The Public Inquiry in Tunbridge Wells 1-4 May 2001

Inspector Malcolm Lewis representing the Secretary of State
to decide on Crest Homes / Southgate Developments versus Tunbridge Wells Borough Council

Telephone House, Church Road / York Road, Tunbridge Wells

and the appellants' QC

THNA The official Press Release of THNA to The Courier and Kent Messenger
Members of The Telephone House Neighbours Association spoke at the Public Inquiry highlighting the deficiencies in the developer’s case. Supported by local Councillors and by Tunbridge Wells MP, Archie Norman, together an argument was put forward to the Inspector that provided a third dimension, different from that presented by the developers and the Planning Officers of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.

THNA The Chairman Peter Morse - Summary presented to the Inspector
The Telephone House development would take Tunbridge Wells to significant new records of density. Where is the sanity in this? Look at the problems it creates? What is the rationale other than corporate greed and / or bad or misplaced advice from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council?

THNA The Vice-chairman Heather Jones - Density and related matters
Fewer flats would have allowed the developers more scope to offer an acceptable design and a less imposing footprint. There would have been space on the proposed site for something other than concrete and the buildings would not have had to "tower" over their near neighbours, trees would not have to be removed and many of the other local concerns would have been reduced or removed altogether.

THNA Committee Member William Bennett - Propositions and options
I, like other THNA members, would support a sensitive development for the Telephone House site - with up to 25 units. In density terms this would be 82 units/hectare, which is on the high side (PPG3 recommends 30-50 units/hectare). It would however leave more space for amenities and/or communal gardens.

THNA Committee Member Kevin Wilkinson - Traffic and Parking related matters
The vibration from heavy construction vehicles passing along York Road, estimated as in excess of 1000 heavy vehicles, will structurally damage the properties, their cellars, the telephone, gas, electricity, water mains, sewerage pipes. Should any such traffic be even considered, Crest Nicholson should take out an insurance, presumably for several million Pounds to cover such risks.

THNA Member Nigel Watts - The impact of the 106 agreement for affordable housing
TWBC requires from the developers, Crest Nicholson/Southgate Developments a large percentage of the development to be handed over pro bono for that which is described by the euphemism as affordable housing. In this case of Telephone House it consisted of the entirety of the eight flats in Block D amounting to nearly 20% of the development.

THNA Committee Member Paul Huxley - Residential and Visual Amenities -
faults and misleading information in Computer-Aided-Drawings -
Statement of Common Ground

Mr Richard Philips, QC (for appellant Crest Homes), was concerned about the impact on residents in York Road by prolonging construction work by 6 months. Residents would gladly accept a further 6 months construction work in lieu of construction traffic ruining York Road. If this would cost the developers a further £ 250,000 the residents are happy to start a collection for them.

THNA Committee Member Peter Scott - The Civic Society - ignoring the residents
. . . Meetings between the Civic Society, Crest and the Council - local residents were not invited. The Civic Society did not respond to requests by The Telephone House Neighbours Association to discuss the matters (density of the development, impact on the Conservation Area, the effect on the already inadequate car parking spaces in York Road.)
The Civic Society have decided not to oppose Crest’s appeal. The object of my statement is to point out the fact that the Civic Society’s view, i.e. grudging approval of the application, is in conflict with both those of the local residents and hundreds of inhabitants of Tunbridge Wells who have signed the THNA leaflet opposing the scheme and that the Civic Society’s view should not be used by the appellant to support his application.

THNA Member George Lawson - The Trees on Telephone House site
Given that the second revised application differed very little from the first it is difficult to understand what had changed that lead Planning Department Officials to do a "U" turn that states that these very same trees that were one of the main reasons for their opposition to the first planning application were now "unimportant and have little significance in the overall town landscape".

