Conservative councillors snub Southborough Hub meeting
11th December 2018
A MEETING to discuss residents’ concerns about the new Southborough Hub was held last week—without any Tory members from the Conservative-led council in attendance.
Around 200 local residents attended the meeting, but organisers said that not one person voiced any support for the £10million project.
Opposition members of Southborough Town Council [STC] called the meeting because they are unhappy with the designs for the theatre and library hub, for which STC has now logged a planning application with Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.
Cllr Nick Blackwell (Labour) and Cllr Trevor Poile (Liberal Democrat) called the special Southborough Town Meeting to discuss the project’s latest scaled-back blueprints, which they say raise concerns about both the design of the building and the theatre’s financially viability.
The Times previously reported how the Theatres Trust warned the hub, which is planned to the replace now demolished Victoria Hall Theatre, was ‘not viable’ after the recent downscaling.
Cllr Nick Blackwell said: “Most of the planning and decision-making for the building had been done in private with very few people, including councillors, being involved or kept informed about what was going on.
“At great cost, previously agreed plans had been scrapped, money wasted and a new design recently sent to the Borough Planning Committee for approval.”
Brian Dury, administrator for the Southborough Forum Facebook group and Crendon Park resident, chaired the meeting, which was held at last Tuesday at Southborough Primary School.
“It was a full audience, around 200 people came. Every ward in Southborough was represented,” said Mr Dury.
“No Conservative members came and attendees were disappointed about the lack of representation from those in charge.
“There were no project supporters in the room. Nobody in the audience was in favour. Not one person. They did not like the design and had concerns about the pricing. They did not think the interiors worked.”
Concerns raised at the meeting included the look of the building, that the multi-purpose building was “muddled”, the library badly designed, and a lack of transparency about the finances.
After the meeting, Cllr Nick Blackwell said: “It was disappointing, but not surprising, that Conservative councillors had refused to meet with people in the town.”
But Cllr Ian Kinghorn, Conservative group lead on the Hub, said the issues had been already been addressed.
“We understand that the Town Meeting, although not an official Southborough Town Council (STC) meeting, was well attended, but it is unfortunate that due to insufficient notice, no Conservative councillors were able to attend,” he said.
He said residents had already raised concerns at the official Southborough Hub presentation on November 30, and as a result, the Southborough Hub working group implemented a number of changes to the design.
“It clearly demonstrates that we are listening to our residents’ concerns and implementing changes,” he said.