Work on cinema site could be postponed until 2019

Work on cinema site could be postponed until 2019

Long awaited works to build a cinema and housing on the former ABC site in Tunbridge Wells could be put back until next year.

Developer Altitude disclosed this week they are still finalising agreements with Tunbridge Wells Borough Council [TWBC] to build the £80million project, The Belvedere.

Seventeen years after the former ABC cinema closed on Mount Pleasant, plans to see at least 99 homes, five shops and nine restaurants being created were welcomed.

Everyman cinemas has confirmed plans to run a boutique three-screen venue to replace the original one which closed in 2000.

After they secured planning permission in a heated meeting in October, Altitude stated work would begin in 2018 and would take around two and a half years.

However, Altitude Director Stephen Tillman told the Times this week that discussions are continuing.

He said: “In terms of overall programme we are on track to see building works commence hopefully towards the end of this year or early next year [2019].”

The site has long been considered a town grot spot and planning committee member Councillor Don Sloan previously said he felt ‘positive’ work was being completed.

It appears that behind the scenes talks between Altitude and TWBC over a financial agreement is slowing the process.

Known as section 106 agreements, this is an obligation for a developer to mitigate the impact of a development by making a financial contribution to local authorities.

Planning documents released when planning permission was granted stated that Altitude is set to pay around £500,000.

This is likely to be divided between local schools, community groups and green space projects.

Mr Tillman said: “Whilst we have received resolution to grant permission for The Belvedere, we are currently finalising the section 106 agreement with TWBC.

“This means formal permission can be issued before we start to commence on the detailed design. “While all these legal progresses continue their normal course we hope to commence further site investigations shortly, so the public may see a borehole rig on site carrying out these works.”

He added: “In addition to this we have been progressing the footpath stopping up order and diversion along with the new proposed walkway agreement which will ensure the public have access across the scheme.”

One aspect of the project yet to be decided is whether a medical centre or an extra nine properties will be built on the site.

If the surgery is chosen as the preferred option, Altitude will pay a markedly reduced amount for the section 106 agreement of £502,697 against £601,305.

Mr Tillman continued: “Discussions continue with the medical centre and we hope to be able to secure this use on the site.”

A contentious point of the proposal is that none of the one, two or three bed properties on offer would be classified as ‘affordable housing’ – nor would there be enough parking spaces to match the number of residents.

Planning committee member Councillor Linda Hall, who voted against The Belvedere, said: “There was no affordable housing, which I think was very unfair.

“There is very little room for parking space and some people have to have cars as, although the development is near the railway, not everywhere has a station.”

A spokesperson for TWBC said: “Our understanding is that work on the site was due to commence at the end of this year and we are not aware of any changes to this.”

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