Meeting: The Telephone House Neighbours and CALA Homes (South), Staines, Middlesex
at 37 York Road, Tunbridge Wells
on Friday 12.04.02 - 2:45 to 4:00 pm

- followed by: - viewing of Telephone House site and surroundings in
York Road, London Road, Dudley Road, Church Road, Tunbridge Wells

and at the same time pointing out views, issues, opinions, objections to
the controversial plans for the high density development of Telephone House
in Tunbridge Wells

Development on Telephone House site, Tunbridge Wells

(AN) - Archie Norman, MP for Tunbridge Wells
(RB) - Roy Bullock, Cllr Kent County Council - Tunbridge Wells Centre
(LP) - Leonard Price, Cllr Tunbridge Wells - Culverden Ward
(BK) - Barbara Kyriakou, Secretary to MP Archie Norman
(AM) - Arthur Mann, Land Director, CALA Homes (South) Ltd
(PM) - Peter Morse, Chairman, The Telephone House Neighbours Association
(AT) - Annemarie Topliss, Secretary THNA
(DB) - Daniel Bech, Committee Member, THNA
(KW) - Kevin Wilkinson, Committee Member, THNA and host
(KM) - Katharina Mahler, THNA
Malcolm Baker, Construction Director, CALA Homes

AN opened the meeting by inviting AM to introduce CALA Homes.

AM went briefly through the history of the company mentioning their history as PLC and the recent management buyout. Bank of Scotland has an interest in the company and financed the buyout. AM informed about present activities and that he judged the company medium but progressive. (AM distributed corporate brochures)

AN explained to AM that he, as MP for TW, supported not only the residents, but the many constituents who felt that the development was not suitable for this area of the town. AN mentioned the negative effects like overbearing, massing, scale, loss of privacy, parking, traffic and the unfavourable setting in the Conservation Area. AN said neither the developer, councillors, nor residents were happy with the scheme.

AN advised CALA Homes to look at the Post Office Development as comparison, which fits very well into this corner of the town and which is seen by many as beneficial to the Conservation Area.

AN made AM aware of the torturous history of the planning applications and that communication between officers, elected councillors and residents had completely failed. AN informed AM that Tunbridge Wells Borough Council held an Internal Inquiry into the handling of the case, so that a similar situation would not occur again.

AM said his company bought the site through an agent from Crest Nicholson and intended to implement the granted planning permission.
AM admitted CALA Homes was not aware of the intense local objections when they bought the site. AM said inter alia he felt that Crest Nicholson passed on "the hot potato" to his company.
[We read in Home Buyer, a supplement to The Courier's 20 April 2002 edition: "The success of Crest Nicholson to date has trigerred a need for additional land. To discuss the possibility of selling land, contact Crest Nicholson on 01959 564282"]
AM said contracts were exchanged mid February and the completion will be End of April. Demolition should start in May and construction work is scheduled for August.
A project manager will be available to liaise. AM advised that CALA Homes has filed a Health and Safety Plan for demolition works which will need approval by TWBC. (AM distributed the Draft document). AM said an Asbestos survey was done and a license will be applied for the Asbestos clearing will cost an extra £15000.
PM said the demolition could become a problem for residents and demolition traffic and construction traffic should not be directed through narrow York Road.
AM admitted it would be logical for traffic to go via Church Road. He added a crane would be on site to assist.

AM confirmed Architect Sutters will be the architect of the project. DB asked if AM is aware of Sutters evidence at the Public Inquiry. AM said he was not aware of it.
LP explained that Sutters said at the Inquiry that the development scheme design was by officers. LP said that the scheme was rejected unanimously by the planning committee. RB said that a first similar application by Crest was condemned by a junior officer to be a pastiche and officers rejected this application. PM said Ken Munday of Crest Homes told him after the refusal of the first application, that officers wanted something modern like the Eiffel tower for TW fit for the next millennium.
AM concluded the camel was redrawn.

KM asked if AM knew that Crest Homes would have seen a possibility to build only 25 units on the site [representing a density of 82 per hectare which is well above PPG3 30-50 units, but more acceptable than the proposed 43 flats = 140 units per hectare].
AM said he was not aware of this. KM said this statement was filed by Architect Sutters at the Public Inquiry and promised to send copies of documents.

  • Vide:

    Minutes of meeting of 4th February 2000 submitted by Sutters
  • Vide:

    Crest Homes 18th February 2000 file note of a telephone conversation with Mr Alan Legg, Conservation Strategy Officer of TWBC - to be found in Sutters documents for the Public Inquiry

AM said the 43 units were confirmed by the Local Plan. RB said that these figures are filed in the Draft Local Plan, which is not full material consideration and which the Inspector misled himself to take into account.

