The Public Inquiry over Crest Nicholsonís and BTís proposed development of Telephone House has ended last Friday after four days of hearing and cross-examination.
The government Inspector must take away the evidence gathered and decide the way forward.
Some weeks from now, we will know the future of this prime site. Worryingly, this future may not be for the better of the town and its immediate community.
Certain issues are clear however. The developers believe the site is extremely profitable. Why else would they appeal against two rejections by local planning authority? Why else would they employ a range of professional advisors, including one of the Britainís top barristers to present their case?
Members of Telephone House Neighbours Association spoke at the inquiry highlighting the deficiencies in the developerís case. Supported by local Councillors and by Tunbridge Wells MP, Archie Norman, together an argument was put forward to the Inspector that provided a third dimension, different from that presented by the developers and the Planning Officers of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.
In brief, residents objections to the development include:-
Poor quality of information provided by Tunbridge Wells planning officers meant that residents were not informed fully of decisions and meetings that had taken place and therefore were weakening the residentsí case.
Throughout the inquiry, the developers suggested that the alternative to their plans was to convert the existing Telephone House into residential apartments. The implication being, the community should accept the development plans because the alternatives would be worse!
The Telephone House Neighbours Association has always stressed that they are not anti-change. How could they be when clearly Telephone House is such an eye sore. However, they have argued logically and rationally that the alternative must be a development that adds genuinely to the quality of the Conservation Area and provides an enhancement to the look and feel of the town centre. Residents for all the reasons outlined above believe that the current plans will not do this and in fact close to 800 other people from Tunbridge Wells have written to the Association expressing their support for the Associationís cause. The residents realise that all planning guidelines had been exploited by the appellant to the maximum, with one exception: The Urban White Paper, saying: people have a right to determine their future and be involved in deciding how their town or city develops!
The town has a one off opportunity to significantly improve the fabric of the town centre and enhance the quality of life of the local community. Whatever the outcome of this appeal; the Association wishes to remind BT of one of their best advertising slogans: Itís good to talk!
The Telephone House Neighbours Association