Residents attempt to derail Soul Train

LEADING LIGHT Abi Todd was named Kent League Player of the Year

Jazz nights and New Year parties on the Pantiles also under threat


OVER a decade of Jazz on the Pantiles could be coming to an end after disgruntled residents forced a review of the bandstand’s entertainment licence.

The head of the Pantiles Resident’s Association, Ralph Lloyd-Roberts submitted an application to the council for the full review on Monday (June 5) – a move the event’s organiser has labelled a ‘full attack’ on the Pantiles entertainments.

Up to 2,000 people flock to the area on Thursdays during the summer to watch the live jazz and to socialise at the numerous bars and pubs while taking their drinks outside.

A similar number of people also head to the Pantiles on Saturdays to enjoy the Soul Train event, which is now in its third year, while the New Year celebration Hug-Many could also be threatened.

They have all been run by the Pantiles Bandstand Event Company, managed by Tunbridge Wells Hotel owner Julian Leefe-Griffiths, for the past five years and have been praised with helping to revitalise the economy at the bottom of town.

Mr Leefe-Griffiths estimates they result in almost £2million being spent in local establishments over the course of the summer, with 31 events scheduled for this year.

“Who is going to want to come if the events end at 9pm?”

The licence allows live and recorded music, performances and films to be held in the open air venue every day between 10am to 10pm. It is held by the promenade’s main landlord Targetfollow, who then re-licence it to the Pantiles Bandstand Event Company.

Mr Leefe-Griffiths said: “Ralph has launched a full review of the premises licence for the whole of the Pantiles, which is extremely worrying and bizarre. It is a full attack on all the events and entertainment we put on in the Pantiles.”

It is unclear to what extent the council’s licensing sub-committee will alter the current arrangement.

However, Mr Leefe-Griffiths said any restriction on times or limiting of event days could mean the Pantiles entertainments are no longer commercially viable.

He added: “Who is going to want to come if the events end at 9pm? Some people will barely be off the train. And these events are reliant on good weather we need enough days to make sure we stay profitable. If we lose one in 15 from bad weather that is manageable, if we lose one in ten we have a major problem.”

Mr Lloyd-Roberts submitted 13 letters from residents supporting a licence review.

In his written formal request for the review, the association chairman said their ‘prime source of annoyance’ was with the Soul Train, adding: “The introduction of these events was in addition to the Thursday night Jazz evening, which in recent years has gone from attracting a few hundred jazz lovers to several thousand revellers, many of whom are drunk.”

He criticises the wide scope of the licence, and says the proposal to hold eight Soul Train events this summer has led many residents to feel that their enjoyment of their homes will be ‘severely disrupted’. He states the association had been ‘assured’ in early 2016 there would only ever be two such events.

In the request he states it is ‘well past midnight’ before the last revellers go home and notes complaints of urination in public and the ‘enhanced fire risk’ from so many people around wooden buildings.

A council spokesman confirmed the request for a review has been submitted and said the licencing sub-committee will have 20 working days after July 4 to consider the issue. Until then members of the public and relevant authorities are able to make may make representations on the issue.

A spokesman for Targetfollow said the company was ‘disappointed’ by the course of action and said despite trying to reach compromises over timing with the resident’s association to minimise disturbance they have ‘been focused from day one to undertake a review’.

He added: “As well as the social aspect the evenings are important for the success of the businesses located in the Pantiles. It is worrying to have this event in jeopardy due to a lack of willingness to compromise from a minority of residents who are based in a mixed use area of Tunbridge Wells.”

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