Plans for a ‘truly awful’ Christmas funfair, featuring a ferris wheel and bumper cars in Calverley Grounds, have been scrapped after a storm of public protest.
In a statement issued on Monday, the borough council – which had applied for permission to stage the attraction – claimed to be ‘rethinking’ the proposals.
But it also conceded it has bowed to the barrage of complaints and objections from local people who felt the fair was inappropriate in a conservation area.
Plans had included placing a 57 feet high big wheel and bumper cars, in the park to complement the ice rink, which was introduced five years ago and has since been visited by more than 120,000 people.
The original plan considered would have involved the added attractions operating for nine weeks from November until January.
But despite the vocal opposition, there was significant support for the funfair plan.
More than 50 residents wrote to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council to raise concerns about noise, the suitability of the rides in a conservation area and a lack of information provided.
Andrew Appleton of Pennine Walk wrote: “I believe a ferris wheel in any park in Tunbridge Wells is a truly awful idea – please no! Some ‘peace and quiet’ in the town would be better!”
Resident Stuart Johnson, of Mountfield Gardens, said: “I feel that a ferris wheel and dodgems are completely out of place with the aesthetics of the park as well as the spirit of the Christmas period.
“The noise from the dodgems and ferris wheel will be completely unacceptable for local residents like myself, not to mention the inevitable Christmas songs from late morning through to the evening for nine
Nicky Dorkings, general manager of Hotel du Vin which overlooks Calverley Grounds, said she was pleased
the plans had been dropped.
She explained: “It would have been very disturbing for guests, with the noise and lights – people will say I should have warned them.”
Nicholas Pope, chairman of Friends of Calverley Grounds, ‘welcomed’ the council’s climbdown.
But Tim Wood, of Mountfield Road, said: “Unlike some people, I remember being a teenager and I would have absolutely loved a mini-funfair in the park. Please ignore the ‘nimbys’ and the ‘disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’.”
Joanne Wicker, of Payne & Son jewellers in the High Street, said: “It would have been good for it to have gone ahead. Anything to drive footfall into the town is a good thing. I believe there could have been a compromise.
“Perhaps we could have just had the ferris wheel and not the dodgems.”
A successful local businessman, who asked not to be named, said: “It’s an absolute shame the council
has been unable to turn Calverley Grounds into more than just an ice rink. It was a fine idea to draw people into the town and away from Bluewater, Brighton and Lakeside.”
Jane March, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s tourism and leisure chief, said: “I feel that on this occasion we should be listening to residents.
“Therefore I have asked for the planning application to be formally withdrawn.”
Cllr March said the idea was to appeal to younger people who did not want to skate.
She added: “Perhaps this is an opportunity to say to people: ‘Tell us how we can make the ice rink better for you’. If you have any ideas do please let us know.”
Tory councillor for the area, Tracy Moore, who objected to the plans, said: “I am very pleased it is being withdrawn. I wrote a letter of objection in response to residents’ concerns.
“Out of about 40 letters I received, only two were in support.”