30.04.2002 - Letter to Arthur Mann, Landdirector, CALA Homes (South)

"You are still clearly intending to proceed in accordance with the original application which was granted on appeal. - However, there is great strength of feeling against the present plans, all residents and Councillors strongly favour a development but, with the exception of a few Council officers, we desperately want a SYMPATHETIC one, which will reduce the density, have an entrance in Church Road and with the blocks on York Road set back thus enabling the trees to be retained."


THE TELEPHONE HOUSE NEIGHBOURS ASSOCIATION
37 Church Road
Royal Tunbridge Wells
TN1 1JT

e-mail: telephonehouse@cs.com
internet: http://uk.geocities.com/telephonehouse

FAO: Arthur Mann, CALA Homes (South)
Burgan House, The Causeway
Staines, Middlesex TW18 3PR

30 April 2002

Dear Mr Mann

Telephone House Tunbridge Wells
Your ref: : DAM1/fh 22 April 2002

Thank you for your letter of 22nd April 2002 and I am grateful to you for writing in detail about many of the problems which we raised at our meeting on 12th April.

You are still clearly intending to proceed in accordance with the original application which was granted on appeal.

Will you permit me to make some further points and I apologise if some may be repetitive.

I accept that CALA have bought a site which is ripe for development with detailed planning permission and seemingly therefore ready for an immediate start. However, there is great strength of feeling against the present plans, all residents and Councillors strongly favour a development but, with the exception of a few Council officers, we desperately want a SYMPATHETIC one, which will reduce the density, have an entrance in Church Road and with the blocks on York Road set back thus enabling the trees to be retained.

We accept that for CALA to do this is going to require amending the plans which will take time and result in some delay.

Nevertheless we suggest the end result for CALA would be a greater profit and an abundance of goodwill. This profit would be achieved by building fewer but superior units, with either reduced or no affordable housing. They would fit more aptly into the Conservation Area and sell far more readily.

The present plans with the high density are unsuitable for this site and would market slowly and at lower prices. It is surely significant that Crest Nicholson sold the site to you, yet you will see from our Internet site (Meeting Notes 12 April 2002) are advertising to purchase additional land for development.

As we mentioned at our meeting, Crest originally considered a development of 25 units, which was not supported by officers and not referred to the Western Area Planning Committee. They were forced to apply for 43 against their better judgment and now have realized, we suggest that a development in its present form and against the wishes of so many would lose money; in other words it was a Pyrrhic victory.



I would like to turn to some of your detailed comments.

Demolition and Construction

You "agree that heavy construction and demolition traffic using York Road would have an adverse impact upon the residential amenity ..... which may result in structural damage... These points are very much at the forefront at our considerations."
You confirm that CALA agree that access from Church Road would be preferable. This is also the view of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council we understand, but we will be grateful if you will advise us precise details as soon as they are known.

Demolition

It will be of comfort to the residents of York Road if the trees can be retained under an amended plan, but in any events not cut down until immediately before construction work on the North side of the site starts. Could you please confirm this?

Density

You state you have confirmed that "the density is 140 units to the hectare" whilst 30 to 50 units is the guideline. You assert that higher densities "are perfectly acceptable within town centre location(s) which are well served by and have good access to local transport links as well as local services and amenities".
With respect we cannot agree and to ignore as you do Policy ENV17 and ENV19, regarding development in Conservation Areas and close to Listed Buildings, shows scant respect for a charming area at the heart of Tunbridge Wells.

I should also add that the Draft Local Plan (DLP) was not published until after the Public Inquiry had terminated. Its contents were then deliberately leaked to the appeal Inspector who should have ignored it and by not so doing misdirected himself.

Policy H6(a) of the DLP should never have been included, for as well as containing factual errors, it was contrary to the findings of the Western Area Planning Committee reached in October 2000. It was not removed from the DLP when the DLP was considered in May 2001 after the Chief Executive of TWBC assured Members that it would not be taken into account by the Inspector! When the Inspector only took it into account in his reasons, the Chief Executive then advised against taking the matter to the High Court where the Appeal decision would almost certainly have been overturned.

We are sure that Councillors and Residents of Tunbridge Wells will give full support for a development restricted to +/- 25 units.

Potential of (actual) Loss of Light

You note the "perceived reduction in privacy that has until now been enjoyed by some residents along York Road, and further your (our) concerns over the Rights of Light Report prepared by Schatunowski Brooks as part of the Appeal submission."
As to the former it will be actual and not merely perceived although the effects will be ameliorated if the trees can be retained and the 2 blocks set back into the site.
As to the latter we look forward to hearing from you when you have a reply form Schatunowski.

Massing and Scale

You say "The building that we intend building ..... will we feel become a valuable addition to the variety and mixture of dwellings .... within the town centre ....."
Whilst we agree any change from the present monstrosity is for the better it is clear to the residents and Councillors that it lacks sensitivity and inspiration and, whilst it may add variety, it certainly will not be a valuable addition which is not surprising since the present plans provide for 43 units to be squeezed into this small site.

Building footprint

You say in your letter "we will unfortunately have to remove those trees which currently exist along this frontage, as per the approved scheme for the site".
It would be unfortunate indeed and we trust that you will be persuaded that there are wiser alternatives.

Access

You say that access/egress from York Road after completion of the development "has", you think, "been duly considered by the relevant Highways authority and has been arrived at as the best solution".
We believe that no in detailed depth consideration was given and it is admitted by many to be a mistake and thought by almost all residents to be a blunder. Do CALA think that the present plan is the best?




As you know plans may be modified and at our meeting Councillor Roy Bullock offered to arrange a meeting between you, residents, Councillors and Council officers. This must surely be worthwhile. If you can be assured that a sympathetic development along the lines mentioned will be supported by Councillors and accepted by officers, we do sincerely believe that there would be greater profit for CALA and greater happiness in Tunbridge Wells.


Finally, I am somewhat at a loss in understanding your fears about what we may or may not publish on our Internet site.

Our pleasant meeting was not a private one and we thus published our notes thereafter. We shall also be putting this letter on the Internet site although in deference to your apparent wishes not to publish, we are refraining from putting your letter in at present.

I and my Committee are always happy to meet or exchange views with you in complete confidence but this should be agreed beforehand.

You will appreciate that our internet site is the means by which our members and local residents keep themselves up to date. Judging by the number of hits the site receives, many others interested in the local property and housing markets, are also kept abreast of developments.

Yours sincerely
Peter Morse
Chairman
The Telephone House Neighbours Association



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

Profile: CALA Group Ltd - CALA Homes (South) - CALA Finance Ltd