Meeting 4 February 2000
TWBC officers - Crest Homes/Southgate Developments - agents: Barton Willmore and King Sturge

Proof Evidence filed by Trevor A Sutters Partnership, Architect, London, for the Public Inquiry: Telephone House, in May 2001 -
Appeal by BT's Southgate Developments and Crest Nicholson against TWBC's refusal of the planning consent for the Telephone House development

Minutes of a meeting
Held at
Tunbridge Wells Council
On 4th February 2000

Re: Church Road, Tunbridge Wells

David Prentice - Development Control Manager, Tunbridge Wells Council
Peter Ashby - Conservation Officer, Tunbridge Wells Council
Mark Berry - Development Control, Tunbridge Wells Council
Paul McCreery - Barton Wilmore
Peter Leaver - King Sturge
Matt Verlander - King Sturge
Mark Kelly - Southgate Developments Ltd
Nick Davies - Crest Homes
Andrew McPhillips - Crest Homes
Ken Munday - Crest Homes

DP opened the meeting by saying he believed that the objective of the meeting was a de-brief on what had happened and that they were pleased to be part of the process to consider the development of this site. With reference to the scheme, there had been two reasons why they had seen fit to have no meeting.

  1. The gap between the proposed scheme and what was an acceptable scheme was seen to be too large to bridge.
  2. Points that would have been made, they believe had been made at a pre-application meeting and had been ignored.

They therefore felt that the early decision for refusal was the best way forward. It was proposed therefore to go through reasons for refusal and use those reasons within the notice of refusal as an agenda.

MB - Upon the tabling of the plans, he stated that they had not seen the street scenes. This had been offered at a very late stage by Derek Briscoe.

MB stated that any building in a conservation area needs to have respect to the surroundings.
He felt that "a large lump was being replaced by another large lump". This would not be compatible with the grain of the existing development.

Scale and massing were an issue and the roof of block 1 in particular exhibited a very large expanse of flat roof which would be seen from Mount Ephraim and was similar to the existing BT building which was uncharacteristic and unsatisfactory. The scale of the building was completely different from those buildings to both the left and the right of the proposed building on Church Road, albeit he accepted that he was not necessarily talking about the height being a problem but the scale, the mass, the roofscape and the form were a problem. It was an out of character building with those around. It was important that the proposal did not repeat the mistakes of the past.

ND - The ridge of the proposed building was 2.5 metres or so lower than the existing building.

ND stated that Crest had thought that the proposal represented a significant reduction in impact when compared to the existing office block.

MB - PPG advice was that no reference to an existing building should be used to justify the proposed building. PC, pointing to the photos, accepted that there were the "fine grain" characteristics within York Road but that Church Road was of a different form with both the church and Wellington House. MB confirmed that he wasn't taking into account Wellington House or the church in reference to the characteristics of the buildings around. Then referred to space characteristics and by this he was referring to what was going on in the middle of the site and relationship with adjoining properties. He felt that the relationship with 27 York Road had been completely ignored and that now there was gap between the two buildings, this ignored that previously there had been a connection between the two and that we were creating a no-man's land.

The proposal for three buildings did not make clear how the space between the buildings was going to be used and what it was going to be like. The elevations were very important but felt that the effects of our proposed elevations would create a jarring in the streetscape. It was felt that it was important to break down block 1 onto Church Road in an attempt to reflect the rhythm of the streetscene.

It was felt that the building proposed on York Road were of a jarring nature and didn't reflect the character of the area and whilst it was a pastiche attempt, it was a poor pastiche attempt and this was backed-up by the English Heritage comments. If it was going to be pastiche, it had to be very good.

Referring to the spatial characteristics of the development proposal, the relationship to the surrounding buildings was viewed as being unsatisfactory. Reference was made to the consultation response from English Heritage, this referred to breaking the proposal down into smaller blocks. MB pointed to the need to consider the spaces in between buildings. With regard to York Road, similar comments apply. The aim should be to produce a proposal which reflects the current street scene.

PL asked whether they wanted a copy and something that looked traditional along the lines of a Pastiche or were they looking for something completely different? DP advised that it was a mistake to look at the elevations. There were fundamental planning issues that had to be addressed first of all and these had not been considered. The first of these was the building line which had been breached on Church Road, together with the spanning of the roof. One of the problems with the proposal was the symmetry on a grand scale which emphasised a single building and again created a different style/rhythm and needed to be a repeated element so that it read as at least two buildings on Church Road.

ND asked if there was an elevation or facade which could work within the scale of the building proposed on Church Road. DP advised that he wasn't sure because this was a two-dimensional plan and he needed to look at it in a three dimensional scale with all the elements and the roofscape, but advised that the eaves height did not necessarily need to come down.
MB advised that it might be possible to achieve a similar number of units with the exception of block 3. ND asked whether the design statement was wrong or had been inadequate and MB advised the latter.

