Courier 1 March 2002 Page 5

Planning questions still to be answered

By Mary Harris

It is back to the drawing board for Tunbridge Wells Borough Council as it tries to solve the age-old conundrum of the planning department.

The balance of power between elected members, paid staff, local people and developers has long been under scrutiny.

Questions about how the council comes by planning decisions particularly major ones have been asked since the saga of Telephone House in Church Road.

A working party was set up in December to develop practice and procedures but at a full council meeting on Tuesday night it was decided they needed further tweaking. At the meeting Cllr Roy Bullock urged for amendments to eight of the 23 recommendations, but there was heated debate as to whether voting for changes piecemeal was an appropriate way to formulate policy.

Labour leader lan Carvell added: "There is something peculiar, about planning in Tunbridge Wells. I can't tell you why it is peculiar but it is peculiar. We should take a long, hard look at the way other people do things. I think we came up with this far too fast."
He said it was not a "knee-jerk reaction" to Telephone House and many councillors could name planning applications where procedure had not been clear.

The recommendations give more transparency to the planning procedure, suggest more discussions between planners, communities and developers and also training for officers.

Chairman of the working party ( * ) Councillor Paul Oliver-Smith admitted the report was rushed but only so it could resolve the public's concerns quickly.
"We put in an enormous amount of work but would be happy if this was deferred back to the working party."

( * )
Chairmain of the Working Party is: Councillors Colin Barry Noakes -
Chairman of the Operational Services Board is: Councillor Paul Oliver-Smith.

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council's Internal Inquiry into the Telephone House Debacle

A guide through Tunbridge Wells Local Press since August 2000 - "The Telephone House Debacle"