which an acceptable environment for current and future pupils of the school can be achieved.”

Councilors voted narrowly against officers’ recommendation to approve the plans, by seven votes to six, and then approved a motion to refuse the plans.

The plans would have included 110 houses to the north of the site, backing on to Thornet Wood, with a community orchard, allotments and a children’s play area. There would also have been four self-build houses on another part of the site, which were put forward for outline permission in the same application.

The original outline plan for the whole site, of 295 homes and the redeveloped school moved to the other side of Lower Road from its current site, was approved by the Secretary of State on appeal in 2018.

Rhona Barnfield, speaking on behalf of The Howard Partnership Trust, the multi-academy trust that runs the school, said the school community was “really excited” about the plans for the new school building and highlighted the Cullum Center which would offer children with autism. the support to “remain and thrive” in a mainstream school.

She said: “For over a decade now, we’ve tried to find a way to provide the facilities that our young people deserve, facilities that are adequate and sufficient to meet modern educational requirements to serve the growing local population, ensuring parents still have. the choice of their local school. “

Councilor Liz Hogger (Liberal Democrat, Effingham) spoke at the start of the meeting to say that though she was a member of Effingham Parish Council she did not play any part in her objection to the plans.

On the application, she said the cost of the school at the time of the public inquiry in 2017 was put forward as 38million, which had now risen to 53.5m.

She said: “There has been some question about whether this school is actually over specified. That is more expensive than you would expect for a normal state school.

“So we really have to think about whether this new school is really the least expensive option, the best way forward for providing the improved school which we would all want to have.”

The vice-chairman of the Effingham Resident’s Association, Ian Smith, spoke at the meeting to object to the plans, saying he thought the consented scheme would now be more profitable given the price of houses was increasing in the area.

He added: “Given the length of time that this proposed development has been in the planning system, Berkeley Homes has used the issue of viability as the tool to hold you, the local authority, and the residents of Effingham to ransom for the building of a new school. “

Ripley High Street 26 homes bid refused

The committee also refused permission for a development of 26 homes off Ripley High Street, which already has outline permission, because of the loss of a retail site on the land and a lack of visitor parking.

Meeting chair Counselor White reminded the committee that there had to be “strong planning policies” to support any refusal.

She said: “I’m really sorry, I don’t like laying the law down, if you like, but a refusal has to be sustainable.”

The plans included 42 parking spaces, including one visitor space but concerns were raised about the loss of a shop space in an area designated by the council as a “district center”.

No councilor came forward to second the motion to approve the application, as per officers’ recommendations, and a motion to refuse won by 11 votes for and two abstentions.

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