Work began on the Southborough Hub yesterday afternoon [Tuesday], when the various stakeholders on the project, including Southborough Town Council, Kent County Council, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, Tunbridge Wells Youth FC and St Andrew’s Medical Centre, were all on hand to see a start being made.
The Hub, which is being constructed on London Road on the site of the old Southborough Town Council offices and Royal Victoria Hall, will be a mixed use development incorporating a community hall, theatre, library, football pavilion as well as a new medical centre.
However, the £10million project, that should take just over a year, has had a difficult genesis.
Since plans for the Hub were first drafted in 2015, the development has been scaled down from its original £30million design to cut costs.
Southborough Town Council, which has spearheaded the project, has also been beset with political infighting over the development. Control of the council also switched to Labour this year, with many blaming the Conservatives’ handling of the Hub project as the cause for their defeat.
In August, NHS bosses threatened to pull £4.2million of funding for the project just one day before contracts were meant to be signed over a dispute about liabilities for the building.
Greg Clark, MP at the time, managed to broker an eleventh hour deal, and the £10million contract with builders Baxall was finally signed last month.
Leader of Southborough Town Council, Nick Blackwell, said: “The Town Council is delighted to see that we are finally seeing real progress with our new town centre and very pleased to be working with local company Baxall of Paddock Wood.”
He added that the Council has ‘responded to the previous lack of public engagement by convening an independent Hub Advisory Group’ to respond to any concerns raised as they finalise the details of the Hub development.
Cllr Blackwell continued: “We also have also been working with the Theatres Trust and will be taking on board their professional input into the project. We believe that Southborough deserves the opportunity to access theatre within our town and we want to ensure that what we build is wanted and supported by our local community.”