20.02.2004 - Statement to Miss L. Graham, Inspector, appointed by the Secretary of State for the Local Plan Review Inquiry Tunbridge Wells during 2003/2004
Note: The Planning application for the development of Telephone House site was refused by the Members / Councillors of the Western Area Planning Committee, Tunbridge Wells, in October 2000 - but this refusal was overturned by the Appeal Inspector Malcolm Lewis granting planning permission in 2001. Additionally, in May 2001, TWBC allocated Policy H6(a) to the land at Telephone House for Residential Use.
THE TELEPHONE HOUSE NEIGHBOURS ASSOCIATION
32 York Road
Royal Tunbridge Wells
Inspector Miss L. Graham
c/o Town Hall Royal Tunbridge Wells
FINAL STATEMENT - Local Plan Review Inquiry - POLICY H6(a) - Telephone House
Thank you for your letter and enclosure of 4 February. The Borough Council’s response is disappointing.
Policy H6(a) was inserted into the Draft Local Plan by Council officers with total disregard to the wishes of Councillors, of Residents and indeed of Crest Nicholson, the original developers of the Telephone House site.
[ Info: CALA Homes bought from Crest Nicholson Plc and call their development: Norfolk Grange ]
Crest were at one time proposing a sensitive development of some 25 units but were forced in January 2000 to agree to 40 plus units.
When Crest made a second application with 43 units – this was approved by officers but to their annoyance it was rightly turned down by the WAPC (Western Area Planning Committee) in October 2000.
Thus when Crest appealed, officers made only half-hearted attempts to resist it. For example when THNA produced a detailed paper for the appeal Inspector [Malcolm Lewis] it was copied to the Council, but officers did not even pass a copy to the inexperienced Junior Counsel [ Chambers of Anthony Scrivener ] who then had been instructed for the appeal hearing. Indeed at the Public Inquiry in May 2001 one TWBC officer in evidence admitted he had not bothered to read the THNA document.
Immediately after the close of the Public Inquiry on 4 May 2001 the Draft Deposit Copy was issued - prepared for approval by OSB 10 May and extraordinary Full Council 23 May. Council officers conveniently leaked the copy to the appellants who copied it to the Appeal Inspector. An officer had also thought fit to write to the Appeal Inspector and deliberately did not advise the THNA, nor did the Inspectorate.
The insertion of Policy H6(a) was an attempt to justify TWBC officers’ conduct and behaviour from January 2000 onwards and to influence the Appeal Inspector to allow the appeal. As a result Councillors and Residents were very badly let down.
It was most unjustifiable therefore to insert H6(a) in view of the WAPC’s decision in October 2000.
Indeed as it has been pointed out the site is less than 0.4 ha which is the recommended minimum area. It is now described in the Borough Council’s response (para 7.7) as being only “slightly under”. Telephone House site is actually known to be 0.307 hectares ( Policy H6(a) wrongly quotes 0.32 hectares! ) The actual site size of 0.307 ha is 25% lower than the Local Plan recommendation para 6.57 – this we do not call being “slightly under” !
The reasons now given in para 7.7 to support the inclusion of Policy H6(a) are the very reasons that Councillors and Residents objected to the Crest application and for that matter had to be defended by the Council against the appeal by Crest Nicholson.
We maintain the same objections as in May 2001 which were presented to the Full Council.
We therefore enclose the document of 2001 which is reflected on http://uk.geocities.com/telephonehouse/localplanletterthnatocllrs220501.html
The development outlined in Policy H6(a) was and is a key town centre site in a prominent location, on a main thoroughfare within the Conservation Area. There is no question re-development was needed. Crest had proposed a sensitive one of 25 units which was the wish of Councillors and Residents. Instead the Borough is now faced with an insensitive rabbit warren of 43 units which is to nobody’s liking apart from some Council officials for reasons best known to themselves.
In view of the simplicity of the case, we do not consider it necessary to be present at the Formal Hearing on 2 March 2004. The Telephone House Neighbours Association thinks that you, the Inspector, should rely on the written statements made so far. We strongly hope that you will not be guided to follow the proof of evidence given by the Local Planning Authority.
The Telephone House Neighbours Association
2000 - The footprint / layout of the proposed blocks of flats in comparison:
|May 2001 - The Telephone House Neighbours Association wrote to ALL 48 Councillors of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council to dismiss Policy H6(a) from the Local Plan and made them aware that the Policy allocated for Telephone House, represents the same scheme as the twice refused Crest Homes/ BT applications.|
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.