Town watchdog opposes sale of the River Lawn green space

Gary Jefferies

THE BOROUGH council’s controversial planned disposal of green space in River Lawn has been criticised by Tonbridge Civic Society.

In a letter to the Times the group’s Chair Diane Huntingford said: “The Council needs to be proactive in the planning of this new townscape – simply selling River Lawn to a developer who will put up yet another undistinguished block of flats won’t do.

“We want something better for Tonbridge.”

Currently, the area in question is an entirely green space with a number of trees and a footpath running adjacent to the river. The land going up for sale runs from the back of the Teen and Twenty Club up to the footbridge that connects to the Garden of Remembrance.

The Borough Council’s Cabinet approved the sale on February 9 and earmarked it for residential development. The same decision was made for the former Citizens’ Advice Bureau on River Walk.

Ms Huntingford continued: “The Tonbridge Civic Society is concerned that Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council is about to sacrifice to housing development the whole of the open space at River Lawn, a key area in the town centre between the High Street and the river.

“We accept in principle that the Council needs to dispose of some land in this part of the town in order to raise money. However, we think that any development needs to be more sensitively handled, enabling at least part of River Lawn to remain as open space, thus preserving most of its mature trees.”

[quote_center]”We want something better for Tonbridge.”[/quote_center]

The group are not opposed to all development in the area, however, and suggest a new development ‘should occupy the small car park next to Lambert’s Yard, which the Council owns.

“This should produce a better result in townscape terms than the Council’s proposal and would leave at least part of River Lawn as public open space with access to the river bank,” she added.

Borough Council Leader Nicolas Heslop said: “The suggestions are certainly interesting. All the responses to the consultation on the disposal of River Lawn will be considered at the next meeting of the Cabinet [June 21] and the comments made by the Tonbridge Civic Society will be included as part of the consultation.”

The Civic Society was founded in 1963, following public indignation about the demolition of historic buildings between the Chequers Inn and the Big Bridge over the River Medway.

Since its foundation, it has acted as a ‘watchdog’ to help to ensure that similar decisions would not be made again without the voices of local people being heard. Currently, it has nearly 500 members.

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