7.1 Policy Background
7.1.1 The Tunbridge Wells Borough Local Plan advises at paragraph 10.16 that:
"It is essential that adequate provision for recreational open space be incorporated into the early planning of a residential development if future deficiencies are to be avoided."
7.1.2 Paragraph 10.17 goes on to advise that given the demands for additional recreational space generated by new development, developers will be expected to provide adequate space on site. This said, paragraph 10.18 recognises that it may not be practicable to accommodate the required play space in certain instances. On this basis, policy R2 of the Tunbridge Wells Borough Local Plan advises:
"New residential developments providing 15 bed spaces or more will be required to provide recreation open space for youth and adult use calculated at the rate of 1.6-1.8 ha per thousand population and children's play space calculated at the rate of 0.6-0.8 ha per thousand population. Development of 150 bed spaces or more will be required to provide a suitable equipped play area within the children's play space at the rate of 0.2-0.3 hectares per thousand population. All such open space should be provided within or abutting the site as an integral part of the design unless the circumstances defined below apply, in which case the Council will seek to enter into a planning agreement with the developer which provides for a payment in lieu of on site provision which would fairly and reasonably relate to the scale of the development and would be used either to implement the appropriate Plan proposal in Policy R4 or R5 or to improve an existing play space.
Youth or Adult Use -
i) The development would generate a requirement for less than 0.2 ha of recreation open space; or
ii) The required open space cannot be provided in a satisfactory manner due to the shape, size, topography, important landscape or nature conservation features of the site, the character of a conservation area; or risk of conflict with existing neighbouring residential properties; and
iii) Alternative land is allocated in the same town or parish by Policy R4.
Children's Play Space -
i) The required open space cannot be provided in a satisfactory manner due to the shape, size or topography of the site, the character of a conservation area, or risk of conflict with existing neighbouring residential properties; or
ii) A play space is located within 400 metres walking distance which, if made suitable, could meet demand generated by the proposed development; or
iii) A children's play space is proposed within 400 metres walking distance by Policy R5.
a) For the purposes of this policy a suitable play space is defined as having a minimum area of 400m2 and containing 5 pieces of play equipment with safety surfaces and preferably buffer zones or landscape screening around the activity area.
b) Amenity areas, incidental open space and highways land are excluded from these calculations and population figures will be calculated from the number of bed spaces in the development.
c) The 400 metre walking distance should not involve crossing a Primary distributor road as defined in Appendix 7 of this Plan or a railway line unless a safe crossing point for children is provided.
7.2 The Appeal Proposals
7.2.1 During the course of the determination of the appeal proposals, the local planning authority wrote to my office indicating that the appeal proposals attracted a requirement for the provision of recreational open space pursuant to policy R2 of the Tunbridge Wells Borough local Plan, and the council's supplementary planning guidance on residential development and recreational open space (letter dated 19 September 200).
7.2.2 Concurrently with this letter, my office had written to the local planning authority on this issue advising that:
"Whilst we understand that policy R2 of the Local Plan, and your council's supplementary planning guidance require developers to make provision for children's play space, as well as adult/youth play space, we would question the need for the provision of such facilities on this site, or the need for off-site contributions, given the nature of the proposed development. As you will no doubt appreciate, this development is for the construction of luxury apartments, and as such the nature of the intended occupants are not likely to include those with young children, or families. On this basis, we feel that the level of open space provided on site, and the site's proximity to Mount Ephraim, is such that the additional provision is not necessary on site. In addition, given the nature of the intended occupants of this site, we do not feel that there is a justification in this instance for any commuted payment in lieu of onsite provision, as such a contribution would not be fairly or reasonably related to the proposed development, and thus the contribution would fall outside the terms of Circular 1/97."
7.2.3 Notwithstanding the above, the local planning authority have continued to seek a contribution to adult and youth recreational facilities, the case officer in her report to he Western Area Sub-committee on 18th October advising:
"The number and size of units proposed results in the requirement for the provision of recreation open space in accordance with the Policy R2 of the Local Plan and the Council's supplementary planning guidance on this matter. No on site children's play space has been allocated. However, there are communal gardens to the rear (west) of block C. In this instance, it is considered that this small area of open space justifies waiving further requirement for an unequipped play area.
The development also attracts a requirement for youth/adult recreation space under the same policy. In response to a request to this effect, the applicant has commented inter alia that 'We would question the need for the provision of such facilities given the nature of the proposed development. ....this development is for the construction of luxury apartments, and as such the nature of the intended occupants are not likely to include those with young children, or families. On this basis, we feel that the level of open space, and the site's proximity to Mount Ephraim is such that additional provision is not necessary on site. In addition, given the nature of the intended occupants of this site, we do not feel that there is a justification in this instance for any commuted payment in lieu of on site provision..... We ask that in considering this matter further, you have regard to the fact that this development is facilitating improvements to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area...
I have taken account of the applicant's views but do not consider that there is any special justification in this instance which should override the requirement for a commuted sum in lieu of on-site provision for youth/adult recreation space. This is therefore required and should be part of the legal agreement referred to above.
Back to Paul Huxley’s speech at the Public Inquiry May 2001
Telephone House, Tunbridge Wells
Images of Royal Tunbridge Wells - York Road, July 2002
Before CALA Homes moved in - for the demoliton and construction on Telephone House site