Parish councils across Tunbridge Wells are seemingly powerless to prevent ‘atrocious’ modern extensions approved for historic buildings.
Decisions made by borough council conservation and planning officers are often at odds with local views about what constitutes an appropriate build.
Goudhurst Parish Council chairman Antony Harris said: “It used to be that if you wanted to mess around with an old building they wouldn’t let you, or it had to be in the same style.
“It’s gone the other way now. There’s now the concept that you have to be able to tell where the new begins and the old finishes, to demonstrate evolution of the building.
“This makes it almost impossible to extend an old building in a way many people would consider in keeping. Why should a building not be restored in line with what it once was?
“I and several others have complained to Tun-bridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) that the idea of conservation here seems on its head.”
Mr Harris believes disagreement about what is ‘appropriate’ leads to parish councils refusing to support applications which are then approved by TWBC.
He added: “If that’s the policy and they don’t listen to local people, what’s the point of us having a view?”
Hawkhurst Parish Council is similarly concerned. Chairman Peter Dartnell said: “Some modern extensions are fine.
“But within the borough there is concern that the planning department and conservation officers are actively encouraging what we think are atrocious extensions on classic historical buildings.”
TWBC councillor Dr Linda Hall described Hawkhurst as ‘one of the most beleaguered areas’ in the borough.
She said: “Hawkhurst feels it has been on the receiving end of some very bad decisions.
“There’s a beautiful medieval house with a totally inappropriate box of an extension, for example.
“The owners came up with a design for a traditional extension, but were told ‘no, do something more contemporary’.
“The national planning policy framework and the local plan say officers shouldn’t dictate the style. But this is what’s happening.
“And it clearly states in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) that extensions and additions must reflect the context in which they’re put. Considering there are firms who can build traditional style extensions that actually look good, it’s easier than ever to reflect that context.”
A workshop attended by parish councillors and the conservation officer is due to take place this autumn and it is hoped some understanding and middle ground will be found.
A TWBC spokesman said: “The NPPF says councils should not attempt to impose architectural styles or particular tastes and should not stifle innovation, originality or initiative in design.
“Historic England considers that contemporary additions can be an appropriate way to extend heritage buildings as they demonstrate evolution of the building.
“Where a contemporary extension is considered high quality design and appropriate for that building, there are occasions where consent is granted, contrary to the views of the town or parish council.”