Town Meeting called as planning application made for Southborough Hub

Town Meeting called as planning application made for Southborough Hub

by William Mata | 23rd November 2018

SOUTHBOROUGH residents are being encouraged to attend a Town Meeting to discuss new designs for a theatre and library hub.

Opposition members of the Town Council [STC] are unhappy with the £10million project’s latest blueprints, which have been ‘value engineered’ since originally being proposed in 2015.

Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors feel engagement efforts by the ruling Conservative group have been ‘inadequate’.

The Southborough Hub would replace the now demolished Victoria Hall Theatre and also contain council offices and a medical centre.

STC has now logged a planning application with Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.

The Town Meeting has been arranged for 7pm on Tuesday, December 4 inside the ‘Great Hall’ part of Southborough Primary School.

Labour Cllr Nick Blackwell released a statement last week. This read: “We believe that efforts to inform and engage residents, taxpayers, and potential users in its design and purpose have been unambitious and inadequate.

“This will have a negative impact on the success of the project.

“As a consequence of this and in line with the Local Government Act 1972 we wish to convene a Town Meeting at which the new plans will be presented and a full opportunity will be given for town residents to question, comment and make any suggestions for improvement.

“Because of the importance of this project to the town, its future, and its finances, we request that this meeting is given maximum publicity to ensure that as many people as possible will attend.”

Residents have attended previous meetings about the hub, which has been scaled back since original designs and no longer contains a coffee shop.

Most recently a gathering on October 30 saw STC’s co-proponent Kent County Council lead a presentation. Afterwards an attendee commented: “I was asking questions and was not getting any answers.”

The Times has previously reported how the Theatres Trust warned the project was ‘not viable’ after the downscaling.

Cllr Trevor Poile, STC’s only Liberal Democrat member, joined Cllr Blackwell in calling for the meeting.

He told the Times: “We are finding some people are still unclear at this stage. The original presentation was two years ago and it has changed a lot in that time.

“It is up to people to make their own minds up.”

He added: “But it seems to me that of the facilities being proposed, the only think I am in favour of is the retractable seating. But the ancillary features for the theatre just don’t seem to be adequate.

“My worry is the pop-up bar. There is so much shared use proposed, it suggests built-in conflict.”

Conservative response

TORY Councillor Nasir Jamil is fully behind the Hub and believes this Town Meeting would be unnecessary. The town’s Deputy Mayor was approached by the Times for his views.

“We had a public meeting already, and lots of people came along. Kent County Council were there and so were the architects. The presentation was very good.

“There is no point in having more and more meetings. The plans are on the website.

“We don’t want any delay on the project. It’s very good for the people of Southborough. We have fought for ten years to have something in this town.

“Now that things are happening, the Labour and Liberal Democrats are trying everything to delay it which is not good and wastes our time.

“We have worked hard to make this Hub viable. I can’t understand the opposition making a fuss about it. I fully support the Hub.”

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