‘Please preserve this part of our town’s history’

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Plans to demolish ‘a prominent and important local landmark’ and build 58 homes in its place could be approved at a planning committee meeting today, Wednesday.

Approval for the proposed development on the Dairy Crest depot site in St John’s would come despite fierce criticism from residents and business owners, who are due to voice opposition at the meeting.

Referring to the former Methodist chapel the depot occupies, the borough council’s 2013 site allocation document included the requirement that any development on the site ‘shall retain and reuse potential local heritage assets’.

But this requirement was removed last year, and the council officer who recommended the application be granted planning permission cited ‘substantial public benefits and exceptional circumstances’ as justification for causing ‘significant harm’ to this asset.

Janet Sturgis, chairman of the Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society, said: “We want the developers to preserve that particular part of Tunbridge Wells’ history. It doesn’t mean they can’t build flats around it.

“We lodged an objection on the grounds the plans don’t include retention of what remains of a very interesting chapel built in about 1890 that helped lift what was then a rather disreputable part of town.”

The need to preserve the chapel’s facade was raised in two petitions, and letters sent to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council in response to the proposals.

But for some neighbouring residents and businesses, this is not the most important aspect.

Krissy Scotton, founder of Revive Hairdressing in St John’s Road, said: “It’s going to be as high as five storeys, when everything near it is three storeys.

“The balconies on the back will overlook people’s gardens and properties, and the residents on Wakefield Road aren’t happy with that.

“It’s going to be very overshadowing. They’re bringing the building line forward so it’s not in line with the businesses already there, and that’s going to block us from view and have an impact on our trade.

Borough councillor Nasir Jamil, who represents St John’s ward, said: “My concern is the implications for traffic.

“If we are putting more houses there, we are increasing the traffic flow, and with the A21 set to be a single lane, all the traffic will go onto the A26 which is already overcrowded.”

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