Kent Messenger Extra 20 July 2001

Council loses fight against developers

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council now faces a hefty legal bill after developers won an appeal to erect 43 flats on the Telephone House site in the town centre.
The four-day public inquiry was held in May after an appeal by developers Crest Homes.

Meanwhile residents who had opposed proposals by Crest Homes and Southgate Developments to demolish the five-storey building in Church Road and replace it with flats say they are devastated by the outcome.
Campaigners from Church Road and York Road had sought to convince the inspector that the redevelopment would be both unsightly and over intensive.

Tunbridge Wells MP Archie Norman (Con), who took up their case, said he was "extremely disappointed" at the decision, which he said came about "despite magnificent work by local residents."
And he added: "They were up against a top gun, one of the most expensive planning Queen's Counsel in the country, and in terms of resources it was a very unfair contest."
"The lesson for the future is that there is a need for careful examination of our draft local plan as this will provide the background against which future appeals are heard."
"Future developments in Tunbridge Wells need sensitive planning and proper conservation if we are to retain its character."

Cllr Kevin Lynes (Con) said: "The fact that council planners can vote 14-0 against the proposals, only for that to become the subject of appeal and be overturned by an outsider, seems to emasculate the idea of local planning."

Crest Homes aim to replace the vacant 1960s Telephone House with three blocks of flats, one four storeys high and the others three, together with basement level parking.

The inspector found this was no worse than existing housing concentrations and considered it "entirely appropriate for the area."
And he added: "I do not share the council's concern that the proposed elevation will appear either cluttered or uncharacteristic."
He said the scheme was sympathetic to the other houses in the conservation area within which the site stands.
The inspector ordered the council to pay the costs of the appeal proceedings.

Peter Morse, chairman of the Telephone House Neighbours' Association, said: "It appears the final decision does not rest with those who are democratically elected. Instead, responsibility rests with a civil servant answerable to no one, least of all residents of Tunbridge Wells."

Speeches of Members of The Telephone House Neighbours Association,
Councillors of Culverden Ward, the MP for Tunbridge Wells

DENSITY - cramming ? - lifestyle ?
The high density development of Telephone House Tunbridge Wells

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