6.1 Policy Background
6.1.1 The Tunbridge Wells Borough Local Plan does not contain any specific policies relating to the preservation of residential amenities, or specific criteria as to the layout and design of new residential development relative to the need to preserve and enhance the character and amenities of the area. Within this context, however, Policy EN1 is considered to be the general policy against which the design of new development, and its relationship to surrounding uses should be assessed. Within this context, paragraph 4.13 of the Local Plan advises that:
"development will not be permitted if it would result in significant overlooking, or would have an otherwise unreasonable effect on the amenity of adjoining users. In considering amenity, regard will be had to privacy, outlook, daylight and sunlight. Overlooking of ground floor living rooms or of the private garden adjacent to the living accommodation will be a particularly important consideration where relevant."
6.1.2 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 extensions, there is no similar guidance in respect of new development. This said, paragraph 4.9 of the Local Plan indicates that in order to achieve a high standard in the layout and design of new residential development, the Local Planning Authority will encourage applicants to take note of the principles contained in Kent Design Volume 1 which had been adopted as a material consideration for the purposes of development control. Whilst Kent Design, as referred to in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Local Plan 1996 has now been superseded, the principles contained within Chapter 2 of Kent Design (1995) remain relevant, and in many respects, have been carried forward within Kent Design (2000).
6.1.3 One of the key objectives and principles of Kent Design (A Guide to Sustainable Development - 2000), is the need to maximise the use of land by encouraging the development of recycled land and increasing densities. Whilst chapter 8 therefore seeks to maximise development potential through increased densities and diversity, it also recognises that development should add to the quality of the environment and
surrounding area, and protect the privacy and amenity of existing occupiers. Section 8.6 of Kent Design does however advise that:
"Many of our most attractive and sought after homes in towns and villages were built in close proximity to one another, providing a human scale and intimacy which many people find sociable, comfortable and private." (Paragraph 8.6.1)
6.1.4 Paragraph 8.6.4 continues:
"Local context will help determine the appropriate form and density of development. It is important, however, to ensure the privacy of existing residents is safeguarded in assessing the impact of new development. As a guide, a distance of 21m between the unobstructed windows of habitable rooms and the private rear facades of dwellings has been found to be generally acceptable. This dimension may, however, vary according to the surrounding context."
6.2 The Appeal Proposals
6.2.1 Given the above, the appeal proposals have been specifically designed to preserve the amenity of surrounding residents, in particular the occupants of Clarence Mews, and York Road. Within this context, the relationship between blocks B and D, and the houses on the opposite side of York Road is in my opinion reminiscent of the traditional close knit pattern of development in the area, and would not result in any adverse loss of privacy. In addition, notwithstanding the fact the appeal site is situated to the south of 34-38 York Road, the overall height of blocks B and D would not result in any adverse loss of daylight or sunlight.
6.2.2 In this respect, the sunlight and daylight report prepared by Schatunowski Brooks and submitted with the application, clearly demonstrates that the level of daylight retained at ground floor level within the properties opposite the appeal site would remain very high for a town centre location, and that similarly the level of sunlight exceeds the requirements of the BRE guidelines, and again is extremely good for a town centre location. Thus, whilst 34-38 York Road would suffer a greater degree of overshadowing than they currently experience, the level of sunlight and daylight would still exceed the BRE guidelines, such that the appeal proposals could not be construed as being adversely detrimental to the amenities of the occupants of these properties in this respect. Whilst the initial sunlight and daylight calculations were undertaken on the basis of the spring equinox, subsequent information submitted to the local planning authority by cover of letter of 18th September 2000, demonstrates that the above conclusions remain the same for both the summer solstice and autumn equinox.
6.2.3 In addition to the above, the appeal proposals , in opening the site up, would actively reduce the extent of overshadowing and loss of sunlight currently suffered by the occupants of Clarence Mews as a result of the existing height and juxtaposition of Telephone House, which is located immediately to the south of the Mews (see Appendix 3).6.2.4 Further, whilst the distance between the rear elevation of block C and the rear elevation of Clarence Mews at 16m, is below the 21 m cited in Kent Design, this level of separation would not in my opinion necessarily result in an adverse loss of privacy. Rather this relationship would in my opinion be reminiscent of traditional mews type developments, the difference in levels between the appeal site and Clarence Mews (as demonstrated on the cross-section drawing 3.03), intervening wall, and proposed boundary landscaping, being such that the appeal proposals should not in my opinion, result in any adverse loss of privacy to the occupants of Clarence Mews. In this respect, it should be noted that in response to an initial concern raised by the local planing authority regarding the relationship of block C and Clarence Mews, the scheme was amended with the balconies on the rear elevation removed, and the fenestration of the upper floors reduced to prevent overlooking. Further, the internal layout of block C is such that each apartment only has one bedroom and one bathroom window situated in the western elevation of block C, facing Clarence Mews. On this basis, and given the above, the appeal proposals would not in my opinion detract adversely from the privacy and amenity of the occupants of Clarence Mews. This spatial relationship is typical of more tightly knit urban situations such as apply in this part of Tunbridge Wells.
6.2.5 Similarly, the relationship of block D and Trinity House, and block B and 27 York Road have also been designed to ensure that there is no adverse overlooking, or loss of sunlight or daylight.
6.2.6 Whilst given the above, I am satisfied that the appeal proposals would not detract from the amenities of local residents, I note that in considering this issue, the case officer in her report to the western area sub-committee on 18th October advised that:
"This category can be divided into the following:
- overlooking/loss of outlook/overshadowing from the new development;
- disturbance from traffic generated by the development.
The buildings have all been designed to try to reduce overlooking of existing properties where possible within the constraints of this town centre location and the overall density of existing and proposed development. The new development would contain balconies but these have been avoided in the most sensitive locations. Windows on the York Road elevation would overlook existing properties across the street but this is considered to be in keeping with the overall pattern of development within the street. Considerable concern has been expressed by local residents of York road in relation to overshadowing and loss of light as a result of the blocks fronting this road. The applicant has submitted shadow diagrams to show how the development would effect existing properties at various times. Properties on the north side of York Road currently face south across and open site. Clearly any development of this site will impact on the sunlight and daylight reaching these properties. However, I am satisfied that the applicants have demonstrated that a refusal of permission on grounds of impact of sunlight and daylight would not be warranted. In addition, the issue has been taken into account to some extent in the overall height of the buildings and the arrangement and design of roofs.
The access for all proposed residents parking would be from York Road. There is an existing access on this road frontage which serves the parking for the commercial use. This has the potential when the B1 office building is occupied to cause significant disturbance to residents. It is not appropriate to compare the situation resulting from the new development to the existing, with the building site currently empty. I do not consider this would offer reasonable ground for refusal. This issue is also considered below under Highway Matters."
6.2.7 On the basis of the above, the appeal proposals would in my opinion accord with the aims and objectives of PPGs 1 and 3, policy H5 of Regional Guidance, policies WK2, ENV15, and ENV16 of the Kent Structure Plan, and policy EN1 of the Tunbridge Wells Borough Local Plan.
Back to Paul Huxley’s speech at the Public Inquiry May 2001
Telephone House, Tunbridge Wells
Impact on amenities and settings to be lost
in York Road and in the Tunbridge Wells town centre