Cllr Nick Pope: Why I oppose the Calverley Square project

Councillor Pope, who was elected to Park ward in May 2018 as the Alliance’s only representative at the Borough Council, has long opposed the Calverley Square project.

“I am not opposed to the building of a new theatre, and in 2015 I was very optimistic about it but I was uncertain of the site they chose,” Cllr Pope told the Times.

The councillor, who was formerly Chair of Friends of Calverley Grounds, admitted he probably would not ‘have got sucked into’ opposition for the theatre had it been sited elsewhere.

“The council has failed to look at other options. When they were making the decision in 2015, the former cinema site was going nowhere. Altitude did not own the site then.

“They also did not consider Crescent Road Car Park, which is a blot on the landscape,” added the councillor.

He also believes that another, more viable, option for the council was to open a temporary theatre while they renovated the Assembly Hall.

“The council did not want to lose the theatre audience if they closed the Assembly Hall, but they never considered a temporary theatre, which has been done elsewhere. This was not considered by the council.”

He also argues that the current cost of the theatre, £90million, did not represent ‘value for money’ and that the costs have been ‘grossly underestimated’ and believes the price tag for the project will eventually exceed £100million.

“The council has allocated £4million for these CPOs but I think it could be 4-6 times more than this. They have been grossly underestimated and the construction costs will go up too.

“I think it is important to remember that compulsory purchase orders should be a last resort. The council has not only failed to look at other options but it has failed to consult,” claimed the councillor.

“They did not consult at the early stages of this project. I understand you will never make everyone happy but the least you can do is consult people and get them involved.

“Simple questions have gone unanswered,” he argued.

Whatever happens at the inquiry, Councillor Pope and the Tunbridge Wells Alliance may not be prepared to give up their fight.

“It depends on how it goes, but it is not going to be over until the first spade or first digger goes into the ground,” said Pope.

He added that TWA intend to put forward candidates for most of the seats up for grabs during the forthcoming May election.

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