Tunbridge Wells Alliance to ‘launch legal action’ over Civic Complex

Lee Colyer

Campaigners have launched a Crowdfunding initiative to help pay for a law firm to investigate Tunbridge Wells Borough Council over the handling of their £72million Civic Complex proposal.

TW Alliance, a new group of ‘town planners, architects, event producers and theatre designers’, will today (Wednesday, October 18) publicly announce its intentions to scrutinise the ‘legality of the process’ undertaken by the council.

Leaders of the council are hoping their plan for a replacement civic centre and theatre to be built on land adjoining  Calverley Grounds will be passed at a meeting in December.

TW Alliance claim that if this happens the borough’s services would be under threat because of poor financial planning.

Alliance chairman Robert Chris said senior council staff had ‘admitted in a meeting’ that there has been no formal business plan produced for the proposal.

He said: “The repayment of the loan and subsidies will result in an annual deficit of more than £2m which will be funded in the main by cuts to public services.”

TWBC claimed the figures and statements made by the group were “inaccurate”.

TW Alliance has set up a bank account, constitution and a new website with £3,000 already being raised towards legal costs and “inevitable expenses”.

Other members include Liberal Democrat Borough Councillor Ben Chapelard, Nicholas Pope, who is from Friends of Calverley Grounds and economist Chris Gedge from the Save Our Park group.

The alliance believes access to the proposed site for HGVs and coach access is another stumbling block and point out that the department store Hoopers has previously raised concerns about any compulsory purchase order being made on its car park.

Dr Chris added: “London chambers Landmark will look at whether the council acted lawfully in spending more than £4million without first ensuring that there was sufficient access for HGVs and coaches.

“The council has some explaining to do regarding its decision to spend £4million of borough residents’ money before discovering that even if HGV access can be made to work, it would entail a risky, expensive and time consuming contested compulsory purchase.

“We’re not anti-progress, we just want the council to be accountable, transparent, competent and honest.”

A TWBC spokesman said: “This group of people have been against the civic development project from the start, as of course they are entitled to be.

“Comments they make about the project are inaccurate and we hope that the release of the RIBA Stage 3 reports, due shortly, will make this clear.”

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