Fears Southborough culture hub could be scaled down

Fears Southborough culture hub could be scaled down

Controversial plans for a theatre and library hub in Southborough could be downsized and cost an extra £1million, according to documents.

The leader of the opposition Labour group on the town’s council (STC) is disappointed the authority voted through two Kent County Council (KCC)-proposed motions at a meeting.

Councillor Nick Blackwell said the replacement for the Royal Victoria Hall Theatre, which has been closed as part of plans, is “a bare bones effort”.

This is after Conservative Councillor Ian Kinghorn put forward motions to subject the hub to ‘value engineering’ and ‘if further funds are needed, contribute to KCC match funding to a maximum £500,000’.

The Tory-held authority passed both motions in a meeting on Monday, November 13, held behind closed doors due to confidentiality.

However, documents in the public domain show what the council were voting on. Councillors previously ignored a 5,000 name petition in support of keeping the theatre and voted to proceed with the project, which will cost a gross £30million.

“Our residents were promised a state-of-the-art theatre and community facility that would be the envy of other towns,” said Councillor Blackwell.

“We now face the very real prospect of a bare bones effort that could be nothing more than a series of non-descript concrete rendered boxes.

“We know we have got the local consensus about the poor standard of governance of this project and we will be pursuing the fight.”

All six combined members of his Labour group and the Liberal Democrat group abstained from voting.

Councillor Kinghorn said: “The additional sum is up to £500K and is not a net sum. It is simply a safety net which if needed will help to ensure that there is a suitable contingency to allow the project to proceed.

“Value engineering is a standard part of any major project and will ensure that the income and the costs balance across the scheme and that we can deliver a viable project.”

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