Ahead of its AGM this Thursday (December 14), Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society exclusively revealed to the Times that they had recently sent a letter to the Leader of the Council, Ben Chapelard, containing an alternative Decimus Burton Museum proposal for the largely unoccupied 9 and 10 Crescent Road site, currently up for sale.
In the letter, the group proposed that the Council go ahead with the sale of 10 Crescent Road but grant a 25 year-lease to the museum trust for 9 Crescent Road and the car park, with an option to purchase both 9 Crescent Road and the car park at a market price after 10 years.
The Civic Society, in partnership with the Decimus Burton Society, had submitted a previous proposal to the Council inquiring about developing both 9 and 10 Crescent Road for the creation of a museum celebrating the work of architect Decimus Burton, which would also feature a shop, café and sensory garden.
They also stated in the letter that the museum trust would manage the financing of the re-purposing of 9 Crescent Road and the car park and would pay the Council a minimum rent during the first 10 years of the 25 year-lease.
The museum’s project team are convinced that the new proposal benefits both the Council and the community as there would be an immediate cash injection to the council from the sale of 10 Crescent Road and the attraction would help to raise the town’s tourism profile.
The team have projected that the museum would provide a £750,000 per annum benefit to the local economy, based on the Council’s own research, which they perceive to be a long-term benefit that would outweigh the short-term limited cash return from a ‘flash sale’.
As previously reported in the Times, the site of the largely unoccupied 9 and 10 Crescent Road was listed for sale in early November by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC).
No final decision has been made as TWBC is considering all sealed bids, however, during a cabinet meeting on December 7, it was recommended the properties are sold at the beginning of next year, saving TWBC £211,250 in the 2024/25 budget as they would no longer be required to carry out refurbishment works. RTW Civic Society Chairman, Paul Avis said: “The decision of last week’s cabinet meeting was disappointing, but as Councillor Nick Pope commented, there is still time for the project to negotiate with the Council.
Mr Avis added: “From the outset, we have only asked for a fair hearing of the project where we can provide all parties with the details of the project and for councillors to have the opportunity to ask questions of the full project team, so they can make a decision on the project based on evidence as opposed to misunderstanding and misinformation.
“Should the museum project not go ahead then the town would lose a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have an attraction of local and national importance.”