Residents say they are being ‘fobbed off’ with Southborough Hub design

Town Meeting called as planning application made for Southborough Hub

The £10million project to combine a theatre, library, council offices and a medical centre has been scaled back since being proposed in 2015 to cut costs, and not everyone is happy. 

Residents let their feelings known in a public meeting last week, organised by the hub’s co-proponents Southborough Town Council, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and Kent County Council.

This was their first opportunity to see exterior designs of the building, which has a wooden frame and terracotta tile effect with zinc shingle.

Tabitha Hennah, 47, of Yew Tree Road, Southborough, attended and said she felt councillors were determined to proceed with plans regardless of local concern.

“No-one is happy with the exterior design, it’s wooden and anyone who has watched Grand Designs knows wood is the cheapest option,” she told the Times.

“Everyone feels the need for something to bring Southborough’s community back together but this is not going to do that. I was asking questions and was not getting any answers, which makes me feel there is something wrong.”

The meeting was held shortly after advisory body the Theatres Trust suggested the project would not be viable after value engineering.

This was for a number of reasons, including the loss of a permanent coffee shop and the impossibility of the theatre and committee rooms being used at the same time.

Southborough Town Council’s Conservative leadership want to obtain planning permission for the hub in February before starting work in April.

Cllr Nick Blackwell, of the authority’s opposition Labour group, said: “Fifty people were there, which is not many for a town of 11,000 and I think that is because the meeting was only announced one week before.

“The main feeling that has come out is that it is not a community hub. People feel let down and that they have been here before and heard these promises. They feel they are being fobbed off.”

A consultation into the plans will remain open until its submission to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s planning department. Cllr Ian Kinghorn, who is taking the lead role on the project for the ruling Conservative group, has been contacted for a response.

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