The formal objection to the Local Plan Review, Policy H6(a) - September 2001

The Policy for the allocation of residential development on the Telephone House site, Church Road / York Road, Tunbridge Wells
The Policy as drafted, completely ignores the known views of the MP for Tunbridge Wells Archie Norman, of elected Councillors and all objections raised by a substantial number of residents and council tax payers.

3 Please state fully and clearly the reasons you are objecting or supporting part of the Plan, using a continuation sheet if necessary

17 September 2001

  1. A very similar application by Crest Homes / Southgate Limited, submitted by Architects Fountain, Flanagan, Briscoe, was refused at delegated officerís level in January 2000.
    The grounds for refusal would contradict Policy H6(a)

  2. A very similar application by Crest Homes / Southgate Developments Limited, submitted by Agent Barton Willmore was refused unanimously by the Western Area Planning Committee in October 2000.
    The grounds for refusal would contradict Policy H6(a).
    It became clear at a Public Inquiry in May 2001, that the grounds for refusal given on this occasion did not represent the strength of Membersí opinion.

  3. TWBC Local Plan Review - Housing Development - paragraph 6.57: "Given the large number of small, unidentified sites likely to come forward for development during the Plan period, the Local Planning Authority sought to identify only sites of 0.4 hectares or greater as housing allocations . . . "
    Therefore a Policy for the Telephone House site should not have been proposed as the site is known to be 0.307 hectares. [Policy H6(a) additionally quotes wrongly 0.32 hectares!]

  4. - Policy EN16: "Development proposals will only be permitted where the foul and surface water, sewerage and water supply services would have sufficient capacity to meet the demands of the development."
    - paragraph 4.125: "Account will be taken of the capacity of existing drainage, sewers or water supply services. Any necessary improvements to these services to cater for the extra demand resulting from the proposals should form part of the scheme. Regard should be had to the guidance given in Kent Design - a guide to sustainable development (2000) concerning measures to promote the re-use and recycling of water."
    The case officerís report to the WAPC clearly states: "Southern Water Authority does not wish to make any comments"
    Her statement indicates that the proposed Policy H6(a) has not the endorsement of Utility Companies.

  5. Density

    1. The recommended density levels are an exaggerated interpretation of governmental guidelines. They are not followed through in an even way in other Local Plan policies with more land available, e. g. H6 (b) and H6 (d) and H6 (e) and H6 (f).
    2. In his Cost Decision for the Public Inquiry May 2001, the Inspector states: " The Councilís witness stated in her proof that the high density of the scheme made a significant contribution to Membersí concerns about the development ..."
    3. The following recommendations in the Local Plan Deposit Copy itself, contradict the density proposed on this site:
      - paragraph 2.45: "The density of development should be maximised on such sites without compromising environmental quality."
      - paragraph 4.10: "The extent to which the intensity of the proposed development would impact on the character or amenities of the area and the amenity of nearby occupiers will be taken into consideration."

