Viewing Your Planning Application using Local Authority Council Websites

Having submitted your planning application, either using CPA Planning Design or on your own behalf, all councils now have websites for checking the progress of the application. This includes the ability to view and download the following details:

  • Submitted documentation
  • Details of the submission
  • Local Comments
  • Validation & Determination dates
  • Constraints

Here are a few direct links to council pages to check the progress of your application. NOTE: It can take up to 3 weeks after submission for your application to be made available on-line:

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council
Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council

New build home owners may require consent from developers

If you have purchased a New Build residential property and wish to extend or significantly alter it, you may be required to pay an administration fee to the original Developer for consent. These fees do vary but recently we have found them to be approximately £250 (inc. VAT), purchasers will see the covenant within the deeds, although the fee amount is unlikely to be specified.

As well as the payment, the Developers will need copies of any drawings or photographs relating to the proposal in order to provide consent – this submission can occur at the same time as any planning application to a local authority, to prevent delays.

Should you not require planning permission due to the proposals being accepted under permitted development, this still means you will need drawings in order to satisfy the original Developer.

Formal Householder planning application fees required by most local authorities is currently £172.00 (total) and this should be factored into your budget when appointing an Architectural Design practice, such as CPA Planning Design.

Warning to house purchasers, after agreeing a purchase value

We are occasionally instructed to view properties with clients, to get a quick and convenient second opinion. Of course we strongly advise Building Surveyors appropriately qualified to also carry out a survey, to ensure no structural or damp problems exist, or to at least confirm them.

During our last visual survey and inspection, our client (cash buyer) placed an offer on a property advertised for £450,000. Property valuations are are beyond our remit however their solicitor and the estate agent advised offering £425,000, due to a few issues with the property. This was formally accepted and our clients’ solicitor made the legal arrangements to secure the property and place an advertising ‘stop’ to ensure further interest was not received.

Approximately 1 week later, the estate agents selling the property rang to cancel the agreement on the basis that a third party had put an offer in, in excess of theirs.  This meant our clients had lost the property after many months of searching, and this isn’t the first time it’s occurred.

Therefore our advise is to secure and receive formal agreement not just for the sale of the property, but also confirmation that no other party can gazump the original and agreed purchaser. We appreciate this still remains a grey area despite many years of disputes, however you are supposedly able to get around this by ensuring your conveyancing solicitor arranges a ‘lock in’ (sometimes known as a ‘lock out’) agreement.

If you are interested in employing our services, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Cornford Lane Closure Proposal (Tunbridge Wells)

While our main focus is on residential and commercial building design, we do have a keen interests on local matters, and recently the proposed closure of Cornford Lane has been raised.

Cornford Lane Tunbridge Wells Closure congestion

There has been great controversy pertaining to this and the associated Hall’s Hole Road ‘rat run’, with the most recent addition of traffic lights on the intersection to Pembury Road. In our view this was a highly questionable decision, for instance during off-peak times a single car exiting Hall’s Hole Road, stops the traffic movement on a very busy Pembury Road, going into Tunbridge Wells. It would be interesting to know how many other B roads throughout Kent have A and B Road traffic light configurations. Moreover, the width of Hall’s Hole Road is not suited for heavy vehicle use, this creates bottlenecks beyond those caused by normal vehicles.

Having used Cornford Lane and consequently Hall’s Hole Road in a medium sized car, there is no doubt it can be a gamble which risks minor vehicle damage as well as delays due to inappropriate vehicles using the lane. There are several ‘squeeze’ points which rely upon the competence and forward planning of road users, which by definition of being in a hurry, there is a good chance they will lack.

In our mind, there are four groups of users:

  • Residents of Cornford Lane / Hall’s Hole Road
  • Normal cars using the road as a shortcut during peak hours
  • Normal cars using the road as a shortcut during off-peak hours
  • Larger vehicles

The residents cannot be considered a problem in any way, as their residence is situated on the road in question.

