Praise for ‘so many projects’ that are enhancing visual appeal of the town

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The 41st Civic Society awards saw both modest projects and major developments celebrated for the visual impact they have on the town.

David Wright, Chairman of the Civic Society’s awards panel, told the Times that this year’s awards was one of the best in quite some time.

“This year was a very good year in terms of both the quality of projects and the quantity,” he said, adding that the six judges, consisting of two architects, two planners and two lay people, had difficulty whittling down the 35 entries to just ten.

“There was a breadth of projects
but what mattered most is the visual appeal rather than how much money had been spent on each entry,”
he said.

Among the developments that entered awards, Mr Wright said he was personally impressed by the work being done in the restoration of the exterior of Vale Royal Methodist Church (pictured above).

“That building was meant to be demolished but in fact Jengiz Ali [architect] has done a superb job.”

He also said the new housing development at Knights Wood had impressed the judges.

“The Civic Society is certainly not against anything that is ultra-modern in the right context, and at Knights Wood, Dandara is doing a cracking job,” he said.

He also commended the West Kent Quakers conversion of the Friends Meeting House in Grosvenor Road that provides affordable accommodation for young people.

“There has been too much of doing the town down at the moment,” he said. “So it was good to see so many projects that are enhancing the visual appeal of the town.”

Mr Wright added that the Civic Society lamented the fact that £10million had been spent on the now scrapped Calverley Square development, but said the Society wants to help the cross-party group at the Council find alternative solutions.

He continued: “For me I like the art deco town hall and civic complex. I know it is perhaps a bit Brutalist for everybody’s tastes but when you go inside and see the standard it was done to at the time, it is quite extraordinary.

“It looks like a town hall and feels like a town hall so I think it should remain the town hall.”

Of the other major developments going on in the town, he says the Civic Society only has one major criticism.

“They are a bit too big,” Mr Wright said. “The development on the old cinema site is perhaps one storey too high, and Dandara’s development near The Pantiles is very big – I’m not sure people realise just how tall this will be – it’ll be nine or ten storeys high when it’s finished.”

However, he believed Tunbridge Wells has plenty of scope for developers in the future to bring attractive properties to the town.

“Unlike Bath, where it is Georgian or nothing, Tunbridge Wells has a great mix and can accommodate all styles.”

The Civic Society awards took place on October 10 to a packed Town Hall.

Guests included Tunbridge Wells Mayor, Cllr James Scholes and Mayoress Mrs Jane Scholes. The Mayor presented certificates to the winning entries.

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