The Minutes of Operational Services Board Meeting held on 26 July 2001
PLANNING APPEAL DECISION - RE. TELEPHONE HOUSE, CHURCH ROAD, ROYAL TUNBRIDGE WELLS
are part of the Agenda for the Full Council Meeting on 9 October 2001


TUNBRIDGE WELLS BOROUGH COUNCIL
Town Hall Royal Tunbridge Wells

COUNCIL MEETING - 9 OCTOBER 2001


2 October 2001

To the Members of the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council

I request your attendance at a meeting of the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council to be held at the Town Hall, Royal Tunbridge Wells, on Tuesday 9 October 2001, at 6pm, when the following business is proposed to be transacted.

  1. Apologies for absence.
  2. The Minutes of the meeting held on 3 July 2001, if in order, to be approved as a correct record.
  3. Questions from members of the public.
  4. Mayor's announcements.
  5. Questions from members of the Council, of which due notice has been given pursuant to Standing Order 9, to be submitted and answered.
  6. To receive the reports of the following Boards and to pass such resolutions thereon as may be deemed advisable:
    • Operational Services Board - 26 July 2001 - page 73
    • Operational Services Board - 20 September 2001 - page 95
    • Central Board - 25 September 2001 - page 115
  7. Joint Independent Remuneration Panel
    1. Under the authority set out in Minute 36/01 (June 2001), an appointments panel, consisting of Councillors Chapman (Sevenoaks), Scholes (Tunbridge Wells) and Thornewell (Tonbridge & Mailing) recently met, in order to interview applicants for places on the Joint Independent Remuneration Panel for Sevenoaks District, Tonbridge & Mailing and Tunbridge Wells Borough Councils.
    2. The unanimous recommendations of the appointments panel, (which have been approved by both other Councils) were as follows:
      That Professor John Forsythe (3 years), Mr Anthony Shepherd (3 years), Mr Michael Eede (5 years), Mr Alan Riddell (3 years) and Mrs Amanda Stewart (5 years) be appointed as the members of the Joint Remuneration Panel (the figures in brackets representing the length of appointment recommended in each case); and
      That members of the Joint Remuneration Panel be paid a retainer of £1,000 per annum plus £10 per hour spent on Panel business, plus reasonable expenses necessarily incurred on Panel business.
    RECOMMENDED - That the above recommendations be approved.
  8. To authorise the Common Seal of the Council to be affixed to any contract, Minute, notice or other document arising out of the Minutes, or pursuant to any delegation, authority or power conferred by the Council.
  9. To consider the following motion, notice of which has been duly given by Councillor Baker (A):
    "That this Council expresses great concern at the continuing deterioration in the quality of the services provided to the residents of Tunbridge Wells Borough (as indicated in the official national performance indicators) and calls upon the Leader of the Council to take the actions necessary to reverse this trend and improve the quality of services provided to the residents of Tunbridge Wells."

Chief Executive



MINUTES of OPERATIONAL SERVICES BOARD

Thursday 26 July 2001

Present: Councillor Veitch (Vice-Chariman) (in the Chair)
Councillors Mrs Blackburn, Cload, Cunningham, Neve, Noakes, Mrs Paulson-Ellis, Rusbridge (Substitute), Weeden and Young.
Non-Board Members present: Councillors Price and Scholes
Apologies for Absence: The Borough Secretary and solicitor reported apologies for absence form Councillor Oliver-Smith.


PLANNING APPEAL DECISION RE. TELEPHONE HOUSE, CHURCH ROAD, ROYAL TUNBRIDGE WELLS - 75/01

The Borough Secretary and Solicitor and Head of Planning and Building Control Services presented a joint report (OPS/01/07/09) on the decisions of the Planning Inspector to grant planning permission for development of the site at Telephone House, Church Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells and to award the appellant its costs. The report invited Members to decide whether to lodge an appeal against either, or both, decisions in the High Court.

