Local Priest says Southborough Hub: “Could Turn into a Complete Disaster”

The strong feelings at last week’s first ever Southborough Town Meeting on the latest  Hub plans have not yet prompted a major response on the Tunbridge Wells Planning Portal, where residents’ chance to place objections runs out on Wednesday.

Only 27 people had registered comments as of Monday afternoon.

Below is a 3 minute youtube video that gives a flavour of last week’s Town Meeting.  Cllr Nick Blackwell speaks first, then Brian Dury, who chaired the meeting, then you hear the audio of residents’ comments, then there’s some film of people as they left the event.

One of the most outspoken contributions at last Tuesday’s public meeting was from Revd Rachel Wilson, who’s the priest at St Thomas’s Church in Pennington Rd, Southborough. Revd Wilson said: “I can see a lot of potential good in a project like this which is why I am so saddened by this, as it seems to be an enormous wasted opportunity…. it seems to me that if it is not handled well it could turn into a complete disaster.”

Hub Nov18 Library

The first ever Town Meeting in Southborough saw 180 people approve a motion arguing that trust had broken down between the community and Southborough Town Council and calling for the formation of a new advisory group to include theatre and other community groups.

The meeting was called under legislation that allows two Councillors to call such a gathering. Liberal Democrat Councillor, Trevor Poile, and Labour’s Nick Blackwell called the meeting, but it was not attended by any members of the ruling Conservative group on the Town Council.

I have now edited a 12 minute audio file of the highlights. There follows a transcript of the main comments in the order on the 12 minute highlights file.

Glenys Carsworth from Vicarage Road commented: “My principle concern is that it just looks so out of keeping with the local surrounding and it is a particularly unattractive building that I think will just be a blot on the landscape.”

Then a resident of Hythe Close, Helen Robinson, expressed concerns about the safety of the access road that runs into her garages.  She objected to the current green boarding surrounding the Hub site that now blocks her view when trying to drive out from her garage. “How am I going to get in and out of the garage that I rent?  And what about the safety of the young people that live in Hythe Close?”

Sue Pemberton from Doone Bray was the first to get widespread applause when she suggested that all the different functions of the building will clash. She said: “I can see the logic in a multi-use building…but there’s too many different functions in too small a space. You are going to have too many different managers trying to manage the theatre, the library, the dance classes, the surgery. All of the different functions are going to clash. Who is going to take priority? I think we’ll have utter chaos and in the end no one is going to want to use it and they will all go elsewhere.”

Hub Nov18 Gnd Floor

Linda Whiteleg said: “I actually live bang opposite this monstrosity. I thought it was going to be a lovely building. Now you are telling me it is going to be pre-fab. I was hoping it was going to be a beautiful theatre – updated – that everybody could use. But it has fewer seats (than the old theatre).” She also expressed safety concerns about the access road and the garages. Finally, she objected to the open plan library and said “there is no quiet place to just sit and look at that book any more?”

Robert Shaw from London Road said that because of the small size of the dressing rooms: “There’s going to be no dance schools using the theatre and no pantomime. You cannot run a theatre on that amount of seats. People always used to come to the pantomime in Southborough year in year out.” That prompted more applause.

Hub Nov18 In Theat

Peter Maresh from Ruscombe Close asked: “Where is the project board and who are these three monsters?” Laughter ensued then the meeting organisers explained that the 3 member board was made up of Ian Kinghorn from Southborough Town Council, Mike Hill from Kent County Council and Lynne Weatherly from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.  Not one of them attended due to prior engagements.

This prompted further resident response: “I work in business and I do projects all the time. Who on earth has appointed this project board and who are they accountable to, because it doesn’t appear that they know what they are doing…How do you get rid of them? Because they are not doing their job. They are not project managing it. They are not taking account of the people who they are doing this for…what qualifications do they have to sit on that board and do a good job? Who checked them out to make sure they could do it?”

The question “How do we find out how much money they have wasted so far?” could not be answered because the finances of the project are still only known to the project board.

Hub Nov18 First

Revd Rachel Wilson from St Thomas’s Church in Southborough said: “I can see a lot of potential good in a project like this which is why I am so saddened by this, as it seems to me to be an enormous wasted opportunity. There could be so much good come out of this and I am particularly concerned about the cost implications as a member of the clergy and as a person who is reliant on social services and social care.”

