THE Planning Committee at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) is to meet in just a month’s time to decide the fate of the town’s most notorious plot of land.
The former site of the ABC Cinema on Mount Pleasant Road has sat abandoned and derelict in the middle of town for more than 20 years, but a new proposal to turn it into a retirement village is due before Council planners next month.
However, scores of objections to the project have now been lodged with the Council, with voices opposing the development including the Town Forum, the Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society and dozens of town centre residents.
The site, which is above the train line to Tonbridge, has changed hands more than half a dozen times, and despite repeated promises to revitalise the 1.5-acre plot of land by each developer, it has remained empty since the ABC cinema closed in 2000.
The land has even been dubbed a ‘graveyard for developers’ by the Council’s Chief Executive after 22 years of failed projects.
The latest proposal is by Retirement Villages Group (RVG) – part of the same group that runs AXA Health, the town’s largest employer – who have submitted plans for a £72million later-living development.
“They remain close to their network of family and friends, they make new friends, they get involved in local community activities, spend money in local shops and support local charities,” she explained.
RVG claims that the project will boost the local economy of Tunbridge Wells by £1.5million a year and create up to 44 full-time jobs, as well as 187 construction jobs during the development.
They also say the development will create a downsizing option for those over 65 that will release under-occupied and much-needed family homes back on to the market.
Caroline Keiller, Development Manager at RVG, said: “Retirement living schemes like our proposals for Tunbridge Wells provide the solution and enable people over 65 to downsize and remain active members of their community.
“Our experience and research demonstrates that this also benefits the local economy and community – as well as the residents of our schemes.
Since the planning application was submitted to TWBC in August, scores of objections have flooded into the Council, most of which are opposed to the development – despite the abandoned land having been branded an ‘eyesore’ and ‘grot spot’ by residents for the last 20 years.
Read what people have said about the planning application only in this week’s copy of the Times of Tunbridge Wells.