20.11.02 - Letter to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, Planning and Building Control Services

Revised Planning Application: Hard and Soft Landscaping for Telephone House site, Royal Tunbridge Wells
CALA HOMES' details were submitted pursuant to condition 11 of the Inspector's Appeal Decision of July 2001

37 Church Road
Royal Tunbridge Wells

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

Nigel Eveleigh, Esq
Head of Planning and Building Control Services
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council
Town Hall, Royal Tunbridge Wells

20 November 2002

Dear Mr Eveleigh

Telephone House
Your notification of revised Planning Application Details TW/02/01743

Thank you for inviting us to comment on the hard and soft landscaping submitted by CALA Homes.

Our main concerns are:

  1. the removal of amenity trees on York Road,
  2. the failure to preserve or enhance the Conservation Area and
  3. the lack of planting of mature trees in Church Road, having formed part of drawings submitted to the Public Inquiry in 2001.

In previous correspondence (22.04.02) Arthur Mann of CALA Homes wrote to THNA:
"CALA will unfortunately have to remove those trees which currently exist along this frontage, as per the approved scheme for the site."

The removal of ALL trees was not specifically approved. CALA Homes seem to have overlooked the drawings submitted by architect Sutters filed at the Public Inquiry, where tall trees were shown to be part of the landscape scheme.

In the planning application there is no proof that the development could remove the trees. This was only assumed or suggested, it was not part of the application.

BT had planted the trees under a planning condition for their car park under Section 59, Town and Planning Act, 1971, "to protect and enhance the appearance and character of the site and locality". BT had to maintain them for 10 ten years.

Right from the beginning we have been told by TWBC planning officers that trees in a Conservation Area are protected, thus do not need a TPO (Tree Preservation Order). We further understand that by law CALA Homes would need to give six weeks’ notice, before they could fell the trees, to give the Council time to decide if a TPO should be served. Have CALA Homes given notice?

We believe that the Inspector in his appeal decision did not grant a planning consent to fell trees on the York Road side and we wish to refer to his Appeal Decision:

- Para 23 Page 5"
"The proposal would result in the loss of trees along the south side of York Road due to the close proximity of the proposed development to the pavement. These trees, which were planted some 19 years ago, are not the subject of a Tree Preservation Order although do provide a degree of visual amenity. However, I acknowledge that, in townscape terms, it is important to reinstate the historical street pattern and building lines along York Road and conclude that the loss of these trees is not sufficient to override such considerations."

This is contradictory to para 11 in the formal decision. However in line 1 of para 23 no reference is given that ALL trees would be lost.

"Formal Decision (para 35)
- Para 11 Page 8"
"No development shall take place until there has been submitted to and approved by the local planning authority a scheme of hard and soft landscaping, which shall include indications of all existing trees and hedgerows on the land, and details of any to be retained, together with measures for their protection in the course of development."

Clearly para 11 indicates that the inclusion of trees in the design was considered a part of the condition.

This is no surprise as in all drawings filed at the Public Inquiry, tall trees were proposed as part of the development screening up to the third floor on York Road and up to the fifth floor on Church Road.

Please refer to schedule of core documents, listed in the Statement of Common Ground and specific Plans quoted in the Appeal Decision:

Those present at the Public Inquiry remember Counsel (Richard Phillips, QC) for the appellant (Crest Nicholson Plc / Southgated Development Ltd) suggest that, with modern technology, mature trees can be planted without a problem.

If CALA Homes refer to an approved scheme they cannot dismiss these drawings being part of the application and resulting in a planning permission given by the Appeal Inspector. The drawings were not amended or taken out during the Public Inquiry, but formed part of the decision process.

The developer [Crest Nicholson] could have appealed against the Inspector’s decision if Condition 11 was not acceptable or was not clear.

In April 2002, at the end of our first meeting, Arthur Mann of CALA Homes, told us what a wonderful feature the trees could be in a CALA style development. We see nothing left of this enthusiasm. The Photina x fraseri proposed for York Road are not trees, but container grown shrubs.

The proposed landscape scheme does not preserve the appearance of the Conservation Area nor enhance it. This alone is sufficient ground for refusal.