Revd Wilson continued: “I am appalled by the idea that Kent County Council are spending this sort of money to the detriment of other things. I think it is appalling and as a member of the clergy we need to be aware of this sort of thing as well, because there is enormous potential for good and it seems to me that if it is not handled well it could turn into a complete disaster.”

Hub Nov18 MedicRichard Pepper said: “We are angry people….people are angry because there’s no one with any common sense running these shows.  That’s what’s giving us all here – grief, because we have been users over the years of these facilities.”

Rebecca from Vale Rd said: “There’s so many faults with it.  I’m just very very concerned that whatever our suggestions are, they won’t actually get heard or listened to because the people involved are not turning up to the meetings. Also if you’ve got a show in, what’s the height of the scene docks? I’m looking at a 90 degree angle to get the scenery from a lorry in. It’s ridiculous.”

Paul from Parkhouse Gardens said: “This whole thing beggars belief to be honest. The outside of the building looks architecturally uninspired. The inside of the building has far too many competing interests for it to be feasible or practical to use. I also have a point about flat roofs – they are a disaster long term…hopeless you know…they should be ditched and put sloping roofs instead. But I am very very concerned about the amount of money that’s been wasted already. Two years of wasted work.”

Nov18 Hub Air

John who’s wife runs the Southborough School of Dance said: “Having listened to the architects during the last meeting at the library, the architects did not seem to know exactly the needs of those people who want to use the theatre. I think it would be a good idea to write to all these people who used the Royal Victoria Hall and ask what is it they need when they come to hire the hall.”

Michael Howes from Holden Road asked: “Cllr Blackwell and others seem to be very critical of this plan and I agree it is not perfect – but what is your alternative? And if it is more elaborate than this plan, how are you going to pay for it?”

Cllr Blackwell responded by saying the finances are still secret and so discussing alternatives is difficult.  But he argued that the Hub could potentially be improved if the planned retail space became a bar and the library was retained on its current site and replaced in the Hub by bigger theatre changing rooms. He also said further consultation work was needed to see if theatre was still viable at all in Southborough.

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Local Priest says Southborough Hub: “Could Turn into a Complete Disaster”

The strong feelings at last week’s first ever Southborough Town Meeting on the latest  Hub plans have not yet prompted a major response on the Tunbridge Wells Planning Portal, where residents’ chance to place objections runs out this week.

Only 23 people had registered comments as of Sunday afternoon.

One of the most outspoken contributions at last Tuesday’s public meeting was from Revd Rachel Wilson, who’s the priest at St Thomas’s Church in Pennington Rd, Southborough. Revd Wilson said: “I can see a lot of potential good in a project like this which is why I am so saddened by this, as it seems to be an enormous wasted opportunity…. it seems to me that if it is not handled well it could turn into a complete disaster.”

Hub Nov18 Library

The first ever Town Meeting in Southborough saw 180 people approve a motion arguing that trust had broken down between the community and Southborough Town Council and calling for the formation of a new advisory group to include theatre and other community groups.

The meeting was called under legislation that allows two Councillors to call such a gathering. Liberal Democrat Councillor, Trevor Poile, and Labour’s Nick Blackwell called the meeting, but it was not attended by any members of the ruling Conservative group on the Town Council.

I have now edited a 12 minute audio file of the highlights. There follows a transcript of the main comments in the order on the 12 minute highlights file.

Glenys Carsworth from Vicarage Road commented: “My principle concern is that it just looks so out of keeping with the local surrounding and it is a particularly unattractive building that I think will just be a blot on the landscape.”

Then a resident of Hythe Close, Helen Robinson, expressed concerns about the safety of the access road that runs into her garages.  She objected to the current green boarding surrounding the Hub site that now blocks her view when trying to drive out from her garage. “How am I going to get in and out of the garage that I rent?  And what about the safety of the young people that live in Hythe Close?”

Sue Pemberton from Doone Bray was the first to get widespread applause when she suggested that all the different functions of the building will clash. She said: “I can see the logic in a multi-use building…but there’s too many different functions in too small a space. You are going to have too many different managers trying to manage the theatre, the library, the dance classes, the surgery. All of the different functions are going to clash. Who is going to take priority? I think we’ll have utter chaos and in the end no one is going to want to use it and they will all go elsewhere.”

Hub Nov18 Gnd Floor

Linda Whiteleg said: “I actually live bang opposite this monstrosity. I thought it was going to be a lovely building. Now you are telling me it is going to be pre-fab. I was hoping it was going to be a beautiful theatre – updated – that everybody could use. But it has fewer seats (than the old theatre).” She also expressed safety concerns about the access road and the garages. Finally, she objected to the open plan library and said “there is no quiet place to just sit and look at that book any more?”

