04.05.01 - The Public Inquiry - Speech of The Secretary Annemarie Topliss

Loss of Light and Privacy - The Telephone House Development, Tunbridge Wells

My name is Annemarie Topliss. I have lived at York Road for the past 20 years.

The Appellant is fully aware of the Loss of Light issue and pretends it does not exist.

We want to raise the issue of Loss of Light as a legal point with regard to the Presciption Act of 1832. The Rights of Light issue is too complex to go into here. Suffice it to say that we will take out an injunction if the development starts as it stands. It is a matter which will probably be fought out in court rather than in this Public Inquiry.

This said, the Prescription Act cannot be satisfied with shadow diagrams as supplied by the Appellant, but only with calculations and diagraphs which show the actual loss of light affecting rooms with openings.

The Appellant was aware of the light and privacy infringement, was in contact with neighbours facing the development, and offered compensation.

Letter by Schatunowski Brooks of 22 October 1999
Letter by Schatunowski Brooks of 25 November 1999
Letter by Katherine Quinnell in The Courier of 30 March 2001

Ruth Chambers, the case officer, confirms in her letter to The Telephone House Neighbours Association that she had not been made aware of an offer for compensation in the context of the application.

THNA’s letter of 26 January 2001
Ruth Chambers’ letter of 15 February 2001

Ruth Chambers advised in her report to the Western Area Planning Committee on 18 October 2000:
"The buildings have all been designed to try to reduce overlooking of existing properties where possible within the constraints of this town centre location...".
We ask what did Mrs Chambers want to reduce when there was nothing to overlook before.

I wish to submit as evidence the correspondence relating to this issue including a letter by Mark Berry, Principal Planning Officer, dealing with the first application.

Letter by Katherine Quinnell, York Road, 1 Nov 1999
Letter by Mark Berry, Principal Planning Officer, TWBC, 25 Nov 1999

The Appellant refers in his Proof of Evidence, chapter 6, Residential Amenities, page 33, in Section 6.11 to paragraph 3.13 of the Local Plan:
"development will not be permitted if it would result in significant overlooking or would have an otherwise unreasonalbe effect on the amenity of adjoinign users. In considering amenity, regard will be made to privacy, outlook, daylight and sunlight. Overlooking of ground floor living room or of the private garden adjacent to the living accommodation will be a partiularly important consideration where relevant."

Section 6.1.2 in the same Proof states that
"whilst paragraph 4.13 goes on to advise applicants to take account of the advice contained within the supplementary planning guidance prepared by the Local Planning Authority concerning alterations and extension, there is no similar guidance in respect of new development."

The Appellant refers all the time to restoring an historic building line, yet wants it to be a NEW development at the same time.

The problem of Overlooking, Loss of Light and of Privacy is a major factor why the proposed design is incompatible with modern living. We cannot imagine that it will be possible for new permanent residents to integrate into a neighbourhood where there is a known problem with privacy right from the beginning. We are not talking about an hotel where guests move in and out after very short stays. Any residents having bought a flat to make their home, rather than a habitat for convenience, will soon realise that not only will they never have sunlight in their front rooms but that they will enter the same vicious circle we will be in and will suffer neighbourhood watch at its worst - and wont even need binoculars.

May I show you the distance at which the new buyer will see us opposite.

Photograph from proposed Block B, towards No. 40 York Road, showing the distance
Photograph from the balcony of No. 42 York Road into the trees, showing the distance

In the Appellant’s Statement of Proof, Section 6.2.4, we read how the proposed guidelines of the KENT DESIGN for a distance of 21 metres would need to be relaxed to 16 meters for Clarence Mews. Curiously, the Appellant nowhere mentions the exact distance between the proposed development and the houses Nos 30 - 44 York Road.
Because the distance is only 12 metres.

May I just show you that distance with a tape measure?

The rights of light and loss of light issue

The Telephone House Neighbours Association, Tunbridge Wells
The aims are to heighten peoples' awareness and concern for the development on Telephone House site, Church Road/York Road, Tunbridge Wells.