TWBC Internal Inquiry into the Telephone House Debacle


Issues from Motion to Council
[ 4 December 2001 - Motion submitted by Councillor Roy Bullock ]

  1. "Ward Members, residents and formally constituted interest groups must be constructively engaged in discussions on major planning applications at a very early stage, including at pre-application discussions"

  2. "Standing Order, Part E of the Director of Operational Services and the Planning & Building Control Services Manager delegated authority (d) (authority to refuse applications) should be altered to mirror delegated authority for approvals l(a)(i)(ii) and (iii)"

  3. "Whenever an applicant appeals against a decision taken in Committee, the officers should be pro-active in ensuring that any negotiations on a Statement of Common Ground must be discussed and agreed with Ward Members, Chairman of respective Planning Committee and interested third parties before submission to the appointed Inspector"

    "Whenever an applicant appeals against a decision taken in Committee, the officers should be pro-active in ensuring that if Member(s) are to give evidence at Appeal then a case review meeting must be held with Member(s), Lead Officer and Counsel before the hearing"

  4. "In all major Appeal hearings, the Lead Officer must be a senior officer of the Council who together with other witnesses must be well briefed and totally committed to defending the grounds for refusal. In such cases only leading Counsel should be engaged"

  5. "Serious consideration should be given to the production of a Borough-wide design guide to supplement the Kent Design Guide and existing supplementary planning guidance"

  6. "...Members re-affirm their right to represent all parties when considering planning applications, whether in Committee or to Officers acting initially under delegated authority"

Issues from Operational Services Board Report.
[ 18 November 2001 - Report submitted by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council Director of Operational Services John Haynes ]

  1. "The need to supplement our standard D.C. procedure/process with optional additional process components which would be applied when necessary/appropriate to address the scale/complexity/sensitivity/degree of public interest/etc in a particular application. For example the scale of consultation may need to be more of a variable than it currently is or the way in which we undertake consultation may need to be more interactive in certain instances"

  2. "In appropriate circumstances we should more proactively, encourage developers to engage the community/appropriate stakeholders at a pre-application stage. Where developers are prepared to do this we should be prepared to facilitate and/or participate"

  3. "Briefing sessions for Members should be undertaken in those instances where the size, complexity, impact, interest, ec_ of a development proposal warrants such action and there has been or is likely to be comprehensive/detailed negotiations/discussions with developers at pre and/or post application stage over a lengthy period"

  4. "Committees' reasons for refusal (and as appropriate conditions following an approval) of an application particularly where the decision is contrary to the advice of Officers or in spite of the evidence of expert witnesses must be crystallised and clear in every respect to all Members of the Committee at the time the particular application is debated. If necessary the meeting should be adjourned for this to be done. However this approach will be disruptive and hence if an equally robust but more practical solution can be identified it would be preferable"

  5. "There should continue to be a flexible approach with respect to the way in which the Council should respond to planning inquiries. However appropriate senior management must be party to the decision making process and consideration should be given to informing and/or consulting with appropriate Members on the issue. Notwithstanding this however I consider that the final decision on the way forward should remain an Officer level decision"

  6. "That Member attendance as a witness at inquiry should be the exception rather than the norm and where it is to feature Members should take advice from Officers on their intentions with respect to the nature of their participation and the evidence they are proposing to give. Attendance and participation should be undertaken in accordance with an approved protocol"

  7. "That the general planning training given to Members should (at least in the case of those Members who will sit on Planning Committees) be made more comprehensive and contain specific modules dedicated to critical parts of the process. I consider that the training should be seen as an ongoing process for Key Members engaged in the process (e.g. Chairman of Committees) and that it should utilise more novel methods than simple "talk and chalk". For example shadowing of Case Officers may be one such method. I consider that more novel methods on these lines would also have the added benefit that it would enable Officers and Members to build meaningful relationships and mutual understanding and respect"

    Return to Report by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council offficers -
    Nigel Eveleigh and Martin Harris - to Development Control Working Party

    TWBC Internal Inquiry into the Telephone House Debacle