Courier 23 March 2001 Page 5

Inquiry date set for “unacceptable” BT House plans

Developer Crest Nicholson is set for a showdown with government planning chiefs over its controversial bid to build 43 flats on the Telephone House site in Tunbridge Wells.

Formerly Crest Homes, its joint proposal with British Telecom firm, Southgate, to develop in the Church Road conservation area will be heard at a public inquiry at the town hall on May 1, amid fierce opposition from residents.

It would see one five-storey, one four-storey and two three-storey blocks built, with just one parking space for each of the £240,000 homes.

A revised plan was rejected by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council in October over fears of traffic congestion and damage to the environment.

But more than 60 campaigners from Church, York, and London roads formed the Telephone House Neighbours’ Association to lobby government planning chiefs after Crest appealed against the decision.

Telephone House Neighbours’ Association spokesman, Paul Huxley, 32, said: “It’s been a rollercoaster ride for us and the inquiry is our last stand. We have fought them all the way and will have as many people as we can there on the day.”

York Road resident, Daniel Bech, added: “Telephone House is out of character with the area, but that does not mean we should accept the first proposal that comes along. There will be loss of light and traffic will increase.”

He added the association feared the proposals would damage the conservation area’s historical buildings including Trinity Theatre and Arts Centre.

Tunbridge Wells MP Archie Norman backed the group branding the plans “unacceptable”.

But Crest land director, Andrew McPhillips, said the proposals would improve the area and whatever the outcome of the inquiry, redevelopment of Telephone House was “inevitable.”.

He said: “The alternatives, which include the conversion of the existing building, are worse. The buildings will affect daylight to some extent but not more than the ones that would be demolished and no legal right of light would be infringed.

But he added: “Crest will cease to have any involvement with Telephone House if the appeal is rejected. BT is, however, considering refurbishment of the building for leasing as office units”.

The Telephone House Development - a guide through the Local Press