Tunbridge Wells Borough Council to press ahead for right of way through Hoopers’ car park

The Mead School in Tunbridge Wells gave a professional level performance in the  ISA drama contests

A right of way through Hoopers’ car park has been requested by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council for their Calverley Square project.

The authority is to press ahead with a Compulsory Purchase Order [CPO] to secure passage from Grove Hill Road to the £90million civic complex and theatre, which borders Calverley Grounds.

Hoopers’, a cornerstone department store in Tunbridge Wells, has previously objected to this motion.

Their most recent statement, from July last year, read: ‘The threat of a CPO on the customer car park will have a potentially devastating effect.

‘The council’s planned access route would create an existential threat to the current operation and viability of an iconic independent retail business.’

The council’s Cabinet unanimously agreed to the ‘last resort’ order in a meeting at Town Hall on Thursday [July 19], which lasted just 12 minutes.

The order will be made following a process which is expected to begin in August.

It follows advanced plans for Calverley Square being passed by the full council in December 2017 and planning permission being granted earlier this year.

The theatre is likely to open in 2022. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government could be requested to confirm the CPO if the matter goes to a public inquiry.

Discussions began with Hoopers’ in July 2016 and the two parties have not reached an agreement – although conversations will continue. Hoopers’ is not expected to lose any car parking spaces as a result.

Other sites, owned by the council, set to be affected by the CPO are:

  • The 205-space Great Hall Car Park and 49-space Mount Pleasant Road Car Park, which are set to be demolished to make way for a new 259-space underground facility.
  • The toilet block within Calverley Grounds which are also set to be demolished.
  • Access rights over Mount Pleasant Avenue and Grove Hill House [where the council do not own all of the rights].

The dentist in Calverley Grounds is also likely to be affected and is not owned by the council.

Council Leader David Jukes, of the ruling Conservative group, said: ‘The CPOs are a last resort. I am delighted at the way we have handled this.

‘We are not coming in and grabbing things. We have been in negotiation with several companies that are affected for a long time and have made progress.’

His Tory colleague Cllr Tracy Moore added: ‘We are not looking to acquire Hoopers car park, it is just for access.’

At an earlier stage a Cabinet Advisory Board had voted seven to two in favour.

Opposition Leader Cllr Ben Chapelard, of the Liberal Democrat group, who at that stage voted against, said: “The Conservatives are hell-bent on delivering the wrong project, in the wrong place, at the wrong time for our town.

“The council’s need for the CPO merely confirms that the civic development is in the wrong location. A rethink is needed.”

On request for a further response, Hoopers’ told the Times they had ‘nothing to add’ to their July 2017 statement.

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