THNA Committee Member Barbara Clarke - Traffic and related design flaws
When entering by car York Road from London Road one realise that this narrow road slightly rises towards the BT site and guides cars into its left curve drawing the headlights straight into the trees on the BT site.
If the trees are to be replaced by block D/affordable and B, cars’ headlights will flash right into the fenestration of the proposed blocks. I cannot imagine that this aspect was addressed by the architects Sutters of London !

THNA Member Sam McDowell - The relationship of the Conservation Area with the Telephone House site
We entirely agree with James Thomas (Chartered Architects of the appellant Crest Homes) that Telephone House should not be the landmark when viewed from The Common, but we believe that the proposed Block "A" should not be substituted in its place. Mr Thomas suggests that Block "A" is not unduly dominant in the context of neighbouring buildings, but then makes the comparison between it and Europa House, which earlier in his report he had described as a "harmful element," "grotesquely ugly," and "alarmingly insensitive to the listed terrace next to it in Church Road." Compared with a building so horrendously described, maybe Block "A" would not be unduly dominant.

THNA The Secretary Annemarie Topliss - Loss of Light and Privacy
The Appellant's Agent Barton Willmore refers in his Proof of Evidence, concerning Residential Amenities, to 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." - Why did Crest Nicholson/Barton Willmore not adhere to the Tunbridge Wells Council Local Plan?

THNA Committee Member Daniel Bech - Roofscape, Spatial Characteristics, Building Lines
. . . for reinstating history - too many factors are missing: the historic open spaces in the rear, the historic density of the site, the historic streetscape, the historic roofscape of Church Road - all these points are totally ignored in the design.
. . . question to the planners: Why do you want to lose the opportunity to reinstate a "postcard-setting" to write home about?

THNA Member Simon Page - A precedent case
We understand that the outcome of this Public Inquiry could set a precedent case for BT or anybody else. How local residents, local supporters, i.e. the community can be swept under the carpet when it comes to a stand off between money and heritage.
Tunbridge Wells Council officers influenced this development of Telephone House. Of course the developer, Crest Homes, seems to be too willing to accept high density for their own good. We, the residents, have looked at governmental, regional and local Policy guidelines and can nowhere find that such developments are the norm.

TWBC Councillor Leonard Price
To answer the inspector’s question, asking how the decision notice was formulated, Members (Councillors of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council) 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.

TWBC Councillor Kevin Lynes
Royal Tunbridge Wells, along with other spa towns has an architectural heritage of which we can feel justly proud, and whilst I am no planning expert I am sure the motivation of those original architects was more than just cash. I cannot help thinking that the main motivation here is to squeeze the site for as much profit as possible, regardless of how much inconvenience is left for the locals to endure, and ultimately for the Borough Council to sort out.
One who has been elected by local people to voice local concerns, I feel quality of life for our ratepayers is more important than financial gain.

TWBC Councillor David Wakefield's letter to the Inspectorate
. . . the concerns we have on: the density of the proposed building, the effect on a conservation area, the impact on narrow roads of additional traffic.

House of Common MP for Tunbridge Wells, Archie Norman
Tunbridge Wells is a town that has in the past suffered from over-development in the wrong areas and unsympathetic building. As a result the infrastructure, particularly roads are often congested and poorly designed for the buildings they now accommodate.
My constituents are right in saying that this is a very important site for the town. It is possibly one of the last major redevelopment opportunities in the town centre and in the midst of the Conservation Area. Any concerned developer should be seeking to ensure that such a unique opportunity was an enhancement to the town and its architecture.

Queen's Counsel Appellants’ (Crest Nicholson Plc and British Telecom's Southgate Developments) Closing Submissions
Richard Phillips QC, instructed by Barton Willmore Planning Partnership

Queen's Counsel Appellants’ (Crest Nicholson Plc and British Telecom's Southgate Developments) Costs
Richard Phillips QC, instructed by Barton Willmore Planning Partnership

Public Inquiry Decision Could the Planning Inspector's appeal decisions have been challenged ?

developers Whom are we dealing with ? - The developers of Telephone House, Tunbridge Wells

contents 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.