05.2001 - The Public Inquiry - Statement of Member Simon Page

A Precedent Case - The Telephone House Development, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England

My name is Simon Page. I live in York Road.

When I bought my flat just over a year ago, I was looking for a flat that would have character, hold some of the history and tradition that Tunbridge Wells has to offer but more importantly in an area where the community really counted.
My friends recommended the area living on York Road and also on Church Road. They said it was a fantastic area to live and that it kept up the Tradition of old Royal Tunbridge Wells.
I thought having acquired a property, as a young professional I would feel quite at home in this area.
I knew that I bought into a Conservation Area and believed that this meant into a stable neighborhood, where not only local people care about their heritage and environment, but also an area steeped in tourism and therefore a place where local / central authorities would keep tradition and not sell out to commercialism.

Shortly after I bought my flat, my new neighbours made me aware of a previous planning application for the Telephone House site for 42 flats.
To say I was outraged / disappointed / annoyed was an understatement.
I supposed I felt really let down but then I thought:
The Council will never allow something like this.
I trusted common sense that such a monstrous development with its high density would not be allowed to be built in the historic centre of town, completely ignoring its surroundings and the needs of its community.

How wrong I was!

Crest Homes filed a new planning application: for 43 flats.
- The worst was confirmed.
Now I hear that council officers influenced this development.
Of course the developer seems to be too willing to accept high density for their own good.

We, the residents, have looked at governmental, regional and local Policy guidelines and can nowhere find that such developments are the norm.

Sense came from The Western Area Planning Committee who listened to our arguments and unanimously turned down the planning application.

But unfortunately the short sighted commercially orientated Crest Homes and BT filed an appeal in December against this decision.

We understand that the outcome of this Public Inquiry could set a precedent case for BT or anybody else. How local residents, local supporters, i.e. the community can be swept under the carpet when it comes to a stand off between money and heritage.

Even if the developers win their case we cannot be sure that the development goes ahead in its proposed form nor that we get rid of the current eyesore which already had a very negative impact on the site and the surrounding for the last 35 years.
- But we can be sure that is going to be used as a precedent to crush any future opposition of residents.

I hope that the decision is deliberated as seriously as the issue is for the whole town of Royal Tunbridge Wells.

Thank you