Press release of The Telephone House Neighbours Association 10 October 2001



On Wednesday, 3rd October we attempted to obtain a copy of the agenda and summons for the Council meeting of 9th October. The document was not available, notwithstanding that the Council meeting was only four working days ahead!

We finally received our copy on Friday, 5th October. Having read the content, it became clear that there were important questions that required to be answered. They were put in writing and delivered to the Town Hall at 8.00 am on Monday, 8th October.

Shortly before the Council meeting our Secretary was informed that he questions could not be taken because our letter had arrived after the deadline of Thursday, 4th October (the day before we received the Agenda and minutes!) It should have been clear, to even the most simple minded council official, that the deadline was impossible to meet.

In the circumstances one would have hoped that the Council Officers responsible would have made some effort to retrieve the situation - after all they had two working days in which to do it. In the event they did nothing, and only bothered to inform the Mayor that there was a problem 30 minutes before the Council meeting!

To be fair, the Mayor has agreed to take the questions at the next Council meeting in December.
However, we are forced to ask the next questions:
- why was this matter so badly handled?
- are the Council Staff really that inefficient?
- or are they making use of a bureaucratic device to avoid answering embarrassing questions?

Whatever is the answer to those questions, four working days seems a very short time for our elected representatives to read, assimilate and be ready to comment on a long and complicated agenda. Is it not time that the Council overhauled its working practices to ensure that the democratic process is not undermined by bureaucratic incompetence.

Cmdr George V. Lawson
for The Telephone House Neighbours Association

For information: the content of our letter to Members of the Full Council of Tunbridge Wells (48 councillors)

Cllr Melvyn Howell,
Chairman and Mayor, "Council Meeting on 9 October 2001"
Town Hall, Tunbridge Wells, TN1 1RS

8 October 2001

Questions from Members of the Public
Council Meeting on Tuesday 9 October 2001, 6 pm

Re: Operational Service Board Meeting 26 July 2001 - Minutes (pages 73 - 79)
- Planning Appeal Decision Re Telephone House, Church Road, Tunbridge Wells (p 78 & 79)

We would like to put the following questions to Members of the Council:

  1. Has the report by the Director of Operational Services, requested by the Operational Services Board Meeting on 26th July, been published?
    If not, will Councillors authorise its publication please?

  2. Has the report OPS/01/07/09 of the Borough Secretary and Head of Planning and Building Control Services, presented to the OSB Meeting of 26th July, been published?
    If not, will Councillors please authorise publication?

  3. Will Councillors consider setting up an independent inquiry
    - firstly, to examine the conduct of council officers involved in the Telephone House Development and in the Draft Local Plan Review Policy H6(a) and
    - secondly, to make recommendations, if necessary, for their future conduct in relation to similar developments throughout the Borough?

Yours faithfully
Annemarie Topliss, Secretary
The Telephone House Neighbours Association

The period to challenge the Planning Inspector's appeal decisions for Telephone House was between 3 July - 14 August 2001.
On 26 July 2001 Members/Councillors of the Operational Services Board decided NOT to challenge the appeal decisions.

Could the Planning Inspector's appeal decisions have been challenged ?

Bizzarely, Policy H6(a) allocated for Telephone House was identical to the two refused planning applications for the Telephone House development.
Policy H6(a) is the most controversial document, produced by the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, leading to the Telephone House Debacle

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