Council lobbies for extra cash on flagship project

Council lobbies for extra cash on flagship project

The Amelia Scott cultural hub, which is currently under construction on Monson Road to replace the former art gallery and museum, has already gone over budget by more than £6million.

The Times revealed last year how the original cost of £13.2million when the project was first conceived in 2018, had risen to £19.3million in August 2020 due to a number of challenges faced by builders Willmott Dixon.

These included an unexpected gas main that was not in the original plans, more asbestos than was expected, contaminated soil and the impact of Covid and Brexit on supply chains.

After the spiralling costs were announced last year, councillors at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council [TWBC] voted in September to contribute a further £2million to the project.

The project is being jointly funded between TWBC, who were contributing around £8million; Kent County Council who are providing £1.7million; the Arts Council England, who are contributing £886,000; and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which is providing nearly £5million.

It had been planned that fundraising would pay for the remaining amount but due to the Covid crisis, doubts were raised last year as to whether that will be achievable.

The Times has learnt that the fundraising has indeed fallen short by two thirds, leaving more than a million still needed for the project.

To make up the shortfall, the Council is appealing for the extra cash to SELEP [South East Local Enterprise Partnership] – a local authority and business group that channels government grants into projects.

Last month, Leader of the Council Tom Dawlings, lobbied the group about the Amelia project, and SELEP is expected to make a decision on whether to supply the funding by November 19.

If the money is not forthcoming from SELEP, councillors will likely again be asked to increase the amount TWBC will be contributing to the project, money that will have to be taken from Council’s capital fund.

Cllr Jane March, head of Culture and Leisure at the Council told the Times: “We are already more than a third of the way to meeting our fundraising target which is quite an achievement given the significant impact the pandemic has had nationwide on the ability of Trusts and foundations to provide capital funds for new projects.

“Support from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership would help to mitigate this issue and we are hopeful that this will be available. This is a flagship project which we are committed to delivering for the residents of the borough.”

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