Park protestors force public hearing that could derail the civic complex

What the garden looked like before
GATHERING STORM Opponents of the civic complex meet at Calverley Grounds

Opponents of the civic complex and theatre sent around 300 letters to Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire to force a public inquiry.

This will analyse the legitimacy of the Compulsory Purchase Order [CPO] required by the council to use land of nearby developments for access.

Critics of the £90million project will speak at the hearing and hope it offers a chance to derail the project, for which planning permission has been granted.

This announcement came within days of Council Leader David Jukes saying ‘NIMBYs’ are waging a ‘Donald Trump fake news job’ in protesting against park space in Calverley Grounds being lost.

Opening in 2022, the 1,200 seat auditorium would replace The Assembly Hall Theatre and an area for council offices would be built facing it.

Last December the Tory-led Tunbridge Wells Borough Council [TWBC] passed advanced plans for the development to be built on land next to the green space.

It would see two per cent of Calverley Grounds built on.

A CPO can force individuals and businesses to surrender part of their land or allow a right of way to a site. TWBC has sent letters to around 20 businesses on Mount Pleasant – including Hoopers – who could be affected, with their land required for access.

Bob Atwood, Chairman of the Tunbridge Wells Alliance political party, said: “The Secretary of State has the power to make the council withdraw the CPOs. This means that, in our view, the project will be impossible to continue with. They would have to think again.

“They might relocate the project somewhere else or decide the project has become unaffordable.
“An increasing number of the public are opposed, not just the usual moaners.”
Opponents have battled the project at every stage.

Mr Atwood, a former Conservative leader of TWBC, said: “From our own perspective, we are delighted that a public enquiry is going to take place. We are not surprised and are pretty confident.
“But it is not the last resort. There will be discussions in the council and after the next election the makeup and feeling of the council could change.”

A spokesman for TWBC added: “This is as we expected and it has been planned for by the Calverley Square project team.

“The CPO process is such that if any objection is made an inquiry will be held. The inquiry is conducted by the Planning Inspectorate as they now have all the relevant information we expect the date for the hearing to be announced soon.”

Cllr Ben Chapelard, Leader of the Opposition on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, said: “We welcome this news because it is the wrong project in the wrong place.”

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