THE Southborough Society is appealing for action to be taken to ensure the preservation of two historic buildings on London Road, Southborough, ‘before it is too late’.
As previously shared in last week’s letters page of the Times, the local civic and heritage group sent a joint letter to local MP Greg Clark to express their extreme concern over the at-risk Grade II listed former Bat & Ball pub and the old Lloyd’s Bank building on Southborough High Street.
Mr Clark issued the following response to the public letter: “The disgraceful neglect of these buildings has led to them becoming eyesores and I share the concern that their importance as buildings will be compromised. Action needs to be taken to remedy an unacceptable situation.
“In fact, I have already written to the company that are acting as administrators to press them to take action.
“I have also been in contact with Kent Fire and Rescue Service, who in my experience are very responsive in these types of circumstances, to ensure that they are taking every precaution to prevent a fire breaking out at the site and being able to respond quickly should that happen.”
On January 8, the Southborough Society wrote to Mark Stephenson, the Principal Conservation Officer at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) to ask why after the damage and dereliction was first reported back in June 2023 by Southborough councillor Brian Dury, that still no site visit has taken place at the Grade II listed former Bat & Ball pub.
At the time of writing, the group has revealed to the Times that they are yet to receive a response from Mr Stephenson, despite giving him an opportunity to respond, prior to sending the letter to Greg Clark.
Southborough Society Chair, Diana Blackwell added: “The Grade II listed Bat & Ball is one of the last remaining 18th-century buildings on the east side of London Road. Tunbridge Wells Borough Council has statutory powers which they can enforce to safeguard this building.
“We do not want to be in the position where we lose another important part of our architectural heritage because of lack of action, a ‘careless’ fire or the building condemned as being beyond economic repair. These buildings need protection from the weather and anti-social behaviour not just covering up again with hoardings.
“Despite regular communication with TWBC, there appears to be a complete lack of urgency to resolve this issue. While TWBC considers their options, our buildings slowly rot, and our high street looks more run down than it has at any time in living memory. We want action and we want action before it is too late.
“We are pleased to hear our MP Greg Clark shares our concerns and we will be closely watching for progress in the coming weeks.
The Southborough Society has exclusively confirmed to the Times that following Mr Clark’s response, an online meeting has been scheduled for Friday morning (February 2) to discuss the issue further.
Also attending the meeting alongside Greg Clark will be Southborough Mayor, Cllr Dianne Hill, local historian, Fiona Woodfield, Cllr Brian Dury and the Southborough Society Chair, Diana Blackwell.