Council forced into ‘Amelia’ U-turn

As reported in the Times earlier this year, the Council had been accused of ‘trivialising’ and ‘infantilising’ women after it emerged that the new mixed-use centre, which was to be named after the town’s famous social reformer and women’s suffrage campaigner, was just going to be called ‘The Amelia’.

Despite an open letter from several female members of the Cabinet earlier this year justifying the decision to drop the surname from the Amelia Scott, a motion was passed at a Full Council meeting last night [Wednesday] to urge the board overseeing the development to adopt the suffrage campaigner’s full name.

The cross-party motion was put forward by Cllr Mark Ellis of the Liberal Democrats with an amendment by Conservative cabinet member Tracy Moore.

Ms Moore’s amendment enables the council to still use the branding of ‘The Amelia’ but the official name for the cultural hub will be requested to be Amelia Scott.

Cllr Moore said: “It is a fair compromise. The official name will be the Amelia Scott but it will use the branding of ‘The Amelia’ for activities inside the cultural centre.

“It is very positive to achieve compromise. Everyone agrees it is a fantastic project for the town.”

She added that as the cultural hub is reliant on £4million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, they had to ensure the centre remains as inclusive as possible.

“I think this compromise achieves this,” she said.

The decision still has to be approved by the board overseeing the development.

The board members consist of officers from both the borough and the county council, as well as Mike Hill, KCC’s Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services, as well as Jane March, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s cabinet member for Culture, Leisure and Tourism.

Cllr March, whose cabinet responsibilities mean she is ultimately responsible for the project, had tried to block the motion with her own amendment that would have meant the official name would remain as ‘The Amelia’, but she was defeated after a number of Conservative councillors abstained leaving just 14 voting in favour of her amendment and 21 voting against.

The council had heard from a number of members of the public in a lively and impassioned debate.

Eventually, the council voted through the motion with a majority of 32.

The Amelia Scott is set to open in 2021. The council-led project, with the backing of KCC and £4million in funding from the National Lottery, will be a combined library, museum, tourist information and gallery, and will connect with the adult education centre as well as hosting Gateway services.

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