Council buys flats close to their £90m theatre complex

TIGHT SQUEEZE The council has faced questions

Council buys flats close to their £90m theatre complex

by William Mata | 5th December 2018

THREE properties next to Calverley Grounds, the site of the controversial civic complex, have been bought by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.

The flats in Grove Hill House were purchased ‘after receiving direct approaches’ from the owners, the authority [TWBC] has said.

The council has told the Times the properties are tenanted and provide a ‘good investment in terms of revenue’ but added it would be ‘naïve’ to deny any link to the £90million Calverley Square.

Alliance Cllr Nicholas Pope is concerned that by buying these properties the council is looking to ‘silence’ opposition to the controversial theatre complex.

His party was founded primarily to block Calverley Square – which will be built on land only a stone’s throw from Grove Hill House.

Two of the flats were bought for £375,000 and £475,000, the cost of the third is undisclosed.

The council told the Times: “These [flats] have been purchased in accordance with the Council’s property investment strategy.

“The Council has followed its normal procedures in completing these purchases.”

Calverley Square, designed to replace the Assembly Hall Theatre and existing Town Hall, has divided opinion but was passed by members of the council’s planning body earlier this year.

Cllr Pope believes some residents in Grove Hill Road who are looking to sell have been approached.

“Why have these properties been bought? Is the council silencing opposition?” he said.

“If you have got someone who is against it, by buying the property from them, they will not be so vocal anymore.”

The councillor himself lives in Mountfield Road in Tunbridge Wells, close to Calverley Grounds, but said he has not received any offers. His wife owns a flat in Grove Hill House.

Cll Pope continued: “It is highly unlikely that the council would buy two flats next to a major proposed development as an investment, and these flats are not the best choice if the council is hoping for a good commercial return from the rental income.”

He has also criticised the Tory-run authority for making arrangements in private, rather than in public meetings where the theatre was discussed.

TWBC said this was because they were commercially confidential.

Why we bought the flats...

The Times asked Tunbridge Wells Borough Council for an explanation as to why the properties had been purchased and received the following statement:

“All three properties [purchased this year] are tenanted and provide an income stream for the council, the rental value being a good return on investment. 

“The council was approached by the properties’ previous owners with a view to purchase. Each property was considered separately and in line with the council’s criteria for investment.

“Each one was identified as being a good investment in terms of revenue income and capital appreciation. It would be naïve to say that the transactions are not linked to the Calverley Square project but they stand on their own merits as sound financial investments.

“The financial arrangements of the purchase were agreed in private not in a public meeting because they are commercially confidential, in the same way that that other property investment decisions have been made. The costs will be identified in the council’s financial records.

“The properties have already been or will be listed in the asset management plan. The council has had an investment fund since 2010 and is always looking for investment opportunities.”

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