Southborough Hub project moves into next phase as permission sought

Paul Apps Benenden Hospital

The long-awaited regeneration of Southborough has moved a step closer after a planning application was submitted to build a community hub.

Following months of preparation, Kent County Council and the town council have lodged a joint proposal for a new development containing a theatre, library, café, retail units, medical centre, sports pavilion and offices.

The Southborough Hub scheme, comprising 4,055 square metres of floorspace, would be funded by the building and selling off 69 flats near London Road. The car park in Yew Tree Road would also be extended.

The development would require the demolition of Royal Victoria Hall, which was opened in 1900 to mark the coronation of Queen Victoria and is considered the nation’s first civic theatre.

A supporting statement says the building’s heritage value has been compromised by unsympathetic extensions in the 1970s. It was closed by the town council in January 2015 due to dilapidation and associated capital costs. In a consultation exercise last winter, 58 per cent of respondents agreed to its removal.

The proposal also involves the demolition of the former Ridgeway School buildings (currently used by the local football club), along with the medical centre and public toilet.

These buildings would be replaced by a 350-capacity theatre, rooms for community use, offices for Southborough Town Council, a sports pavilion, a library with café and a new two-storey medical centre.

The existing library in Yew Tree Road is earmarked for housing in the borough council’s local plan.

A supporting statement said of the medical centre: “Their current facilities were built to serve just over 2,000 patients but are currently serving over 8,200 and the facility is no longer fit for purpose.”

The retail units would be sited immediately south and south east of the community hub to form a public square. The housing would be five storeys at its highest point.

David Elliott, the Mayor of Southborough, said: “The majority of people who I speak to say it will be fantastic for Southborough. The football club will have brand new facilities and at the moment the doctors’ surgery and library are spread out, but now they will all be in one spot.

“It has taken a long time to get this planning application so this is fantastic news.”

Comments can be made on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s website.

Should planning permission be gained, it is hoped that the hub will be fully open by 2019.

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