Appeal - Telephone House, Tunbridge Wells
Crest Nicholson Plc and BT's Southgate Developments Ltd versus Tunbridge Wells Borough Council



TUNBRIDGE WELLS BOROUGH COUNCIL
PROOF OF EVIDENCE


BY PETER ASHBY,
BA (Hons), MRTPI
CONSERVATION ARCHITECT FOR TWBC
March 2001




Appeal by
Crest Homes (South East) Ltd and Southgate Developments Ltd
against
Refusal of Consent for demolition of existing building and erection of 43 flats with basement level parking
- Site of Telephone House, Church Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent


Local planning authority Reference: TW/00/01474
Planning Inspectorate Reference: APP/M2270/A/00/1054946



  1. INTRODUCTION

    1. I am Peter Ashby. I hold a post-graduate diploma in Architectural Conservation (Bristol University). I am a member of the Architects Registration Board and the Royal Institute of British Architects. I have a post-graduate diploma in Town and Country Planning and membership of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation. I have over 20 years professional architectural and planning experience. I have been employed as Conservation Architect for Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, since 1997.
    2. To avoid duplication, issues including the site and its context, planning policy background, and relevant planning history are dealt with in Mrs Chambersí statement and the statement of Common Ground.
    3. The issues raised in my proof are my own personal views. My role as the Boroughís Conservation Architect includes that of an internal consultant. This includes giving advice from a conservation/listed building point of view in relation to proposals for development which have implications for these issues. My advice or recommendations may vary from that of other officers or from a recommendation by the Planning and Building Control Services Manager to recommend approval or refusal of an application to the relevant planning committee.
    4. This proof covers the Councilís grounds for refusal and refers to the policies contained within its 1996 Adopted Plan, and other material considerations.

  2. THE COUNCILíS REASONS FOR REFUSAL

      Reason 1
      The proposal would have a significant adverse impact on the character and appearance on the Conservation Area by virtue of its scale, massing, roofscape, form, spacial characteristics, elevational treatment and building lines. It would, therefore, be contrary to Policies WK2, ENV15 and ENV17 of the Kent Structure Plan 1996 and Policies EN!(2), EN5 and EN6 of the Tunbridge Wells Borough Local Plan Adopted 1996.

