Building to get underway on the Hub development

 As previously reported in the Times, the deal to build the Southborough Hub nearly fell through in August when NHS bosses threatened to withdraw funding over changes to the contract.

Following an eleventh hour intervention by Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark, and negotiations between councillors at Southborough Town Council [STC], Kent County Council [KCC], Tunbridge Wells Borough Council [TWBC] as well as NHS England officials, the project was saved.

Yesterday [Tuesday] the £10million contract with Baxall Construction was finally signed by all parties, enabling building work to begin.

The project is expected to take about 60 weeks, with completion anticipated in early 2021.

Since plans for the Hub were first drafted in 2015, the project has been scaled down from its original £30million design, raising more concerns about the the development on the site of the former Royal Victoria Hall.

Nick Blackwell, from STC, said he was ‘extremely pleased’ that the Hub will finally be built ‘after so many years of waiting for it’.

He added: “We will be reaching out to the community as the project reaches fruition for their ideas and contributions in shaping the facility and ensuring its long-term success.”

The Hub project has been funded largely through the sale of land to Crest Nicholson for a residential development and contributions from STC, KCC and TWBC.

The NHS has also contributed £4.2million towards a new GP surgery to replace St Andrews Medical Centre that serves patients in Southborough and High Brooms.

This money was nearly withdrawn in August after STC raised c0ncerns about their ground rent liability, delaying the signing of the NHS contract.

Following assurances from KCC they will help cover any hefty maintenance bills, the NHS deal was finally agreed, and now the contract with Baxall Construction means building will start.

Peter Oakford, the Deputy Leader of KCC and local Kent County Councillor said: “It has taken a lot of effort by many people to get to this stage and, once completed, I am sure residents will appreciate the hub as a very welcome addition to the town’s facilities.”

The news the project is finally going ahead comes as a relief to members of Tunbridge Wells Youth Football Club, who would have been under threat if the project had not gone ahead.

The hub project was also awarded a grant of £500,000 towards the construction of a new sports pavilion by the Premier League Football Foundation, following input from the club.

Tom Sullivan, club secretary, said: “We are delighted that contracts have now been signed and the construction will commence of our new clubhouse.

“We would like to thank the club members and the wider community for their support in this process and are excited at the prospect of having superb facilities for our local children as well as the wider community.”

Greg Clark also welcomed the news. The MP told the Times: “Today marks a milestone for the Southborough Hub. After a period of uncertainty about the future of the development, I am pleased to see contracts are being signed which will commit all parties to delivering the Southborough Hub and lay the groundwork for building to begin.

“This project is set to deliver a range of benefits for the residents of Southborough which is why today’s announcement is so welcome.”

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