Reluctant councillors give go-ahead for demolition of a multi-storey car park

The Mead School in Tunbridge Wells gave a professional level performance in the  ISA drama contests

A planning application which played a part in the resignation of a prominent councillor from the deciding committee passed on a knife edge vote last week.

The move to approve the Garden Street development saw the project pass six votes to five. It will mean 18 flats with one parking space being built over four levels on the site of a small, privately owned multi-storey.

Several residents were in attendance at the planning committee meeting on Wednesday [August 8] with the public voicing their concerns.

Issues raised included the aesthetic of the plan, stating it was ‘not in keeping’ with the surrounding area, and the lack of car parking.

In addition, a representative of the Right Tuition Company, which provides additional out of school education and is based on 3 Calverley Street, raised health and safety issues.

She said two of their three fire exits will be blocked by the new development and the large vehicles required during the development staged posed a risk to pupils.

Several councillors also questioned the wisdom of letting the development go ahead.

Cllr James Scholes and some other council members queried the impact of local commerce if the car park was demolished, resulting in the loss of 106 spaces, while Cllr Carol Mackonochie said the additional waste produced by the new flats could put extra strain on the sewage system.

‘Reading through the report I do not see Southern Water being very happy with this and it could increase the risk of flooding,’ she said.

Cllr David Elliot described the proposed design as ‘absolutely awful’, adding ‘I cannot support it I am afraid.’

It was also admitted by planning officers that extra cars on near-by Calverley Street could make it too narrow for emergency vehicles to access.

Cllr Godfrey Bland sympathised with residents’ view on the aesthetic of the proposal, stating: ‘To say it is an improvement on the car park is setting the bar pretty low. To say it is necessary to ‘camouflage’ the new building with replacement trees speaks volumes.’

However, he highlighted the predicament which partially led Cllr David Neve to resign on the eve of the vote, by adding: ‘The design, although grotesquely awful, is not a factor in planning. I stand to be corrected, but while I don’t like it, I may have to lump it.’

Cllr Neve handed in his notice on a number of grounds, among them his belief that councillors are too restricted on what they are allowed to vote for.

Committee Vice-Chairman Lawrence Heasman, said that whilst a previous application to build on the site did have enough issues to warrant a rejection, the current proposal did not.

‘In essence the problem we have got, in strict planning terms, is we do not have, at least I do not think we have, a good reason to turn it down.’

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