Borough councillors have been presented with a cross-party report, outlining plans to sell off two Council car parks – Great Hall and Mount Pleasant that both sit next to Calverley Grounds.
The money would be used to initiate a new development on the current site of the Town Hall and Assembly Hall Theatre.
The Calverley Square development was scrapped in October despite more than £10million of taxpayers’ money spent on planning the project, but the Council still has to decide what to do with the current civic building and theatre.
Both the Town Hall and Assembly Hall Theatre require immediate emergency repairs, which has already landed taxpayers with another £2million bill to patch them up.
A cross-party group, including councillors from all the parties on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, was set up to find a solution and new direction for the town following the collapse of the Calverley Square project.
Now the group, which consists of councillors David Scott and Tom Dawlings [Con], Hugo Pound [Lab] David Hayward [TWA] and Mark Ellis and Andrew Hickey [Lib Dem], has reached a ‘cross-party consensus’ on a new plan.
In their report, which was presented to councillors on Monday, both the Mount Pleasant and Great Hall car parks, which were both earmarked to have the Calverley Square civic and theatre complex built on them, are to be sold off.
The cross-party group want to sell both Council assets to developers, using the funds raised to provide the seed money to initiate a revamp of the civic area at the top of the town.
The Mount Pleasant car park, a surface level car park used by AXA employees, already has planning permission for commercial office space.
The money raised from its sale would be used to come up with a new plan for the Town Hall, which is set to be partitioned for both Council use, as well as providing commercial office space for the town.
Funds from the sale of the Great Hall car park, the building, which sits on the edge of Calverley Grounds and was set to be replaced by the Calverley Square theatre, is similarly going to be used to initiate a project to develop the Assembly Hall.
New planning permission would have to be sought for the Great Hall car park, which could see it turned into an office, retail or residential development.
Councillors have not yet decided how the Assembly Hall will be revamped or whether it will stay as a ‘theatre’ or become more of a ‘cultural space’.
The cross-party group is understood to want to go ahead with plans proposed by Labour’s Cllr Hugo Pound, who as reported in the Times in September, wishes to rerun the original architectural competition that led to the initial building designs in 1939.
Both redevelopments could be completed within 5-10 years, but the report stresses the importance that the Council has the support of ‘residents, businesses, investors and partners’.
It also notes that the redevelopment of the Town Hall and theatre, which could have a combined cost of anything from £20million to more than £90million, depending on what scale of development is proposed, would require ‘substantial sums’ to be raised from other sources, most likely borrowing.
The two developments will also require relocating the Council and performance activities elsewhere, adding to the costs.