‘Blight on most sensitive site’ in Tonbridge – and no affordable housing
by Andy Tong | 19th June 2019
AN APPLICATION to build new apartment blocks in the centre of Tonbridge has been criticised by the town’s Civic Society.
And the viability assessment on the former CAB building has found that there is no scope for affordable housing.
That means it would fail to meet Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council’s [TMBC] stated aim in the new draft Local Plan that all developments should be 40 per cent ‘affordable’.
The submission by OSP follows the announcement of the sale of Nos 1-4 River Walk in April depending on planning permission going through.
The transaction caused controversy because, like the former Teen & Twenty Club, it is a publicly owned asset that has been sold off by the council.
It also wants to sell River Lawn nearby for more residential homes to be built.
OSP are proposing to demolish the existing building at No 1 and construct 36 apartments over four storeys. These would comprise 15 one-bedroom flats and 21 two-bed apartments, with parking provided at ground-floor level.
The Civic Society’s honorary secretary, Susan Bevan, wrote to Emma Keefe, TMBC’s development control manager, on June 13.
She said: “This is one of the most sensitive sites in Tonbridge.
“Whatever building is erected here will have a major impact on views of the most beautiful stretch of the river Medway. It will also look large in views from the castle.
“It is essential that any development is of the right scale and highest quality.”
The plan ‘falls far short of what is required. It is too massive and too high in relation to adjacent buildings’.
‘It is just another bland block of flats of a kind which Tonbridge already has too many’’
The former CAB office is ‘built in a Kentish vernacular style and makes an attractive contribution to the character of the Conservation Area’. She says its presence ‘is much better than another monolithic block of the kind which line the river to the east of the [Big] bridge’.
Calling it a ‘blight’, she adds: “The proposed design is entirely without aesthetic merit.
“It is just another bland block of flats of a kind which Tonbridge already has too many.”
A viability assessment by S106 Management has found that the costing of the plan means OSP is not able to offer any affordable housing.
Eleanor Hoyle, TMBC’s Director of Planning, Housing and Environmental Health said: “The current viability assessment that has been submitted with the application 19/01108/FL makes a case for the site not being viable with any affordable housing.
“As part of the usual consideration of the application, this will be scrutinised.
“We expect all applications to meet their full policy requirements or clearly demonstrate why this would not be completely achievable so that we can consider the most suitable approach.”
Meanwhile an appeal against a rejected planning application on Medway Wharf Road has been turned down by the government inspector.
The appeal was made by F Estates limited, who applied to build 71 studio flats in an extension to Bank House on what is currently its car park.
It was dismissed by R J Maile because it would result in an ‘overdevelopment…that would be harmful to the character and appearance of the surrounding area’.
Specifically he said it would have had an ‘unneighbourly relationship’ with the adjacent Tannery Trading Estate.
Jon Botten, the Conservative councillor for Medway, said: “We are pleased that the Planning Inspector agreed with the council that more flats in the car park at Bank House would be harmful to the character of the area.
“It shows that this council is willing to only approve development in the right areas.”
F Estates, which converted Bank House originally, also put in an application to build two skyscrapers, with 16 and nine storeys, to house a further 252 apartments. It was thrown out without going in front of a planning committee.