    1. In relation to the first reason for refusal my comments address the effect of the proposal on this part of the conservation area in terms of the scale, massing, roofscape, form, spatial characteristics, elevational treatment and building lines.
    2. Local Plan Policy EN1 (2) and Structure Plan Policies WK2, ENV15 and ENV17
    3. Block B
      The principal elevation of Block B (York Road elevation) appears over intensive in terms of its fenestration treatment, the voids (glazing) appear to be prominent and the solid masonry subordinate visually. This is an uncharacteristic feature within York Road. In my view, the quantity and size of the windows appears cluttered and somewhat condensed with small distances between windows in the vertical plane. The proposed appearance of the York Road elevation will appear uncharacteristic within the streetscene due to the number and size of windows.
    4. The space between Blocks B and D
      The narrowness of the vehicular and pedestrian access to the York Road side of the site is exaberated by the large out-of-scale projecting windows within the gable end of Block D. I consider that the space between the buildings should be wider to reflect the significance of the space beyond and the large amount of "tidal" traffic which will flow from it. A wider gap would also reflect more characteristically similar street patterns within the conservation area.
    5. Block C (east elevation)
      The scale and intensity of the glazing, together with the number of balconies will adversely affect the character of the open space behind Trinity Arts Centre. The green open space will be altered by the perception of the three storey block over-looking the space, in particular the top floor of the building and the prominent gable ends.
    6. Block A
      Due to the over-deep plan of the building, the principal (Church Road) elevation incorporates a very large percentage of glazing to achieve adequate light and ventilation requirement. The combination of floor to ceiling glass and balconies suggests the perception of excessive movement by residents and light transmission from within the building/balconies when viewed from Church Road. The fenestration treatment may give the perception of a fussy and cluttered facade visually.
    7. The attempt to reduce the visual impact of the very large building does not work in my view. A small, recessed gap has been incorporated in the middle of the principle elevation which will not be seen when viewed at an acute angle. The perception would instead be that of one large, ranging unbroken structure with little or no architectural relief. It would appear as a large monolithic structure. The impression of a large, ranging and excessively deep building is further exacerbated by views of the rear elevation of Block A when viewed from the rear car park of Hanover Place, Clarence Mews and from the grounds of Trinity Arts Centre.
    8. For the above mentioned reasons, the proposal fails to comply with Planning Policy Guidance 15 (4.18), Kent Design (6.2.2.) and Conservation Area Practice - English Heritage, Guidance on the Management of Conservation Areas (8.3)
    9. Local Plan Policy EN5 and Structure Plan Policies WK2, ENV15 and ENV17
      In my view, the development would not preserve or enhance the character of the conservation are. It will introduce large over-intensive residential development which will be uncharacteristic in the conservation are. In this context, the proposal does not comply with Planning Policy Guidance 15 (4.19) and policies ENV15 and ENV17 of the Kent Structure Plan 1996.
    10. The intensity of use of the residential development is reflected in the fenestration treatment and the need for many large windows and floor to ceiling glazed panels which are particularly uncharacteristic to the intensive development and number of units. In particular, this concern is best illustrated with the facades of Block B (north elevation), Block C (east elevation) and Block A (south elevation).
    11. The proposal would result in the loss of trees along the south side of York Road. The semi-mature trees make a positive contribution to the street scene and conservation area. Due to the proposed close proximity of the development to York Road, all of the trees would be removed. The building should be set back 2-3 metres to the established, prominent building line along this side of York Road. The opportunity to retain the trees would then exist. Thus the visual amenity and character of the conservation area would be preserved.
    12. Local Plan Policy EN6 and Structure Plan Policies WK2, ENV15 and ENV17
      I am concerned that the intensity of the development would be reflected within the roofscape, particularly Block A and Block C. Long distance views would be prominent from Mount Ephraim looking east towards the cluster of roofscape which comprises central Tunbridge Wells. The uncharacteristic depth of Block A would be apparent from this view. In this context, the proposal fails to comply with Planning Policy Guidance 15 (2.17).
    13. The overall mass of Block A and its somewhat squat appearance in relation to its height and depth will be visible. in addition, due to the perspective view from Mount Ephraim, the roofs of Blocks C and Block A will appear very close to each other due to the narrowness of open space between the two buildings proposed.
    14. On Block A I have concerns about the detrimental visual impact of the very long balconies and the possibility of domestic paraphernalia and light emission during darkness. I feel this continuos banks of external activity and the large areas of glazing would be detrimental and uncharacteristic with the skyline of the conservation area.

    15. Reason 2
      The proposal would have an adverse impact on the setting of listed buildings in Church Road and would, therefore, be contrary to Policy ENV19 of the Kent Structure Plan 1996 and Policy EN3 of the Tunbridge Wells Borough Local Plan Adopted 1996

    16. In relation to the second reason, I have commented on the proposalís impact on the setting of the listed buildings.
    17. Local Plan Policy EN3 and Structure Plan Policy ENV19
      The siting of development would not be the same as adjoining frontage lines. The largest Block (Block A) would be set forward of the adjacent property (No. 8 Hanover Place). The overall mass and bulk of the building would therefore partially screen views of the listed buildings when viewed at a perspective angle looking west from the town centre.
    18. Due to the lack of a deep central recess, Block A will appear as one monolithic structure when not viewed from a perpendicular angle, in particular, the Church Road frontage.
    19. Due to Block Aís siting (forward of Hanover Place), it will contribute to a dominant overbearing appearance of the four adjacent listed buildings. In particular numbers 16 and 18 Church Road. In my view no part of the elevation should be forward of the listed buildings, thereby preserving views of these from the town centre.
    20. The development would be located extremely close to the adjacent listed buildings. This would adversely affect their setting and exacerbate the perception that the proposed development would be overbearing in relation to the adjoining property. A gap between the buildings, similar to the existing Telephone House and Hanover Place is considered more appropriate. The proposal does not respect the setting of the listed buildings (as highlighted in PPG 15, 2.14).

  3. CONCLUSION

    1. The issues raised in my proof relate primarily to design matters which, although not all major issues individually, do collectively amount to a significant detrimental impact in my view. In addition, various issues remain unanswered as highlighted in PPG15 and Kent Design.


The Appeal - Crest Nicholson Plc / Southgate Developments versus TWBC

The Telephone House Neighbours Association, Tunbridge Wells