For these reasons we therefore suggest that the Landscaping for the development should consider all points relevant to the
Town and Planning Act, 1990 - Para 211

Trees in Conservation Areas
Preservation of trees in conservation areas.

  1. Subject to the provisions of this section and section 212, any person who, in relation to a tree to which this section applies, does any act which might by virtue of section 198(3)(a) be prohibited by a tree preservation order shall be guilty of an offence.
  2. Subject to section 212, this section applies to any tree in a conservation area in respect of which no tree preservation order is for the time being in force.
  3. It shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under subsection (1) to prove -
    1. that he served notice of his intention to do the act in question (with sufficient particulars to identify the tree) on the local planning authority in whose area the tree is or was situated; and
    2. that he did the act in question -
      1. with the consent of the local planning authority in whose area the tree is or was situated, or
      2. after the expiry of the period of six weeks from the date of the notice but before the expiry of the period of two years from that date.
  4. Section 210 shall apply to an offence under this section as it applies to a contravention of a tree preservation order.

Local Plan, 2nd Deposit Copy contradicts the CALA Homes’ proposed landscaping scheme:

Full account should be taken of the guidance in: British Standard 5837, 1991, Guide for Trees, in relation to construction:

- 5.2.1 (d)
"the location of each tree relative to existing site features, e. g. its value as a screen or as skyline feature".

- 5.2.2 (a) (3)
"trees for screening or softening the effect of existing structures in the near vicinity, or of particular visual importance to the locality".

- 6.2.1
"A tree survey provided the basis for deciding which trees might be suitable for retention. Within the limitations imposed by the many other constraints described in 6.2.2 - 6.2.6, preference should be given to retaining the high and moderate category trees".

The Local Planning Authority has published the Conservation Area Appraisal which quotes EN5(6) equivalent to the Local Plan:
"the proposal would not result in the loss of trees, shrubs, hedges or other features important to the character of that part of the conservation area in which the proposal would be situated"

The Borough Council adopted the Kent Design Guide as material consideration.

- 10.2.1.
". . . conserve or enhance existing natural features".

- 10.2.2.
"Features of landscape importance or nature conservation value should be retained. . . ."

In PPG 3 (52) the Government attaches particular importance to the "greening" of residential environments:
". . . Landscaping should be an integral part of new development and opportunities should be taken for the retention of existing trees and shrubs"

Kent High Weald Project, a partnership between TWBC, KCC and Countryside Agency promotes:

"Trees are vital in town centres." "Plantings in urban areas focus on the beneficial effect tress have on the climate and their surrounding".
- In York Road these trees already do exist.

"Mature trees are worth 1000s of saplings".
- The trees have to stay for the present residents and their future neighbours.

Was CALA Homes made aware of the TWBC Guidance Notes: Landscape and Nature Conservation - protecting trees on development sites? -
This TWBC document clearly quotes the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, reinforced by other planning legislation and guidance:
- Town and Country Planning (Trees) Regulation 1999;
- Local Plan Policies EN1 and EN5
- Department of the Environment Circular 36/78 Trees and Forestry,
- Department of the Environment Transport and Regions publication Tree Preservation Orders - A Guide to the Law and Good Practice 2000

Yet another condition by the Inspector was:

" Formal Decision (para 35)
- Para 3 Page 8"
"No development shall take place until details of the boundary walls or fences shall have been submitted, to and approved in writing by, the Local Planning Authority. Such walls or fences shall be erected in accordance with the approved details before the dwellings are occupied."

Fences are closely linked with the issue of landscaping. The Conservation Area Appraisal commends the ironcast fence of adjacent Trinity House. We recommend CALA Homes should have a look at railings in the street before coming up with another cheap alternative.

We looked hard, but could not find anything in the submitted Landscaping Application which would enhance this Conservation Area.

Yours sincerely
Annemarie Topliss
The Telephone House Neighbours Association

cc: Cllrs Roy Bullock, Leonard Price, Wilfred Ekins-Daukes, David Wakefield

The trees on Telephone House site, Tunbridge Wells

Is CALA Homes really going ahead with THAT scheme?