Abandoned cinema site changes hands again but a ‘revised’ Belvedere will still be delivered

THE company that was developing the much-maligned former ABC Cinema site at the top of Mount Pleasant Road, has sold off the land to another developer but the £80million Belvedere scheme will still be delivered.

Altitude bought the infamous ‘grot spot’ in 2016 and unveiled plans to convert the derelict land into a mixed-use development that would feature around 100 homes, a boutique cinema, along with shops and a restaurant.

Progress on the Belvedere project has been slow, but the developer told the Times earlier this year that work would begin on the site during the summer.

However, it was announced yesterday, that Altitude has sold the land to residential developer, Elysian Residencies, for an undisclosed sum, but the new owners have assured this newspaper that the project is still going ahead.

The company, which builds primarily retired living accommodation but also develops mixed-use schemes, say Altitude’s plans for the site will still be brought to fruition but with some ‘minor revisions’.

They said retail will remain a central and key element to the scheme, but there will be less space for shops, and the apartments will be larger.

While the cinema will remain a central part of the scheme and the number of residential units on the site will stay at 108, there will be a reallocation of accommodation on the upper floors.

The revised retail floor space will be smaller because the company is removing the upper level of shops, which they say ‘has been driven by the current challenging commercial environment’ and would ‘not be in keeping with the current retail environment’.

Instead, the focus will be on creating a smaller amount of all ground-level retail units to be selected after a consultation with local people so they can curate the retail aspect of the project to meet what residents want for the site.

Elysian say they will build larger size apartments, which they claim will ideal for downsizers, and will also provide community amenities including a 3,000 sq ft restaurant/cafe on the corner of Mount Pleasant Road and Church Road.

The development will still cost around £80 million to build and will generate between 20-30 full time jobs both during construction and long term operations, with additional employment generated by the new retail units, restaurant and cinema.   

Mark Curry, Head of Development & Planning at Elysian Residences said: “For nearly 20 years this important mixed-use development site in the heart of Tunbridge Wells has remained vacant and unused.

“Elysian Residences are confident, once the changes are approved, of delivering a vibrant mixed-use scheme for the people of the Royal Town of Tunbridge Wells to be proud of, containing an exciting and much demanded retail offering, along with exceptional homes for the older residents of Tunbridge Wells, in heart of town, where they can enjoy an unrivalled lifestyle.” 

He continued: “Unlike a developer who builds, sells and moves onto a new site, Elysian Residences creates schemes where we remain active operators, directly managing the staff and amenities within our projects.

“Therefore with the Belvedere project we will invest in and participate in the Tunbridge Wells community for the long run.” 

The news will be welcomed by many in the town. The ABC Cinema closed down nearly 20 years ago, and attempts to build on the plot of land, has been fraught with delays ever since.

Lee Colyer, Director of Planning, Policy and Development at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council was one to welcome the news.

He said: “For far too long the former cinema site has sat empty as various developers have reneged on their plans and traded the site as it were a commodity. 

“When Altitude acquired the site in 2016 we were keen to ensure that they had undertaken the technical due diligence the site requires and that they had sufficient funding in place.

“This approach has paid off and we are really pleased that Elysian Residencies have sufficient confidence in Tunbridge Wells to start development this year, once the changes are approved.”

He continued: “This high profile scheme will join other major developments planned for the town bringing investment and wider economic benefits to those who live, work-in and visit our borough.”

A public exhibition is being held between 9 and 11 May at the Trinity Theatre Bar and Café in Tunbridge Wells, where local residents are invited to find out more about the current proposals.

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