New town centre hotel unveiled but CAB building plan is rejected

New town centre hotel unveiled but CAB building plan is rejected
HERE TO STAY? What the new Tonbridge hotel might look like

The 70-bedroom hotel at 76-78 High Street would be constructed with up to ten apartments in the same development.

The hotel would be built in the car park to the rear of Poundland, while the flats will be above a ‘revitalised retail unit and facade’ facing the High Street.

Jaspar Group, a family-owned property developer for over 40 years, said it ‘is excited to be moving forward proposals for a hotel which will contribute to the regeneration of Tonbridge town centre, bringing a significant boost to the local economy with new jobs, and an improved tourist accommodation offer’.

It also plans ‘public realm enhancements along River Walk and New Wharf Road, along with improvements to the retail frontage along the High Street.’ It is understood that there will be parking at the hotel.

The developer said: “The proposals being put forward will contribute positively to the vitality of the town centre and include an improved retail unit, new homes and a new hotel, which will help to meet the identified need for visitor accommodation in the local area.”

Jenny Lewis, Chair of the Tonbridge Town Team, said: “The development was discussed at our last Town Team meeting and we would be glad to see investment into what is currently rather an eyesore in a prime location in the High Street.

“It would increase the capacity for tourists to visit our historic attractions, river trips and superb eating and drinking venues.

“We hope to see a sensible and sustainable use of the space that fits into the surroundings, and will be looking at any subsequent planning applications with interest.”

The only hotel in the town currently is the Rose and Crown, run by Best Western, which was put up for sale in August 2018 and has yet to find a buyer.

The historic listed building, which dates from Tudor times, has 56 bedrooms and turned over more than £1million last year – the restaurant and bar accounts for a third of total sales.

There is also a Premier Inn at Hilden Manor in Hildenborough, which opened in 2007 and has 21 rooms.

Before Jaspar Group submits a planning application, it is holding a public consultation with the developers at Tonbridge Castle on Friday [March 6] from 3.30-7.30pm.

Meanwhile, a planning application to build 36 apartments on the site of the old CAB office at 1-4 River Walk, next to New Wharf Road, has been withdrawn.

Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council’s planning officers have recommended the application be turned down because no affordable housing was included in the project.

The property is owned by the Council, which has been trying to sell the site for residential housing along with nearby River Lawn. The sale is dependent on the planning application being accepted.

But its own Planning Department has said: “The redevelopment is proposed to take place without any on-site provision for affordable housing, which is a clear divergence from adopted policy.”

It added that no ‘exceptional circumstances exist to allow for a commuted sum to be provided for in place of on-site provision’.

The draft Local Plan, which is currently being considered by the Planning Inspector, has called for all developments above a certain size to provide 40 per cent affordable housing.

A commuted sum is a payment made in lieu of affordable housing if a site cannot accommodate it. The money is used to make improvements to the wider community.

A viability assessment carried out by S106 Management found that the plan put forward by OSP is not able to offer any affordable housing.

The Council also noted ‘a lack of any provision towards identified and evidenced’ secondary education, libraries and public open space enhancements arising from the increased population associated with the residential units’.

A Council spokesperson told the Times: “The developer has requested an opportunity to provide additional information, and we consider it appropriate to afford them the time to do so.

“Any material changes to the application will be published on our website and will be subject to a period of re-consultation.”

The proposal for 1-4 River Walk has caused controversy from protest groups who want to stop the sale of public assets, like the former Teen & Twenty Club and River Lawn nearby.

The development was also heavily criticised by the town’s Civic Society, which said: “The proposed design is entirely without aesthetic merit. It is just another bland block of flats of a kind of which Tonbridge already has too many.”

River Lawn: The next step

The protest group Keep River Lawn Green is holding a public meeting on Friday (March 6) at 7.30pm in the Age UK Hall in Bradford Street to discuss the next steps in their campaign to stop the Council selling the site to a private developer. An application to have the half-acre public space designated as a ‘village green’ was rejected by Kent County Council in January and it will now be put on the market.


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