Paul Avis, Chair of the Civic Society tells the Times that TWBC risks missing a ‘unique opportunity’ for an invaluable cultural destination in the town…
Last week, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) listed 9 & 10 Crescent Road and the adjoining public car park for sale. The Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society (The Civic Society) and the Decimus Burton Society are calling for urgent action to avoid losing a unique opportunity to both save and celebrate Tunbridge Wells’ heritage, while boosting the town’s attractions with a centre of national importance.
At the invitation of TWBC, the societies had tabled a proposal for creating a new museum for Tunbridge Wells in the largely vacant 9 & 10 Crescent Road. The plan submitted is to celebrate the nationally important work of the architect Decimus Burton, the huge influence he had on making Tunbridge Wells the town it is today (including designing 9 & 10 Crescent Road), and the social history of Tunbridge Wells, which has been fundamentally shaped by Burton’s vision for the town.
The museum would provide a valuable educational resource for local children and a cultural asset that would draw visitors to the town. It would provide beautiful Regency period indoor spaces for all to enjoy, including a shop, café and sensory garden. We estimate that the museum could increase the town’s profile and generate at least £750,000 a year for the local economy.
The societies have developed a business plan for a not-for-profit museum, for which they would seek funding from grants and generate revenue for the museum, with no request for money from the Council proposed. We are publicly asking for TWBC to withdraw the property’s listing and to urgently speak with us so we can agree a way of securing the buildings for the good of the town. We also welcome any offers of support from other interested parties, whether from those who would like to volunteer their skills in delivering such a project, or any person or organisation that may be able to assist financially.
It is unfortunate that despite all the support for the project from residents, national institutions and interest groups, as well as the national press, the Council has so far been unable to back the project – although we understand no final decision has yet been made.
We think it would be an unforgivable shame to let this asset be lost.
Please visit the website of either the Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society or the Decimus Burton Society to learn more about the project. We urge everyone who supports this idea to let their Councillors know before it’s too late.
A spokesperson for TWBC told the Times: “The property is being marketed and offers received as sealed bids. Cabinet are being asked for delegated authority to enable a suitable offer to be accepted and to complete all necessary legal formalities once the sealed bid process has been concluded.”