ND - there needed to be a visual explanation of the statement presumably and needed a clear graphical explanation and this was generally agreed with.

PA advised that previously they had been drawn into elevational discussions and found that they had then been dealing with the detail and had been running before they could walk. MB referred back to the building line of block 1 and that it went beyond that established with the adjoining buildings and it then created an unfortunate relationship with respect to the buildings and the church.

The impact on the trees was also a problem and now that they had analysed the trees, they had found that these were vigorous growing ornamental trees that could grow to twice their present size and that efforts should be made to retain all these trees. ND advised that previously, when the question had been asked whether the conservation area imbued TPO status on the trees, the answer had been no and that a scheme could be proposed which would involve the loss of these trees if necessary. MB said that good townscape didn't always mean buildings but that the buildings opposite in York Road had enjoyed space opposite for many years and felt that the trees at the front should be retained.

We were advised that the ramps to the front of the buildings on York Road were another issue and that it would be better if the buildings were lower with access straight from the street. ND advised that the gradient of the road to serve the buildings is the determinant in this connection and in particular with block 3, it couldn't be served from the rear. MB then went on about a further reason which was the impact on adjacent Listed Buildings and advised that the scale and massing was totally different to those buildings and compromised the "villas" in Church Road. The relationship with Trinity House in York Road was jarring and the difference between 11/2 storeys to three storeys was not adequately addressed.
MB was concerned about the residential amenities of block 3 and felt that the principal windows of the ground floor flats being so close to the boundary was unacceptable. AM suggested that the moving back of blocks on York Road created a difference character to the rest of the buildings in York Road. MB said that York Road exhibited a number of difference characteristics and that in fact it was broken up further down the road. AM advised that houses had been demolished in York Road and that now a totally different character was being proposed. DP advised that in working towards a new scheme, the local residents might still not be happy. He also advised that there were privacy issues since we were nowhere near Kent Design guide requirements of 21 metres between houses on York Road. He wanted us to be aware of this albeit he wasn't proposing this needed to be met, but felt that block two needed to be moved back. AM suggested that trees could be replaced with something that was more suitable at the front of the building. MB advised that these trees were suitable and were vigorous and compatible with residential development and that they had amenity value.

PM advised that perhaps within the design statement, the loss of a tree or two could be dealt with. MB accepted that a cogent case for the loss of trees could be made: DP referred to vehicular access and concern expressed by local residents. Whilst the Council were happy with access off of York Road, they were not keen to see it from Church Road. AM advised that there was reduced traffic generation with a residential development over the commercial. There was a slow reducing of the footprint and it was necessary to have a guide on where development could be placed. ND asked whether the access off Church Road was acceptable. DP advised that they would prefer not to have access off of Church Road and the Borough Engineer had suggested that this could be a ground for refusal albeit they had not used it.

PL asked whether the provision of affordable housing was in fact an over provision. DP said that the affordable housing at 9 over 42 was acceptable but would ideally look for 25%. MB advised that there was a demonstrable need for affordable housing and it was manifestly correct for such a level of affordable housing to be provided. PL suggested that the provision of 25 units would not attract the need to provide affordable housing in line with Government guidance. DP advised that it wouldn't be possible to provide less than 25 units. KM advised that it was a possibility. PL advised that it would be possible to have offices to the front and residential to the rear and would this be acceptable. MB advised that there are a number of appeal decisions which had shown that artificially bringing down numbers was not acceptable.

AM then wanted to summarise the position on where development could take place in terms of block 2, which MB advised should be pushed back and that the rear of block 2 should be amended since it was not acceptable with its relationship with 27 York Road. MB advised that since block 2 was on a plinth, there seemed to be some kind of high frieze, it was much too high. AM asked whether the roof of block 2 was acceptable and MB advised that it could be but that block 3 was totally unsatisfactory. PA suggested a link between 27 York Road and block 2. AM asked whether it was possible to have development down the middle of the site with a link between block 1 and block 3. MB advised that this was possible and that there were examples of mewsy links elsewhere in the town but that there was a problem with the adjoining houses. There was a need to look at smaller component parts. PA advised that they wanted to see an architect put forward about 6 concepts in a sketch form because otherwise there was an attempt being made to redesign the camel. It was necessary to look at a completely new approach of the development of this site.

The meeting adjourned to general consensus agreement that another architect would be brought into the picture to provide a number of concept schemes which would be discussed with Officers by the end of the month.

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

12.04.2002 - Back to Notes of the Meeting with CALA Homes
CALA Group Ltd acquired the controversial planning permission for the high density development of Telephone House site, Tunbridge Wells

Back to William Bennett’s speech at the Public Inquiry in May 2001
Telephone House, Tunbridge Wells

Back to Barbara Clarke’s speech at the Public Inquiry in May 2001
Telephone House, Tunbridge Wells