Historic building goes to auction after sales stall

Victoria Truman

One of the town’s most iconic landmarks will be going under the hammer next month after languishing on the property market for almost three years.

The Vale Royal Methodist Church on London Road has a guide price of £500-600,000 for the freehold property, which dates from the late Victorian era.

It is the latest attempt by the congregation to dispose of the 11,000 sq ft property, which has become increasing dilapidated and unfit for purpose, suffering from a leaking roof and rising damp.

The building was originally put on the open market in 2013 after the borough council refused permission for it to be knocked down and replaced with a smaller church and 14 flats.

At the time, the council claimed this would be ‘out of character’ with its surroundings.

However, the council have confirmed that despite the age and prominence of the building it is not listed, although it is considered a local heritage asset. This would be ‘a material consideration’ in any planning process.

It is also in a conservation area and deemed to make a positive contribution to it, potentially adding further restrictions.

A council spokesman said: “In general terms we would seek to have it retained in situ but any reasonable use would be considered subject to other material considerations.”

John Stockey, at property auctioneers Clive Emerson, said: “This is a substantial building in Tunbridge Wells that overlooks the common and will be familiar to people from the area.

“It is situated centrally, close to the High Street, the mainline railway station and The Pantiles.

“Made of brick and stone it consists of an upper floor which is mainly open plan and the lower ground floor level, with a meeting hall and ancillary rooms.

“There are various directions in which this building could be taken subject to all consents being obtainable.”

Local architect John Bullock from John Bullock Design, commented: “This is a prominent building with enormous potential and with a creative design solution could be brought back to life. It constitutes an exciting opportunity for a number of uses including a multiple residential conversion.”

The auction takes place on June 13 at Detling.

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