LP asked DB if CALA is aware of the many discrepancies in documents submitted by Crest. DB showed AM the example of Schatunowskiís light study, where incorrect drawings were presented at the Public Inquiry. AM thought it was strange that apparently the Inspector had not realised the errors. DB informed that the Inspector used the incorrect information in his decisions [ 3 houses Nos. 34-38 are overshadowed, instead of 8 houses, Nos. 30-44]
LP said Crest sought planning consent with the idea in mind that anything is better than the present Telephone House - unfortunately the Inspector made his decision in the same way.
AN advised AM to think over the facts presented to him.

DB said that CALA could consider filing a different planning application. AM thought this was not foreseen. DB said that in the case of a new submission the underlying application is not voided. AM said recessing the buildings on York Road would change the volume of the development. DB advised that affordable housing could be relaxed and that the Draft Local Plan contains a clause [6.38].

RB advised that on the actual planning permission changes can be made and plans can be modified to a degree. RB proposed that he and LP could facilitate a meeting with councillors and officers, if needed, with the Chief Executive.

PM summarised what is supported by THNA and their objections. (PM distributed these notes)
The speeches of AN, councillors and residents at the Public Inquiry were presented in a folder to AM. PM advised that the speeches contain not only the details of objections, but mistakes in the design as well.

PM recommended to visit the Associationís Internet site:
PM said that he is hopeful because CALA want to engage in a dialogue and it will be in the interest of all parties if CALA see the possibility to review the plans which nobody in TW finds acceptable.

LP recommended that CALA should talk to residents first before going the official way.

AT invited AM to look from her house to the Telephone House site, so that he could understand the worries of those living opposite the development with regard to loss of privacy and their rights of light. PM said it might be a good idea to show AM the area surrounding the development.

AN thanked all participants.

At the end of the meeting Arthur Mann received copies of THNA members' speeches (Public Inquiry May 2001)
to explain residents' concerns for the development of Telephone House.

NB: during the site visit residents pointed out to AM:

  1. At ATís house, 42 York Road:
    Privacy problems (11.5m distance only,in contrast to Kent Design 21m), will also become a problem for CALAís customers.

  2. On Telephone House site:
    The trees have amenity value, not only for present residents, but would be part of the CALA lifestyle and would serve as a privacy screen.

  3. 31-41 York Road:
    Positive example of recessed houses with front gardens (16m distance and no continuous building line)

  4. York Road towards London Road:
    The tunnel effect of houses built too close to the pavement - the incline of the street which would lead car headlights into windows of the proposed development.

  5. York Road:
    Traffic for demolition and construction is unacceptable due to cellars under pavement, basement flats and listed pavement slabs of York Stone at Nos. 6-14.

  6. Parallel to York Road: - Dudley Road
    was built in one stage, contrary to York Road, which was built up over a longer period of time and always retained open spaces.

  7. Mount Ephraim:
    The opportunity should not be missed to reinstate Trinity as a landmark. The height of the proposed building on Church Road would need to be 4.42 meters lower to be in line with neighbouring listed buildings.

  8. Church Road:
    The existence of 19 parking spaces in the forecourt should be integrated into the landscaping. If these parking spaces were to be retained some of the parking problems foreseen on York Road would be alleviated.

  9. Trinity Church Yard:
    a conversion of the existing building would be more acceptable for residents than the proposed scheme. At least open spaces would be retained and disruption would be limited.
    [see CALA brochure: Britannic Park, Birmingham and Sutters alternative plans for refurbishment]

  10. Residents informed AM that they saw a possibility to raise funds to purchase the site.

    14.04.2002 Councillor Mrs Paulson-Ellis, chairman of Western Area Planning Committee writes to THNA:
    You have my assurance that should the new owners submit a new Planning Application, I will call this in so that it is considered by the Western Area Planning Committee and not dealt with under delegation by Officers

    10.04.2002 Councillor Noakes, chairman of the Local Plan Working Party writes to THNA:
    If an early understanding can be reached between the site owners, you and the planning staff, guided by members, then it is possible that an approval could be achieved for a mutually acceptable scheme before the Local Plan makes much more progress

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

    The Telephone House Neighbours Association, Tunbridge Wells
    The aims are to heighten peoples' awareness and concern for the development on the Telephone House site, Church Road / York Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN1