Police station sale falls through as site gets caught up in dispute over theatre

Plans to relocate both the theatre and offices to Calverley Square are the subject of an ongoing political battle within the council.

The council first approached Kent Police and Crime Commissioner [PCC] Matthew Scott about buying the station following his 2016 election win.

The council has been interested in purchasing the property as it would have made any future sale of the Town Hall and Assembly Hall Theatre much easier as the buildings will no longer be needed if the new civic offices and theatre open on the edge of Calverley Grounds.

Leader, Alan McDermott, told councillors only this week that they had commissioned a feasibility study into the selling of the existing civic complex and how it could be ‘released to the market’.

He said:  “As part of a decision on Calverley Square in September 2019 this will include the results of the civic complex feasibility, and whether or not the police station should be acquired for a redevelopment, and whether this is in the interests of the council and the wider economic benefits to the town centre.”

However, as reported in the Times last month, the council had placed a bid of £500,000 on the 1930s art deco police station and former courthouse.

It is believed Matthew Scott wanted £2million for the building, four times its worth according to the Valuation Office Agency and far more than the council can possibly pay.

The council is restricted on what it can spend public money on by the agency’s valuation.

Negotiations have been ongoing, but the deal has finally fallen through with Matthew Scott’s office announcing yesterday the PCC had put an end to the discussions after an ‘inability of the council and Kent Police to reach a figure’.

Mr Scott said in a statement: “Having carefully considered all the information available, and the impact on local residents and businesses, I have decided against selling Tunbridge Wells Police Station.

“A sale would not be a good enough deal for the taxpayer at this time and would leave Tunbridge Wells without a police station, which is unacceptable to me.”

He added that he believed ‘a strong local policing presence’ was important to local to communities.

“I am therefore not prepared to sell Tunbridge Wells Police Station at this time and am committed to keeping a police station in the town,” he concluded.

However, he announced no plans to bring officers back to Tunbridge Wells after their relocation to Tonbridge last year, a move police said was to better ‘pool resources’.

Purchase of the police station has been cited by opponents to Calverley Square as a possible alternative to the council’s proposed theatre and civic centre development on the edge of Calverley Grounds.

All spending on the Calverley development has been paused while the council seeks alternatives to replace the ailing Town Hall and Assembly Hall Theatre, but with the council now unable to buy the police station, any alternative to Calverley Square would not be able to include the police-owned property.

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