Press release of The Telephone House Neighbours Association - 28 November 2001



At a meeting of the Operational Services Board Committee of the TWBC on 27th November the report of the internal inquiry into lessons to be learnt from the Telephone House Planning Enquiry was discussed. The Committee were addressed by Mrs Annemarie Topliss, on behalf of the Telephone House Neighbours Association, who criticised the report for not addressing a number of important points of concern to those who are directly effected by the development.

Mrs Topliss was given just three minutes to state her case. No such limit was placed on the author of the internal report, Mr Haynes, who took full advantage of his privileged position to denigrate Mrs Topliss for lack of expertise in planning matters whilst failing to satisfactorily answer the points raised in her statement. There was, of course no opportunity to reply to, or debate the several contentious statements made by Mr Haynes. The whole process is clearly weighted in favour of officialdom.

During his discourse, Mr Haynes sought to convince the committee that no one was to blame for the substantial expenditure incurred by the Developer's appeal, it was certainly not the Council Planning Officers, the Western Area Planning Committee turned down the developer's second planning application for valid reasons, the inept performance of the Council's legal representative at the Appeal hearing was really quite satisfactory and that it was all really the fault of the objectors who do not understand the system!

A much more credible explanation for the mess the TWBC now finds itself in, is the failure of the Planning Department to take soundings of the views of those residents that were likely to be affected by the development at a very early stage in the planning process. Had this been done, and had the residents been given the opportunity to meet the developers (Crest Homes have stated that they were actively discouraged from meeting residents by Council Officers), it is highly likely that an amicable agreement could have been reached and much expense spared.

The present method of handling planning applications for major and potentially contentious developments needs to be radically revised to ensure that proper consultation with interested parties takes place early in the planning stage. Planning for major redevelopment needs to be conducted openly and due regard paid to the concerns of those who will have to live with the results of the planning process. Finally, Planners must accept that they are the servants of the Borough, not the masters.

Cmdr George Lawson
for the Telephone House Neighbours Association

The whitewash for officers
TWBC Operational Services Director John Haynes' Telephone House Planning Application/Planning Appeal "lessons to be learned" report -

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