ABC Cinema site development design sparks online criticism

MOCKING UP: The satirical image of the proposed development

Members of a local Facebook group shared their strong views on the social media site about the proposed design of the retirement village, ‘Thrive Living’ set to be constructed on the former ABC Cinema site on Mount Pleasant Road.

The discussion came after resident Patrick Gillan shared his views on the development plans in the ‘Tunbridge Wells’ Facebook group on December 21, alongside images containing the proposed building design and an altered image featuring The Shard in the same location.

Mr Gillan shared his Facebook post with the Times, which said: “The original visionaries who imagined and designed Tunbridge Wells were risk-takers pushing the boundaries in architecture which made Tunbridge Wells the iconic town it is.

“So why approve a development that plunders those original architectural ideas to create something which is a poor copy? This dull pedestrian development does nothing to inspire me. I don’t look at it in awe and wonder, instead it makes me feel flat.

“People say anything is better than what was there before and in my opinion that is exactly what we got – anything.”

The post resulted in an open discussion and thread containing 169 comments, with many residents offering similarly critical opinions on the proposed plans on Mount Pleasant Road.

The majority of comments not in favour of the eight-storey building design highlighted the building’s size, the ‘bland and unimaginative’ design and questioned the need for another retirement village in the town.

A common remark within the thread was that the proposed designs were not ‘in keeping’ with the architecture of the town. One user commented, “Awful, isn’t it? Lazy, cookie-cutter architecture. No sense of place. You wonder if the architect had ever actually visited TW.” Another post read, “That’s such a shame. It used to be a beautiful cinema. All that beauty in an amazing building is gone.”

With the site having been neglected for over 23 years since the ABC Cinema closed in 2000 and with multiple failed proposals being submitted for the centrally located plot, there was an element of scepticism among other users over whether the project would ever be finished.

However, there were a few comments which were less critical of the plans suggesting that there was a need for ‘progress’ in the town and that it would be an improvement on the current view of ‘closed down shops and hoardings’.

As previously reported by the Times in December, Retirement Villages Group, the retirement living company developing the former ABC Cinema site, are scheduled to start working on the site later this month.

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