BBC states objections to plans for £90m theatre complex

BBC states objections to plans for £90m theatre complex

By William Mata

THE BBC is the latest big name in Tunbridge Wells to call for Civic Complex plans to be altered.

Hoopers and Metro Property joined the broadcaster in stating opposition to aspects of proposals to build on land bordering Calverley Grounds.

They all commented on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s [TWBC] planning application for the 1,200-seat theatre and office project, which will cost a gross £90million.

Thaddaeus Jackson-Browne, of Lambert Smith Hampton – the legal firm representing the BBC, described plans as ‘simply unworkable’.

He said the broadcaster’s Radio Kent and South East News studios in The Great Hall on Mount Pleasant Road would be impacted by noise, lack of car park space and dust pollution.

“The BBC is not opposed to the principle of the Civic Development, however the BBC is concerned with the proposals in their current form and cannot support this application,” he wrote on Friday [February 9].

“The proposal to demolish the existing car park to make way for the development, with no alternative parking arrangements for the BBC proposed during the construction phase, is unviable and hugely harmful towards operations.

“The amount and level of disruption to the BBC’s day to day operations in respect to the logistics of deliveries, servicing and car parking for staff and visitors is simply unworkable and jeopardises the entire BBC operation at The Great Hall.

“Therefore the BBC requests significant amendments be made to lessen the inevitable harm that would result from this development as proposed.”

TWBC is seeking full planning permission for the development after councillors voted 30 to 13 in favour of designs at a meeting in December.

Planning officers will now inspect designs before deciding whether to grant permission. A determination deadline has been listed for April 13.

The window of opportunity to comment on the designs closed last weekend with 193 individuals and companies sharing a mixture of views.

Hugo Fenwick, Director of Fenwick department store, wrote: “We fully support this outstanding initiative which will enable Tunbridge Wells to become a significant cultural and leisure destination for the wider region.

“Fenwick also trades as the principal department store in Canterbury and we have witnessed how that City has immeasurably benefitted from that Council’s vision to become a cultural destination for East Kent.”

However, other firms were less supportive with Hoopers accusing TWBC of showing ‘total disregard’ to concerns raised at an earlier stage.

The department store on Mount Pleasant has long-opposed ‘the need for the scheme to utilise its car park for delivery, servicing and refuse collections associated with the theatre’.

Thaddaeus Jackson-Browne, also representing Hoopers, wrote: “Should the council proceed we will also be requesting the Secretary of State calls in this application for his own determination.”

Metro Property, who own The Great Hall arcade – which also includes Sainsbury’s, raised objections, citing a ‘loss of green space’.

Councillor Tracy Moore, TWBC Cabinet Member for Civic Development, said: “We have consulted on the development, receiving support from both the public and businesses in the borough, and made changes to the scheme before its submission for planning permission to address issues raised.

“Whilst we understand there are concerns, these will be weighed up by the planning committee against the long-term benefits this development will bring to the borough.”


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