Response from Rodney Stone, Chief Executive, TWBC - 31 July 2001

- Refusal of a copy of Counsel's opinion

re: Challenging the Inspector's appeal decisions - Telephone House, Tunbridge Wells

Corporate Services
Town Hall, Royal Tunbridge Wells, TN1 1RS

Our ref: RJS/ALI
Date: 31 July 2001

Telephone House Neighbours Association
37 Church Road
Kent TN1 1JT

Dear Ms Topliss


Thank you for your letter of the 28 July which I have discussed with the Borough Secretary and Solicitor.

I do not agree with the second paragraph because I believe the "Ombudsman route" and the "High Court route" are separate and not complementary as you suggest.

If you feel that the Council has been guilty of maladministration and that this has resulted in injustice it may be that the Ombudsman may investigate your complaint. I attach some documentation about the Ombudsman for your information. However such a process takes time and would not be concluded by the time you need to appeal to the High Court.

There is also the important point that a complaint to the Ombudsman could only be about the Council's handling of the matter, it would not be about the criticism that you have of the Inspector. The Ombudsman's powers of redress are also limited - he certainly could not quash the permission granted by the Inspector. The only route for that must be through the Courts.

I must stress that you do need to obtain your own legal advice before embarking upon such a potentially costly exercise.

We have decided that it would not be appropriate to let you have a copy of Counsel's Opinion most of which is addressing the Council's ability to appeal rather than yours. Your legal standing is very different from ours. However Counsel did make some comments which are relevant to your position and I will summarise these below. However I stress again that you should not decide on your course of action on the basis of his remarks alone but his comments may help your own advisors in considering the issues.

The crucial point appears to Counsel to be the way in which the emerging existence of Policy H(6) was handled by the Inspector. The matter came before the Inspector by reason of a letter written by the appellant's agents on the 9 May which was copied to the Council. The Council responded on the 15 May.
- Copies of both letters are attached.
Counsel takes the view that the Inspectorate then failed to comply with paragraph 18(3) of the Town & Country Planning Appeals (Determination by Inspectors) (Inquiries Procedures) (England) Rules 2000. However he did not consider that this failure "substantially prejudiced" the Council.

As far as your position is concerned, Counsel advises that only "persons entitled to appear" are entitled to appeal. These are defined in paragraph 11 of the above-mentioned rules and for complicated reasons (did you send a statement of case in accordance with Rule 6(6)?) concluded that you would not have legal standing to mount an appeal. Even if he is wrong on this, he concludes that you were not "substantially prejudiced" by the non-compliance with the rules.

Counsel does not comment on whether or not there may be Human Rights Act issues relating to your position.

I am sorry if the above sounds complicated - it is. For that reason I would urge you again to take your own legal advice if you contemplate mounting a challenge in the Courts.

Yours sincerely
Rodney Stone
Chief Executive

After the Public Inquiry during summer/autumn 2001
TWBC Chief Executive Rodney Stone's attitude towards Residents

Bizarrely, Policy H6(a) allocated for Telephone House was identical to the two refused planning applications for the Telephone House development.
[1st: refused at delegated officers' level - 2nd: refused by the Councillors of the Western Area Planning Committee].
Policy H6(a) is the most controversial document, produced by the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, leading to the Telephone House Debacle.

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.