Normal passenger cars are forced to either leave earlier or use the cut through due to the congestion on Pembury Road in the direction of Tunbridge Wells. There is no evidence, but increased congestion could have been created by the recently installed traffic lights on the intersection of Pembury Road and Hall’s Hole Lane.

Low circulation use is active during off-peak traffic periods, such as 10am-1pm and 2pm-5pm and in the late evenings.

Larger vehicles (i.e. transit vans & vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes) use the road as a cut through to avoid the Pembury Road congestion.

Streetview of Cornford Lane Tunbridge Wells

The most recent solution is to close Cornford Lane, and while this would provide residents with a safer highway adjacent to their property, we would sincerely hope that the removal of Pembury Road traffic lights would be planned in conjunction with the closure. A further option would be a phased plan of work, starting with the restriction of access to specific vehicle types to the road, via height restrictions controlled by the residents. While constant during peak hours, this would allow for a better flow of traffic during the 2 hours of peak use per week day.

An alternative to a complete road closure could be to make the road one way at specific times of the day and in specific directions opposed to surveyed traffic flow. The disadvantage to this is possible resident confusing leading to head-on impacts, due to an assumption that no oncoming traffic exists.

The affect heuristic does have to be taken into account with every opinion, we may be bias should we be regular users of a road proposed for closure. We currently do not use Cornford Lane or Hall’s Hole Road as they can be more problematic and risk vehicle damage. Additionally, most of our appointments are during off-peak times of the day, therefore we are not affected by severe congestion, but always leave early as a precaution. We do not know any of the residents personally, and this should be taken into consideration.

The infamous bigger picture.

As one of the team rides a motorcycle, there is another perspective gained from this viewpoint, and that is that the majority of vehicles heading into Tunbridge Wells at peak times, carry only one passenger, in cars with 4 seats. There is no question that every road user has the right to their own space, comfort and security during transit to a place of work, we are curious how congested a road leading into a city has to become, before this is addressed. In the past ‘car shares’ have been promoted, although sadly with little effect as far as we are aware. Public transport still has it’s stigma, assumed to be associated with low income users only. It also has the disadvantage of not being ‘door to door’ service, furthermore it has a schedule beyond the control of the commuter, making it a less appealing alternative.

CPA Planning Design is working on a concept that ‘may’ be a solution to all cities, which takes into account the perception of public transport, and utilises the existing infrastructure. This will be available for consultancy within the next 1-2 years.

BBS Building control decreases fees to compete with local councils

BBS are in the top ten providers of Building Control in the country and have experienced 20% growth year on year. They provide the service of ‘signing off’ building work during it’s various construction stages, ensuring it adheres to the Building Regulations.

We recently received an email from BBS stating that as of 1st April 2014 their fees will be 5% lower than comparable quotes from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC).

CPA Planning Design have been involved with BBS many times over the years and have received nothing short of a professional service.

It has also been noted by BBS that TWBC do send out letters which appear to be requests for payment relating to Building Control, BBS are in the process of pursuing this, to avoid confusion to clients.

A guide to real wood internal flooring finishes

This guide has been provided by WoodandBeyond, based in London.

Real wood flooring, not to be confused with artificial lookalikes such as vinyl, wood effect or laminate wood, is made from natural material and requires some degree of planning before installation can proceed. Should you decide to venture in the direction of wood flooring, you will need to pay attention to correct storage, types of floorboard construction and installation options. These will ultimately affect the lifespan of the floor.

Example of Rustic Solid Oak Floor Board from

Types Of Real Wood Flooring

There are two variants of wood flooring that you should evaluate. One is made from 100% natural wood, while a close variant is made from natural wood supplemented with manmade material. The two options may look similar and even cost similar, though in certain settings they react differently.

Solid Wood – The first and most widely recognisable variant is the solid type. Each floorboard is made from complete natural species of hardwood such as Walnut, Oak, Ash and others. Commercial property owners due to their ability to sand and recoat the floor many times (thereby removing signs of wear and tear by ‘exposing’ new floor) specially regard the solid type. They are also popular in domestic settings.

