11.12.2000 - Response from Rodney Stone, Chief Executive, TWBC

Corporate Services
Town Hall, Royal Tunbridge Wells, TN1 1RS

Our ref: RJS/ALI/1/10

Date: 11 December 2000


Further to my letter of 6 November I have received reports from the various officers involved in this case.

I am sorry that you felt that the case officer’s report was one-sided and biased.

Mrs Chambers’ presentation to Committee on 18 October, the case officer, was based on the written agenda report (pages W1-W15 of the agenda). This report set out the officers’ conclusions in relation to the development as a whole. This included a description, a brief history of the site and relevant policies taken into account in coming to a recommendation. It summarised representations received as a result of consultations and finally, appraised the development under various headings. As a result of this appraisal, a recommendation was made.

It was not intended that the officer’s presentation to Committee would attempt to deal with each item in the agenda report in full. As you know, the agenda itself is available for Members and the public the week before the relevant Committee.

It is our normal practice to display application plans to be considered at Committee on notice-boards outside the Council chamber prior to the meeting starting so that Members can view them. Some of the plans from the ‘Telephone House’ applications were displayed in this way. Similarly, an A3 document submitted by the applicant was available for inspection by Members on the adjacent table. Your 42 page brochure, consisting of a printout from the pages of your internet site, was also available on the table for Members to look at. I understand that Mrs Chambers made a point of bringing the document in from the table before the meeting started so that it could be mentioned specifically in her presentation. In addition, the Website was referred to on page W7 of the Committee report. My overall conclusion is that I believe that your document was made available to the Committee as you requested. Unfortunately, it is not practical to copy such a document for individual distribution to all Members prior to a Committee meeting. No documents were copied to members on behalf of the applicants.

The decision to use the video supplied by the applicants was made in consultation with the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Committee a few days prior to the Committee. It was felt that the video would be helpful in illustrating the development and would aid Members’ understanding of what was proposed. It was certainly not intended to disadvantage one side over another.

I have noted the various comments you have made about the contents of the Committee report. I should point out that all letters are available to Members for their inspection on the planning application file prior to the Committee. The agenda report cannot attempt to duplicate these in full but should pick out the main points. I am sorry that there appears to have been some factual discrepancies in the officer’s report. This was compiled a week or so before the Committee which may explain why some letters appear to have been omitted. I should emphasise, however, that Members have access to files well before the Committee and are able to inspect all letters of representation in advance of the meeting. I have investigated your concerns with regard to how many letters were received in total and the agenda’s summary of points made. As previously mentioned, the report is written over a week before the Committee, therefore letters, and contents of letters received after the agenda was printed, would not be included.

I am sorry if the summary of points made in the letters reported did not tie up with your understanding and interpretation in some respects. However, I would again emphasise that letters are available in full for Members’ inspection prior to the meeting.

The appraisal represents the professional views of the planning officers and explains how the various Development Plan policies and other material considerations are balanced against one another. It is of course quite possible that professional views may vary, but the appraisal reflects the analysis that officers have made and their overall conclusions arising from their consideration of the factors involved. The appraisal of the report in particular, sets out the main issues of the case in the officers’ view and reaches a conclusion on the development as a whole. My understanding is that Members had a lengthy debate on this application, and gave full consideration to the range of issued it raises. In the event the Committee decided not to accept the officers’ recommendation and to refuse the application on conservation and listed building grounds.

Your letter also raises a number of specific and detailed points which Mr Eveleigh, the Head of Planning and Building Control Services, felt you may wish to discuss directly with the Senior Planning Officers involved. If you would like to do this perhaps you would contact Mr Eveleigh’s Secretary, Maureen Johnson, on extension 2106.

I hope that this letter has helped clarify issues identified in your correspondence.

Yours sincerely
Rodney Stone
Chief Executive

The 2nd Planning Application for the Development of Telephone House in 2000 -
Layout of blocks in comparison: present, 1st and 2nd application

Memorandum by The Telephone House Neighbours Association for the Public Inquiry, May 2001

The Telephone House Neighbours Association
The aims are to heighten peoples' awareness and concern for the development on Telephone House site, Church Road / York Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN1