Final curtain about to come down at Southborough hall

Nus Ghani

Campaigners fighting to preserve the heritage of the Royal Victoria Hall in Southborough say they are ‘disillusioned’ at the options being considered for its future.

A series of public consultations closed on January 28 and councillors are now considering two proposals to replace the historic theatre with a cultural hub, including new town council offices, a library, café and medical facilities.

The first involves demolishing the 100-year-old building while the second would retain the main stage area of the hall – meaning the venue would no longer function as a theatre.

The proposals have remained unchanged, despite the fact campaigners lodged a 5,000-strong petition to Southborough Town Council last year calling for the theatre to be preserved.

Mark Airey, of the Friends of Royal Victoria Hall, said: “I think people feel quite disillusioned over this. The venue is a piece of the area’s history, but I don’t think that we have been listened to on this.

“The option that includes keeping some of the hall is the least worst – keeping some of it is better than nothing. This should be the jewel in the crown of Southborough, but what is being proposed is certainly not that.”

Tony Egan, who staged pantomimes at the venue for more than 30 years, said: “What is being proposed to replace the Royal Victoria Hall is not the state-of-the-art theatre that was promised. There will not be a viable theatre in the true sense of the word.”

Councillor Jason Reeves, of Southborough Town Council, also expressed concern.

He said: “This has been going on for so long that there is an inevitability about it all going.

“My personal view, and that of the Labour group in the area, was that we should be retaining the hall – but in both options the character part of the building is not being kept.”

A decision on the future of the site, which is proposed to be developed as a joint venture between Kent County Council, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and Southborough Town Council, is expected to be made in March.

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