  6. Form, Layout and Landscaping

    1. The proposed "frontage development, to follow existing building lines"
      will result in
      1. Loss of Light, Privacy and Overlooking
        During the Public Inquiry the THNA successfully demonstrated that the architects did not realise that the distance between principal rooms of the new development and the existing houses on the North side of York Road is only 12 metres!
        The following recommendations in the Local Plan Deposit Copy itself, contradict the proposed building line for the scheme:
        - page 27 Policy EN1(2): "All proposals for development within the Plan area will be required to satisfy all of the following criteria: The proposal would not cause significant harm to the residential amenities of adjoining occupiers, and would provide adequate residential amenities for future occupiers of the development, when assessed in terms of daylight or sunlight, and privacy"
        - paragraph 4.11: "In judging privacy the overlooking of principal rooms or private garden areas will be a particularly important consideration."
      2. Loss of established road-side Trees
        During meetings with residents it was confirmed by Nigel Eveleigh, Building and Planning Control Services Manager, and David Prentis, Development Control Manager, that both would accept the recessing of any future development on York Road so as to keep the trees.
        John Haynes, Director of Operational Services, in his letter of 13 June 2001 to THNA suggests: "It is considered that the wording in the Local Plan document allows flexibility of interpretation as to the appropriate solution for the development and does NOT specify following a building line."
        The following recommendations in the Local Plan Deposit Copy itself, would contradict Policy H6(a), as York Road would inevitably lose a group of trees which contribute to the character of the area:
        - page 26 (Aims 8) : "To protect individual trees, groups of trees (particularly ancient woodland) and other vegetation which are important to the character of the towns, villages and countryside."
        - page 27 Policy EN1(4): "The proposal would not result in the loss of significant buildings, related spaces, trees, shrubs, hedges, or other features important to the character of the built up area or landscape"
        - paragraph 4.23: "Development proposals should ensure that existing site features, such as individual, or groups of, trees, hedges, shrubs, field patterns, ponds or watercourses, are not only retained as part of the overall landscaping scheme but are supplemented, where appropriate, by additional planting. This will offer opportunities for habitat creation, and will also add considerable value to the appearance of the development. The Local Planning Authority will have regard to the latest British Standards Advice on Trees in Relation to Construction when assessing the proximity of trees in relation to new buildings and surroundings, and their potential effect, including long-term impact, on future occupiers. The felling or lopping of trees following occupation of a new building will be strongly resisted."
        - paragraph 4.91: "Trees and woodland contribute greatly to the appearance of the countryside, and the character of many of the towns and villages within the Plan area, as well as providing valuable wildlife habitats. The Local Planning Authority recognises the important amenity and recreational function that woodland makes and is committed to conserve and retain existing trees and to encourage new planting through policies contained throughout the Plan. For compatibility with the existing landscape and for ecological reasons it will be appropriate to plant native trees."
        - paragraph 4.157: "All towns and villages within the Borough contain important tree groups which contribute to the character of conservation areas. Other smaller groups or individual trees may contribute significantly to the character of conservation areas, for example by providing enclosure to spaces, enhancing the setting of a building or group of buildings, or providing a landmark feature of individual value. Dense tree and shrub cover in mature private gardens also contribute to the character of conservation areas within the Plan area."
        - paragraph 6.91: " Important landscape features within development sites should be retained as an integral part of the design. Sites with well-established landscaping will require tree surveys and landscape management plans. Landscape will be an important element to the frontage of certain sites, including the approach routes of St Johnís Road and Church Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells. Landscape can also act as a buffer to less attractive views from development sites."
    2. The proposed "On York Road, the building line should create a sense of enclosure, " will result in a "TUNNEL-effect"
    3. Cars entering from London Road will draw their headlights straight into ground-floor fenestration if dwellings are not recessed.

  7. Dwelling Mix
    It is understood that the development land is, due to its prime location, of high financial value. A relaxation on affordable housing would therefore be appropriate in view to allow for better design and layout in this part of the conservation area.
    - paragraph 6.38: " . . . where there are demonstrable exceptional and unforeseen costs involved in preparing and developing previously-developed sites, the percentage of affordable housing on any given site will be subject to negotiation at the time of a planning application so as to allow for issues of viability to be considered."

  8. Recreation and Community provision Recreational open spaces should be provided on-site - NOT relaxed in form of a commuted sum, which is likely to be only £ 14.700 - minute in relation to an over £ 10 million project.

  9. Access
    The proposed "vehicular access from York Road is preferred" will result in

    1. forcing all traffic into the often congested town centre on exit and
    2. relying entirely on the extreme busy A26 as turning/crossing point for access.
    3. damaging listed buildings if demolition and construction traffic is allowed to use York Road

The Policy as drafted, completely ignores the known views of the MP for Tunbridge Wells Archie Norman, of elected Councillors and all objections raised by a substantial number of residents and council tax payers.

4. If objecting to a policy or proposal, please indicate what change you are seeking to the Plan which could resolve your objection.
  • Density around 25 units (= 90 units per hectare) (compare e.g. Garden Road Planning application TW/00/01673)

  • Development on York Road site should be set back from houses opposite to a minimum of 16 m (at same distance of mews houses proposed by Crest on the west side of the development)

  • Respect building heights of neighbouring and houses opposite, especially on York Road

  • Restore the setting of Trinity Church as Landmark

  • Integrate existing trees into the design

  • Allow Church Road to have its own traffic arrangements (sole access/exit via York Road is not acceptable) Demolition and Construction traffic should be entirely excluded from York Road (Refer to the report of the Planning and Building Control Services Manager to WAPC - condition 17, October 2000)

  • Relax affordable housing to minimum guideline to allow for better amenities

Bizarrely, Policy H6(a) allocated for Telephone House was identical to the two refused planning applications for the Telephone House development.
[1st: refused at delegated officers' level - 2nd: refused by the Councillors of the Western Area Planning Committee].
Policy H6(a) is the most controversial document, produced by the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, leading to the Telephone House Debacle.

The Telephone House Neighbours Association informs on CALA Homes (South) Development :
CALA Group acquired the controversial planning permission for the high density development of Telephone House site, Church Road / York Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN1, Kent.