Robert Shaw from London Road said that because of the small size of the dressing rooms: “There’s going to be no dance schools using the theatre and no pantomime. You cannot run a theatre on that amount of seats. People always used to come to the pantomime in Southborough year in year out.” That prompted more applause.

Hub Nov18 In Theat

Peter Maresh from Ruscombe Close asked: “Where is the project board and who are these three monsters?” Laughter ensued then the meeting organisers explained that the 3 member board was made up of Ian Kinghorn from Southborough Town Council, Mike Hill from Kent County Council and Lynne Weatherly from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.  Not one of them attended due to prior engagements.

This prompted further resident response: “I work in business and I do projects all the time. Who on earth has appointed this project board and who are they accountable to, because it doesn’t appear that they know what they are doing…How do you get rid of them? Because they are not doing their job. They are not project managing it. They are not taking account of the people who they are doing this for…what qualifications do they have to sit on that board and do a good job? Who checked them out to make sure they could do it?”

The question “How do we find out how much money they have wasted so far?” could not be answered because the finances of the project are still only known to the project board.

Hub Nov18 First

Revd Rachel Wilson from St Thomas’s Church in Southborough said: “I can see a lot of potential good in a project like this which is why I am so saddened by this, as it seems to me to be an enormous wasted opportunity. There could be so much good come out of this and I am particularly concerned about the cost implications as a member of the clergy and as a person who is reliant on social services and social care.”

Revd Wilson continued: “I am appalled by the idea that Kent County Council are spending this sort of money to the detriment of other things. I think it is appalling and as a member of the clergy we need to be aware of this sort of thing as well, because there is enormous potential for good and it seems to me that if it is not handled well it could turn into a complete disaster.”

Hub Nov18 MedicRichard Pepper said: “We are angry people….people are angry because there’s no one with any common sense running these shows.  That’s what’s giving us all here – grief, because we have been users over the years of these facilities.”

Rebecca from Vale Rd said: “There’s so many faults with it.  I’m just very very concerned that whatever our suggestions are, they won’t actually get heard or listened to because the people involved are not turning up to the meetings. Also if you’ve got a show in, what’s the height of the scene docks? I’m looking at a 90 degree angle to get the scenery from a lorry in. It’s ridiculous.”

Paul from Parkhouse Gardens said: “This whole thing beggars belief to be honest. The outside of the building looks architecturally uninspired. The inside of the building has far too many competing interests for it to be feasible or practical to use. I also have a point about flat roofs – they are a disaster long term…hopeless you know…they should be ditched and put sloping roofs instead. But I am very very concerned about the amount of money that’s been wasted already. Two years of wasted work.”

Nov18 Hub Air

John who’s wife runs the Southborough School of Dance said: “Having listened to the architects during the last meeting at the library, the architects did not seem to know exactly the needs of those people who want to use the theatre. I think it would be a good idea to write to all these people who used the Royal Victoria Hall and ask what is it they need when they come to hire the hall.”

Michael Howes from Holden Road asked: “Cllr Blackwell and others seem to be very critical of this plan and I agree it is not perfect – but what is your alternative? And if it is more elaborate than this plan, how are you going to pay for it?”

Cllr Blackwell responded by saying the finances are still secret and so discussing alternatives is difficult.  But he argued that the Hub could potentially be improved if the planned retail space became a bar and the library was retained on its current site and replaced in the Hub by bigger theatre changing rooms. He also said further consultation work was needed to see if theatre was still viable at all in Southborough.

Angry Town Meeting Calls for More Consultation About Southborough Hub

The first ever Town Meeting in Southborough saw 180 people approve a motion arguing that trust had broken down between the community and Southborough Town Council and calling for the formation of a new advisory group to include theatre and other community groups.

The meeting was called under legislation that allows two Councillors to call such a gathering, but it was not attended by any members of the ruling Conservative group on the Town Council.

Liberal Democrat Councillor, Trevor Poile, and Labour’s Nick Blackwell called the meeting.  Cllr Blackwell is shown below counting votes in support of the motion.

Hub Meeting Dec18.jpg

The motion approved stated:  “This Town Meeting believes that the Hub Project Board could have done more to give residents of the town a greater involvement in the project, not only in the overall design and provision of facilities but also in the sharing of the financial aspects.  Failing to do this has caused a breakdown of trust between the community and Southborough Town Council”.

