Tories are urged to stop ‘running scared’ and back the new theatre

The message comes ahead of an Extraordinary Meeting of the council due to take place on Monday [June 17] to decide the next step with the project that has divided opinion in Tunbridge Wells.

Sarah Hamilton, Conservative borough councillor for Paddock Wood East, says the proposed civic centre, theatre and commercial office space planned for Calverley Grounds is the only way the council can ‘generate the money to keep services in the borough going’.

“I’m petrified we are not going to get it,” said Cllr Hamilton, who also sits on Kent County Council as well as Paddock Wood Town Council.

“What is an absolute tragedy is that we did not get the message across about why we need it,” she admitted. 

She said the financial case for the theatre was sound but that the message had got lost amid a ‘hideous’ anti-theatre campaign.

“What makes me so cross is that right at the beginning, when I was also uncertain of the project, I went to the trouble to go to all the meetings. I went to the Marlowe [theatre]. I spoke to people in the industry. And I am absolutely convinced this is the right thing
to do.”

Today [Wednesday], members from all the main political parties in Tunbridge Wells are getting together to discuss the project.

The meeting is being chaired by Labour’s Sherwood councillor, Hugo Pound, who says he wants to find some ‘common ground’ over the issue before an Extraordinary Full Council meeting scheduled for next Monday [June 17], where a motion to halt the development has been proposed.

However, as recently reported in the Times, the Alliance, the political party set up to oppose the Calverley Square development, have ruled out any compromise that involves building on Calverley Grounds.

And while the local Conservative Party still control the council, new Leader Alan McDermott has admitted they no longer have a majority for the project, as several Tory councillors are unlikely to vote to press ahead with the development.

In the first vote on Calverley Square in February 2017, nine Tories voted against the project. 

While some of those Conservatives no longer serve on the council, Cllrs Sean Holden, Linda Hall, Julian Stanyer, Frank Williams and Joe Simmons remain. 

In addition, Cllr David Reilly recently resigned his Cabinet position over Calverley Square following the election of Alan McDermott to Council Leader. And Cllr Paul Barrington-King has also gone on record to say he does not believe the council should press ahead with the plans as they are.

“A lot of people are worried about their seats next year and are running scared of the bullies,” added Cllr Hamilton.

But she warned her Tory colleagues that not pressing ahead could leave them tarnished as the party that wasted £10million of public money on a project that came to nothing.

“We can’t win either way,” she admitted. “But I know which way I stand. I can justify my position.”

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