First images of new plans for cinema site

The team from Corker Outdoor, Award sponsor Jason Varney (Thomson, Snell & Passmore) & Eamonn Holmes

The company that is planning to turn a 20-year plus derelict site in Tunbridge Wells into a retirement complex, has revealed the first images of what the project will look like.

Retirement Villages Group (RVG), who are owned by AXA – Tunbridge Wells’ largest employer – announced at the end of last year they were to redevelop the former site of the ABC Cinema on Mount Pleasant Road last year.

RVG plan to build between 150-180 later living apartments on the site, alongside a café, restaurant and wellness facilities available to both residents and the public.

The project is a larger version of the plans drawn up by previous developers Elysian Residences, who had wanted to build around 100 apartments but pulled out of the deal during the pandemic.

The developer has been holding consultations at Trinity Theatre, where they have unveiled some artist’s impressions of what the project will look like, as well as further details as to its scale.

This building would deliver around 150 retirement living homes, comprising a mix of one and two bedroom apartments in a range of sizes, all with storage, access to private outdoor space and designed to maximise sunlight throughout.

There will also be 60 basement car parking spaces, as well as a publicly accessible square.

But the most controversial aspect of the development could be its height.

When built, the eight-storey building is set to dwarf the Town Hall opposite as it stands 26.8 metres (85 feet) tall. The Town Hall is just 16.5 metres tall (54 feet) at its highest point.

However, the town’s arbiters of architecture and aesthetics, the Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society (RTWCS), say they have been ‘encouraged’ by Retirement Village’s approach.

Brian Lippard, Deputy Chairman of the RTWCS, told the Times that the group is set to meet to discuss the proposed development today (Wednesday, April 6) after having a Zoom meeting with RVG last week.

He added: “It is too early to form a considered view, but we are very encouraged by the approach the developer is taking.

“RVG has been very transparent, open and willing to talk and most importantly they are listening to what we are saying, which makes a nice change from previous developers that tried to take on the site.”


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