The motion continued: “We want our Hub to be a vibrant and successful facility so that it can play its rightful role at the heart of our town. This can only happen if the views of town residents are heard, respected and acted on.  We have asked the Chair of our meeting to send you our questions, comments and suggestions and we would like a detailed response, including how you will take forward our ideas.”

The motion’s third paragraph reads: “In future we are asking for more effort to build our trust and confidence in the project. We would like you to work with the Chair of our meeting to set up an independently led advisory group that includes representatives of churches, schools, theatre, sport and other community organisations to ensure that the Hub will meet our present and future needs.”

The motion concludes: “At these last and crucial stages of the project we expect regular and better communications from you about the Hub, including a serious attempt to contact and involve people who are elderly, housebound or have no internet access. We would also like you to be open with us on the project costings, publish a current business plan and let us see that the Hub has a sustainable future.”

P1140819.JPG

The meeting took place after the Town Council’s own Planning Committee on Monday voted to advise rejection of the Southborough Hub plans at the Tunbridge Wells Borough Planning meeting expected in January. The Southborough Town Council is a “statutory” consultee but can only advise the Tunbridge Wells Planning Committee which has the final say on planning issues

Only one Conservative attended the Monday Town Council Planning Committee and he couldn’t vote in favour because he is the councillor tasked with coming up with the plans (Ian Kinghorn) and so wasn’t deemed to be independent on this issue. Cllrs Poile, Munn and Lewis voted against leading to a 3-0 vote rejecting the current Hub plans.

At Tuesday’s Town Meeting, residents were urged to put in comments on the Planning portal before the deadline of 13th December.

Nov18 Hub Air

Sue Pemberton from Doone Brae was greeted with widespread applause when she said: “I can see the logic in a multi-use building…but there’s too many different functions in too small a space. You are going to have too many different managers trying to manage the theatre, the library, the dance classes, the surgery. All of the different functions are going to clash. Who is going to take priority? I think we’ll have utter chaos and in the end no one is going to want to use it and they will all go elsewhere.”

The audio from the whole meeting is posted here in four parts. The first two are mainly Nick Blackwell and Jason Reeves explaining the plans (27 mins and 23 mins) with some initial questions:

Lynne from London Road said: “I actually live bang opposite this monstrosity. I thought it was going to be a lovely building. Now you are telling me it is going to be pre-fab. I was hoping it was going to be a beautiful theatre – updated – that everybody could use. But it has fewer seats (than the old theatre).”

Most of the questions are here in two sections here (Pt 3 27 mins and Pt 4 is 29 mins). The vote is at the very end.

Public Meeting on Tuesday as Critics say Southborough Hub will be a “Dysfunctional Building”

Southborough’s first ever “Town Meeting” will be held next week to find out what residents think of the newly revised Southborough Hub scheme to spend £10 million on a new hall, library, medical centre and football pavilion.

The Hub replaces the demolished Royal Victoria Hall Theatre (pictured below in May 2017). But critics say the new Hub fails to meet the Town Council’s promise to deliver a new “state of the art theatre” and will have little shared community space.

RVH demolish.jpg

The Town Meeting has been called by one Labour and one Liberal Democrat councillor and will be held at the Southborough Primary School TN4 0SJ at 7pm on Tuesday 4th December 2018.

A member of the public will chair the Town Meeting as the Conservative mayor, Conservative deputy mayor and the Council’s Hub project leader, Ian Kinghorn, have all declined to attend due to “prior engagements”.

Town Meetings are governed by an Act of Parliament.  It is the last chance for residents to hear all about the plans and discuss the proposals before the Tunbridge Wells Planning Committee meets to decide whether to approve the scheme.

RVH bits.jpg

The old Royal Victoria Hall had dedicated dressing rooms, a bar and 350 seats.  The new hall planned in the Hub can only seat 250 people for theatre productions while dressing rooms will have to double up as council meeting rooms.

Councillor Trevor Poile of the Liberal Democrats and Labour Councillor, Nick Blackwell, are both concerned by the verdict of the national experts on theatre provision, the Theatres Trust, which said recently “it did not have confidence in the long term viability of the Hub” based on the latest plans.