Engineered Wood – A close variant is the machine or engineered wood flooring type. Each floorboard is made from a top layer of natural species hardwood, but the core is made from MDF, Ply and Softwood. The result is a floor that looks similar to the solid type, but significantly can be fitted across the entire project. Natural wood expands when temperature rises, for example when fitted over under floor heating. Furthermore, it will then contract when temperature drops, commonly in high humidity areas such as the bathroom. While solid wood flooring shares this natural reaction, the engineered variant is almost immune and can be fitted across the entire interior. It can cope with under floor heating and even in wet or humid areas when thick waterproof coating is applied.

Acclimatise Period Prior To Installation:

Before fitting either of the two types, allow the temperature and humidity of the wood to match the temperature and humidity of the room they’re in. Expansion and contraction may cause the floorboard (in particular the solid type) to buckle, cup, or develop deep structural damage. Use either of the two practices below.

When the floorboards remain boxed – Keep the ends of the boxes opened and lay the boxes flat across the floor throughout the room for 5 to 10 days before installation.

When the floorboards are unboxed – Instead of laying the opened boxes flat across the floor, take the floorboards out of their boxes and lay them out as you’re going to install them for a minimum of 5 days prior to installation. Naturally, this method of acclimatising the wood requires more space.

Installation Methods

Your choice of one installation method over the other will have a significant impact in the durability of the floor. Solid wood can exceed 50 years of service life and engineered wood 25 years. This service life potential often depends on your choice of fitting method together with correct care.

Nail and Glue Down – These methods are time consuming and therefore more expensive. If you have chosen the solid wood floorboard, nail or glue down are the only methods to ensure long service life. Due to the weight of each floorboard, these two are the only proven methods to secure the floorboard in place. You may also use this method to fit the engineered wood floorboard.

Floating and Click System – These methods depend on the weight of each floorboard to hold its counterpart in place. Floating and click system installation methods are the quickest of all the methods and even suitable for property owners with some degree of DIY skills. Manufacturers recommend that only the engineered wood floorboard is installed using one of the two methods, as the solid floorboards is simply too heavy and may be displaced from its location if not held more securely using nails or glue.

We hope these tips on wood flooring installation planning have helped. For more information on building and architectural services, contact CPA Planning Design.

Information by Jonathan Sapir of London based WoodandBeyond.

Tel: 0800 690 6864 (0208 209 2662 local number)
220 The Vale
NW11 8SR

Panel of Architects to debate improvements to Tunbridge Wells (26th June 2013)

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) are joining ‘So Create a Difference’ to organise ‘So Create’ – a debate on improving Tunbridge Wells. It’s a follow up to one arranged by local Architects in January 2013 and will centre on the planning and development process to improve the town.

Speakers will include Robert Adam who chaired the RIBA judges’ panel for the competition to redesign the old cinema. Also included will be Chris Lamb (Chief Exec. of Kent Architecture) and Michael Westlake (a Tunbridge Wells based Architect), the latter being behind the ‘So Create a Difference’ scheme.

Both local Architects and residents are welcome to contribute, the conclusion of which will be available in book form and available for purchase.

The debate takes place at the Trinity Theatre on the 26th June 2013, tickets are available on line at

Pre-Planning Application Advice

Ordnance Survey ExtractPre-Planning Application Advice.

When a new architectural building project is envisaged, it’s all too easy to become involved with an idea before knowing whether it will be legally permitted. Prior to consulting with either an Architect or Architectural Technician (such as CPA Planning Design), it is advised that you seek feedback from your Local Authority. There may be fees involved, however they are reasonable and allow you to gauge the ‘official’ opinion of the Planning Department, for more complicated applications such as multiple new builds or housing estates, it may be more appropriate to contact a private planning consultancy.

