02.05.01 - The Public Inquiry - Telephone House, Tunbridge Wells - Speech of Councillor Leonhard Price

My name is Leonard Price. I am an elected member of the Borough Council and Chairman of The Western Area Planning Committee.

I have heard and read a number of critics of this committee decision and would make a few comments on this decision.
The strength of members opinions were not included in the decision notice.
I like Bill Bennett have a sympathy with the developers who will be confused with the variety of advice given to them by Planning and Highway officers.

This committee is made up of 18 members, all of whom represent wards within the Western Area.
It is an "all party group" not concerned with political issues. Most of them with a number of years planning experience. All of them with a good knowledge of the area including the application site, more probably than the applicant and officers who advised them.

The members were advised in the papers to treat this application "on its own merits".

After a lengthy debate not one member of the 14 present voted in favour of the application.

We were guided by

  1. Officers recommendation
  2. PPG documents
  3. Development Control Schedule of Model - Planning Conditions
  4. Kent Design Guide


In guidance contained in the Committee papers it is stated that the proposed density was 126 dwellings per hectare this was questioned by members who remained unsure of the advice given to us.

As a consequence density was not specifically noted in the decision notice. This was generally accepted in any case to be in excess of the governments recommendations and it was unanimous that the development was over-intensive and out of character.

The decision notice refers to EN1(2) which concerns density and should be a consideration. - Note site coverage.

Kent Design

Mr. Philips referred to Kent Design Guides.
These refer to spacing between buildings recommending a minimum of 21 m between windows facing each other with an additional 5 m as required for amenity space. These recommendations are not met.

Tunbridge Wells Development Control Schedule of Model - Planning Conditions

Design page 5:
- - Space between buildings -- DR12 - -
" The proposal would have an adverse effect upon neighbouring property and would fail to accord with the provisions of the Kent Housing Design Guide so far as these relate to minimum distances between dwellings."


Design page 4:
- - Unacceptable overshadowing -- DR06 - -
"The proposal, by virtue of its size and close proximity to adjacent dwelling, would be seriously detrimental to the amenity of the occupants of those dwellings because of its overshadowing effect and the loss of outlook."


Highways page 11:
- - Inadequate Access -- HR02 - -
"The access is inadequate to serve the development proposed, and its use would create unacceptable additional hazards to traffic."

The access to York Road via London Road will doubtless cause problems with vehicles turning into York Road when York Road is congested - Church Road in my opinion is a better option.


Conservation page 3:
- - Proposal would detract from Conservation Area -- CR01 - -
"The site is included within a designated Conservation Area and the proposed development would detract from the visual amenities of the Area, the character and appearance of which it is desired to preserve and enhance."
(Mass, Footprint, Trees)


Landscaping and Trees page 14:
- - Loss of Mature Trees -- LR03 - -
"The proposed development would result in the felling of mature trees forming a prominent feature in the locality, the loss of which would be detrimental to visual amenity."

To answer the inspector’s question, asking how the decision notice was formulated, Members are not given prior advice before such a decision, as this application is taken and is agreed after the vote is taken, with input from members, written by officers - and does not demonstrate the weight of members’ opinions.

To conclude I ask that you, Sir, take full account of:

October 2000 - Refusal of the 2nd joint planning application for the Telephone House Development -
Crest Nicholson Plc and British Telecom's Southgate Developments