[ The Telephone House Neighbours Association requested several times to have this report made public -
The definite answer to this request was by Chairman of Operational Services Cllr Paul Oliver-Smith at the Full Council Meeting on 4 December 2001:
"The Report weakens the Councilís position - therefore the monitoring officer (= Solicitor and Borough Secretary Martin Harris) recommended not to circulate it to your group"
]

It was confirmed at the meeting that all Members had personally received letters from the Telephone House Neighbours' Association and copies of correspondence from that Association to the Chief Executive and the Director of Operational Services were circulated.
[ 09.07.01 (THNA/KQ - all 48 Councillors) + 20.07.01 (THNA/KQ - Rodney Stone) + 24.07.01 (THNA/AT - John Haynes) + 23.07.01 (THNA/AT - Councillors of Operational Services Board) ]

It was agreed that the issues raised be considered separately, first addressing the recommendation and secondly what lessons the Council could learn from what happened and how procedures within the Council generally can be improved.

After considerable discussion, Members agreed that, even if an appeal to the High Court were to be successful, and in the opinions of both Counsel and the Borough Secretary and Solicitor this was extremely unlikely as detailed in the report, the result would merely be that the Inspector's decision would be quashed. The Council and the appellants would then be invited to make representations covering Policy H6 and others as part of the draft deposit Local Plan which was now a material planning consideration the Inspector could have regard to. The likely outcome of any new decision was therefore the same. In the circumstances it was agreed that no appeal should be lodged. Members were advised that on the issue of costs, it was intended that they would be assessed by the court before payment is made.

With regard to the second issue, it was noted that the Director of Operational Services had been instructed to investigate and report to Operational Services Board his findings and recommendations as soon as possible on lessons to be learnt from the handling of the appeal, avoiding the issue of blame. During discussions it became apparent that there were a number of areas to be considered including provision of full and comprehensive training to Members on planning issues in order to avoid, amongst other things, misunderstandings between Members and officers regarding planning terminology; briefings prior to and the subsequent conduct and roles of Members and officers at inquiries; the advantages and disadvantages of using planning consultants in situations similar to this one; involvement of Members at an earlier stage in the planning process; and the need to build up a greater element of trust and confidence between Members and officers and a mutual understanding of their respective roles. It was noted that, in general, attendance levels at most training for Members was very poor and this was an area that ought to be addressed by political groups.

RESOLVED -

  1. That the contents of the report be noted and that no appeal be lodged in the High Court challenging the decisions of the Inspector; and
  2. That the Director of Operational Services report back to this Board as soon as possible on the results of his investigations as detailed above.

NOTE:
Councillor Rusbridge attended the meeting as a substitute member and, in accordance with Standing Order 40, took part in the discussion and voting thereat;
Councillors Price and Scholes attended the meeting and, having given due notice in accordance with Standing Order 49, took part in the discussion but not the voting thereat.




AGENDA of OPERATIONAL SERVICES BOARD

26 July 2001

EXEMPT ITEMS

It is proposed that, pursuant to section 100A(4) of the Local Governement Act, 1972, the public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Part I of the Schedule 12A of the Act, by virtue of the particular praragraphs indicated on the agenda and the attached reports.

12. Joint Report of Borough Secretary and Solicitor and Head of Planning and Building Control Services (to follow - OPS/01/07/09)
Planning Appeal Decision re Telephone House, Church Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells

INFO :
The Meeting was held in presence of
- 9 Officers including Rodney Stone, Chief Executive - John Haynes, Director of Operational Services - Tony Fullwood, Head of Strategy - James Whitehorn, Highways Manager - Barbara Kingsford - Martin Harris, Solicitor and Monitoring officer, and
- 10 Committee Members and
- 2 Non-Board Councillors



Could the Inspector's decisions have been challenged ?

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, Tunbridge Wells
The aims are to heighten peoples' awareness and concern for the controversial planning permission of the high density development of Telephone House site, Church Road / York Road, Tunbridge Wells.