It can be very helpful to have draft sketches of the proposals with you, during any consultation and CPA Planning Design provides these for as little as £50.00. Once positive feedback has been received, accurate building design aiming towards formal planning applications drawings can commence. These typically include an Ordnance Survey extract, Floor plans, Elevations and where applicable, sections of the existing and proposed.

For more information or advice, please do not hesitate to contact CPA Planning Design via the Contact Form for architectural design and your planning application drawing requirements.

Permitted Development rights increased (as of 22nd April 2013)

Home owners are now permitted to extend their homes up to 8 metres (single storey only) without planning permission, however planning drawings will still be required for consultation with neighbours, via the council. The neighbour will then have 21 days to object.

Should the council or neighbour object, the homeowner can make an appeal or submit a formal planning application.

As you would expect, these new rules do not apply to Conservation or AONB Areas

AONB – Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Tunbridge Wells Charges for Pre-Planning Application Advice

tunbridge_wells_district_councilOn 20 September 2012 the council’s cabinet took the decision to introduce charges for pre-application planning enquiries.

Charges are to be introduced today (Monday 1 April 2013), in line with a scale of fees agreed by the cabinet.

The council has prepared a Pre-Application Planning Advice Service Guidance Note to assist anyone who might want planning advice prior to submitting a formal planning application. The Guidance Note explains what the council will provide as part of the service, the benefits of pre-application advice, fees and charges, how the pre-application advice service will work and what the applicant / customer will need to provide in order for the council to be able to deal with the enquiry. All pre-application enquiries should be submitted on a Pre-Application Advice Request Form.

Fee’s include:

By post (No meeting):

Small Household: £25 per letter (house extensions, etc.)
Minor applications: £75 per letter (1-9 dwellings or changes of less than 1000 sq. m.)
Major applications: £250 per letter (10 or more dwellings or change of 1000 sq. m. or more)

Meetings (with letter):

Small Household: £50 (for a 20minute meeting)
Minor applications: £150 (for a 30minute meeting)
Major applications: £450 per hour

Proposed Development and Consultation dates for Cranbrook

Here are the intentions based on a ‘Core Strategy’ document created in 2010:

  • Proposed 300 new homes, with 43 built or planned*
  • Approx. 250 new homes allocated with supported infrastructure (schools, open spaces, etc.).
  • Additional retail floorspace.
  • Community Facilities.
  • Strengthen and support local shops and businesses.
  • Maintain Crane Valley open space corridor

* As at end of September 2012

Consultation Date: 19th April 2013    Time: 2:30-8pm
Location: Vestry Hall, Stone Street, Cranbrook

Proposed Development and Consultation dates for Southborough, Hawkenbury and Speldhurst Road

Here are the intentions based on a ‘Core Strategy’ document created in 2010:

  • Allocated three current rural fringe areas for additional growth at Hawkenbury, Knights Park, Speldhurst Road, former allotments as part of the Royal Tunbridge Wells/Southborough housing requirements.
  • Provision of new infrastructure and community facilities including new schools at Knights Park and Hawkenbury.
  • Propose new areas of search for replacement rural fringe to South East of Royal Tunbridge Wells around Hawkenbury area and West of Southborough near Caenwood Farm.
  • Continue protection of Green Belt, AONB and rural areas for their natural environment and recreational uses.

Consultation Date: 18th April 2013    Time: 4-8pm
Location: The Ark, Gallard’s Almshouses, London Road

Proposed Development and Consultation dates for Hawkhurst

Here are the intentions based on a ‘Core Strategy’ document created in 2010:

  • Proposed 240 new homes, with 130 built or planned*
  • Approx. 110 new homes allocated to include open space and community facilities.
  • Additional retail floorspace.
  • Gill’s Green employment improvements
  • Strengthen and support local shops and businesses.

* As at end of September 2012

Consultation Date: 17th April 2013    Time: 4-8pm
Location: British Legion, Unity Hall, High Street