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70 jobs and the long term future of the bus operator Ham’s Travel have been secured this month following a successful planning appeal in relation to their expansion plans.  The appeal was conducted by way of a hearing by the team at Evolution Town Planning. This successful appeal decision ends a lengthy planning battle with Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, which involved a Judicial Review to the High Court made on behalf of our client.  This decision will allow the expansion of the yard at Flimwell and the development of a new home for the managing owner, from where he can oversee the business and efficiently dispatch coaches day or night to keep up with the demands of their rail replacement work.  

The business owner initially began seeking permission for a new home, from which to operate the business, almost 13 years ago.  During this time the company have been in a tussle with the Local Council over their development needs and the future of the business has been hanging in the balance. The owner attends the yard at all times of the night in order to dispatch buses to the rail network for emergency rail replacement, whenever required.  His need for a dwelling close to the yard, together with the yard’s expansion plans, have been a matter of detailed scrutiny through the planning process.

After a couple of unsuccessful applications for the managing owner’s dwelling carried out by other consultants, a new comprehensive application was submitted by  staff of Evolution Town Planning 3 years ago. The new comprehensive scheme proposed not only a new dwelling on land opposite the yard but also the expansion of the yard itself into the paddock to the rear which is part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This proposal will double the size of the yard and will also allow the company to extend their workshop and provide a new state of the art office and driver rest space. The company is now able to invest in the business, improving the yard and staff facilities, making the business more efficient and enabling them to continue to provide the important public service the company is known and valued for. We are delighted to have finally obtained the permission required for this longstanding business.  When this application first went in 2018, we were at odds with the Council over whether this business did have an ‘essential need’ for a dwelling near to the yard.  Despite substantial evidence submitted, the application was refused.  We appealed this decision to the Planning Inspectorate.  The first Planning Inspector sided with the Council, reasoning that if there were a need for a dwelling, the business ought to buy a property nearby instead.  However, critically, the first Planning Inspector failed in their duty to consider the viability of evidence submitted, which demonstrated that such a solution was not a viable option for the business.  The Planning Inspector’s decision was the subject of a Judicial Review to the High Court and the appeal decision was quashed. The appeal was returned to the Planning Inspectorate to be redetermined.  The new Planning Inspector held an Informal Hearing on 30th November 2021, during which the Inspector was able to fully probe the evidence before him. Following that hearing, the Planning Inspector was satisfied that the appellant had demonstrated an ‘essential need’ for the business to have the managing owner living in close proximity to the site, and that this need could only reasonably be met through the development proposed. As such, planning permission was granted for the development, in full.  This is an excellent result for the business, its employees and all who depend on Hams travel for the service they provide. We were delighted to play a part in making this happen.