Work on ABC Cinema site to begin in ‘early 2024’

RIGHT FUTURE: How Thrive Living will look

AN END to Tunbridge Wells’ most infamous eyesore is in sight, as developers have confirmed an approximate start date for construction and announced a new community artwork to smarten up the site’s hoardings.

The former ABC Cinema was closed in 2000 and demolished in 2014, but after multiple failed projects, the centrally-located plot has been neglected for over 23 years.

However, with the new developers, Retirement Villages Group (RVG), the site is set to become a £72million ‘extra care’ retirement facility of 160 new homes, known as ‘Thrive Living’ after securing planning permission in November 2022.

Last month, RVG submitted a planning application to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) to request some small adjustments ahead of their official start date.

RVG told the Times that a ‘start-on-site’ date for the site on Mount Pleasant Road is expected “in early 2024”.

A spokesperson for the company said: “We have made a small adjustment to the scheme to allow for an additional apartment, which is not unusual as we prepare for a construction start date that is
on track to be in early 2024.”

Also keeping an eye on developments is Cllr Hugo Pound (Labour), Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC).

He told the Times: “The Council has been working closely with the [RVG] Chief Executive, Will Bax.
He and I presented at a conference recently on later living, which went down very well.

Confirming the statements from RVG, Cllr Pound said: “It is our understanding, too, that RVG intends to break ground very early in 2024.”

The ‘later living’ village is expected to also include retail space, restaurants, a café, an outdoor courtyard, and leisure facilities, complete with a pool, gym, and spa.

In the latest application, the developers revealed that they are hoping to add one extra apartment on the upper ground floor, make some “minor changes” to the building’s exterior characteristics and install new commercial facilities, including a soft play area, beauty salons and drinking establishments.

In a welcome move for the local community, RVG also revealed that new hoardings surrounding the site would be installed in the next few months, depicting artwork created by local children.

Pupils from Bishops Down Primary School, St Barnabas’ Primary School, The Wells Free School, and Temple Grove Academy have been creating dynamic illustrations of inspirational older adults from the town to feature on RVG’s new hoardings, which will surround the site until the end of construction.

The schoolchildren created the drawings at workshops organised by Trinity Theatre’s Creative Engagement team, which RVG has announced as their community partner for this year as they strive to support arts and culture in Tunbridge Wells.

Nick Mowat, Chief Executive of Trinity Theatre said: “Trinity is thrilled to welcome Thrive Living to Tunbridge Wells as our new neighbours and partners.

“We are really looking forward to collaborating with them on exciting projects in the future.”

RVG said: “We’ve been preparing exciting plans for community artwork to be installed on our site hoardings.

“These will celebrate the older generation in Tunbridge Wells through the eyes of young people, as we start positive conversations about ageing in Tunbridge Wells and start building a vibrant and connected community for people over 65, with attractive spaces and facilities open to the wider public on
this long-neglected site.”

Ahead of its construction, RVG said it will continue to notify the public of its latest developments.

“We’ve also started to update residents and businesses on our activities with local schools in our community newsletter and look forward to more regular engagement with our neighbours as we approach construction starting next year.

“We encourage anyone with an interest in our site to visit the news tab of our website by [visiting] and signing up for updates.”

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