Courier 02 November 2001 - LETTERS section Page 29

Faults in planning system

I write as past chairman of Western Area Planning Committee in support of our MP, Archie Norman's comments seeking ground rules for planning in Tunbridge Wells.
There is no doubt in my mind that deficiencies do exist in planning procedures at the Town Hall - they led to my resignation in May this year as chairman.

It is not widely understood that about 80 per cent of applications are dealt with by officers only.
These are normally minor developments and would be too time consuming for them all to be heard at committee.

The present system does not include elected members early enough in the planning of landmark or sensitive sites.
Councillors only know the content of agendas when the committee papers are delivered three or four days before the meeting - they are not involved in the formation or content of applications to be considered, many of them complicated or sensitive.

Regretfully, the planning considerations have been "stood on their head" by central government Planning Policy Guidance and Local Plan dictates that are ill conceived.

In the past, applications were refused as "over intensive", now we must refuse if the density is too low. About 25 per hectare was about normal. Telephone House is 140 per hectare.
Similarly developments that did not provide car parking were refused.
Now schemes in towns are refused if car parking is not restricted or forbidden, in an effort to increase use of public transport.

The Telephone House scheme was originally [ 1st planning application ] refused by officers because it copied the houses in Church Road [read: York Road] and not contributing to the 21st Century. ( * )

However, this should not have prevented Crest Homes from designing a property that would not demand the loss of the few trees that exist in the town, overlooking existing houses only 11.5 metres away, not making a genuine attempt at landscaping on the site.

Planning officers, elected members and residents should be able to contribute to give sensible guidance to developers and not come to a situation where this guidance is confusing and contradictory.

L. W. Price
Royal Chase, Tunbridge Wells

( * ) - ADDITIONAL EXPLICATION: - Courier 16.11.01
Developer Crest Nicholson changed its plans for the Telephone House development on the advice of council officers, but the more modern design [ 2nd planning application ] was subsequently rejected by the council [ Members/Councillors of the Western Area Planning Committee, Tunbridge Wells ] .

DENSITY - Cramming ? Lifestyle ?
The high density development of Telephone House


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