02.05.01 - The Public Inquiry - Telephone House, Tunbridge Wells - Speech of Councillor Kevin Lynes

Wednesday 2 May 2001
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Thank you Sir, for allowing me to speak here today.

My name is Kevin Lynes and as a Tunbridge Wells Borough Councillor, I am one of three local Members for Culverden Ward, in which Telephone House is situated. I also serve on the Western Area Planning Committee who voted against this redevelopment.
I and my fellow Councillors have heard both sides of the argument in committee and also at our monthly Ward surgeries, where we have seen many representations from local residents over the months.

There is no dispute that Telephone House is a prime town centre site and as such is ripe for redevelopment, not least as the current empty building is both an eyesore, and a potentially dangerous site with little security.

When as local Members we were shown the redrawn plans last September [ 2000 ], I felt a little happier that the elevation fronting Church Road was at least a little more sympathetic than the overbearing edifice which was originally [ Jan 2000 ] submitted.

I feel, however that the scale of the proposed development, some 43 flats, is vastly over intensive, and can understand how our local residents came to be so angry.
Royal Tunbridge Wells, along with other spa towns has an architectural heritage of which we can feel justly proud, and whilst I am no planning expert I am sure the motivation of those original architects was more than just cash. I cannot help thinking that the main motivation here is to squeeze the site for as much profit as possible, regardless of how much inconvenience is left for the locals to endure, and ultimately for the Borough Council to sort out.

The plans as shown to me in September 2000 showed a small crescent with four parking spaces fronting onto Church Road, but no access through the site from this direction. We were told that this crescent was simply for deliveries.
- But if a delivery vehicle came into the town from the A21, particularly in peak times, it would not wait to cross the oncoming stream of traffic from the Common, but would simply park up on the kerb outside Belvedere Terrace opposite !
I know this for a fact as I have occupied commercial building in this Terrace for the last eight years.

I also feel strongly that a single entrance and exit to and from the site in York Road, is impractical particularly since the Mount Pleasant end of York Road is often particularly or fully blocked by delivery vehicles. Cars on the southern side of York Road currently park up illegally on the kerb so as not to obstruct this narrow road, so it wonít take much to choke the road further back as well.
Nor can I help feeling that even apart from the obstruction issue, the added vehicle and pedestrian movements from such an over-intensive developement is simply an accident waiting to happen, and an accident to which resultant emergency services may be unable to gain easy access.

Tunrbridge Wells Borough Councilís traffic experts feel that access onto Church Road might cause backups to the Mount Pleasant traffic lights.
I would like to observe that this will be nothing compared to the chaos which will be caused by traffic turning from the far busier A26 London Road, down York Road to access the site from this direction.
Needless to say, the plans currently [ 2001 ] set in train by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council to establish more residentsí parking zones will exacerbate all these problems.

Traffic movements will also cause annoyance to residents in York Road, Church Road and the new development, itself, since the nature of the access from York Road appears to be one of a "ravine" bounded on two sides by high walls which will act as an effective amplifier when the sound is reverberated between them.

For my part, I would like to see the scale of development reduced from 43 to around 25 dwellings, and an access, even one way onto Church Road.

Others will be far more erudite than I about PPGís and ENís, but as simply one who has been elected by local people to voice local concerns, I feel quality of life for our ratepayers is more important than financial gain.

Thank you Sir.

Informal Consultation: 19 September 2000
WAP Meeting (Western Area Planning Committee Meeting): 18 October 2000

October 2000 - Refusal of the 2nd joint planning application for the Telephone House Development -
Crest Nicholson Plc and British Telecom's Southgate Developments

January 2003 - Interactive Map of the area of the Telephone House Development,
explaining the traffic flow around the Church Road / York Road Block in Tunbridge Wells