A joint statement from Cllr Blackwell and Cllr Poile said: “The Southborough Community Hub is part of the biggest public investment that this town has ever seen and will affect the lives of generations of people living in the town for years to come. As Town Councillors, we believe that efforts to inform and engage residents, taxpayers, and potential users in its design and purpose have been unambitious and inadequate which will have a negative impact on the success of the project.”

Nov18 Hub Air

The new building (above) will be wood framed with a terracotta coloured cladding facade and some zinc shingle. The only public consultation with the project team available to discuss the revised plans was held from 5-6pm on a Tuesday evening at the end of October.  The previous plans approved by planners in 2016 were abandoned as they turned out to be too expensive.

In a statement on Friday to Southborough News, Cllr Blackwell said:  “Many people in the town believed that whatever replaced the Royal Victoria Hall would be a real community hub. A central space within the town where people could come together; a social space that could be used by people of all ages. Our new theatre would be “State of the Art” and “the envy of other towns” according to local Conservative councillors. And the project would be signed sealed and delivered by Christmas 2016.”

Cllr Blackwell continues: “Sadly these promises have failed to materialise. An inability by the project Board to reign in the budget has now meant that the scheme that achieved planning consent in March 2017 has been scrapped and replaced with a cheaper “value engineered” alternative with more shared spaces and no box office, bar or café. Cllr Oakford told our Southborough Town Meetings a couple of years ago that he didn’t care what the building looked like. The latest plans bear this out. It looks like a 60s secondary modern with aspirations. Zinc and terracotta cladding do nothing to disguise the uninspiring utilitarian design.”

Hub Nov18 First

Cllr Blackwell then argues: “The library doubles up as pop up bar area. The committee rooms double up as changing rooms. The Project board admit that none of the hiring scenarios have been modelled or considered. Theatre and user groups have not been asked whether their productions can financially support a reduced seating capacity of 250 from 350. It is a dysfunctional building that can’t do what it supposed to do.”

Cllr Blackwell continues: “The build will be a series of out-of-keeping prefabricated boxes that have been condemned by the Theatres Trust as not fit for purpose and not financially viable in the long term. We have no business plan and we have now been told that Southborough Town Council is not to expect any income from the hall as the management will be outsourced to the Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall.”

Cllr Blackwell argues: “The whole process has been beset by poor management and a project that has overreached the skillset of those involved. For KCC this has only ever been a cost cutting exercise to sell off our playing fields and library site for housing. What we have been presented is the worst case scenario. Few of us on Southborough Town Council envisaged it would be quite this poor. Despite boasts of record amounts for the sale of the playing fields it is obvious the money has run out. The project Board spent years employing Pick Everard architects and working up a design that is never going to be built. We still don’t know how much money has been wasted on the aborted design.”

Hub Nov18 In Theat

Cllr Blackwell concludes: “We do know that Southborough Town Council has been required to contribute an additional £500,000 (from the sale of the former Speldhurst Rd Allotments) and that the funding from the NHS for the medical centre is unconfirmed and still at risk. It is still not too late to change the decision and produce something that will be an asset to the town rather than an underused financial drag.  We need the maximum number of people to attend the Town Meeting and to see the plans for the first time and express their views. I would urge everyone who cares about where they live to turn up and get involved.”

In the last few days, there have been new alterations to the internal plans with the small kitchen reportedly being moved next to library, with a servery from the kitchen so that drinks can be served in the library (coloured brown below) which will be turned into a bar for theatre events. This latest scheme is not in the current drawings (below) and will apparently mean less storage for the theatre.

Hub Nov18 Gnd Floor

Meanwhile former mayor David Elliott is the only person to have commented on the new planning application on the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council portal.

Councillor Elliot said: “We’ve been working towards revitalising the centre of Southborough for nearly twelve years now and we are almost there…..The Southborough Hub will transform the centre of Southborough once built. Don’t stop it now. I fully support this application. It would be a tragedy for Southborough if the funding already allocated for this project in these difficult times were to be lost forever if this planning application is not approved.”

You can comment on the TWBC website until 13th December at:

https://twbcpa.midkent.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=PI51P7TYFGF00&fbclid=IwAR3xsD39jEsD32UpfxlGl2MeXIChz3p_ZO8GXK112bnCqfB_Ru11SkZq9sM

Pictures of the old Royal Victoria Hall demolition in 2017 are taken with permission from the blog “castles on the ground”:

Unseen demise of the Royal Victoria Hall

RVH balcony

This was the same site pictured in the snow in April 2018.

RVH rubble in snow jpg

Council Responds to Public Concerns About Southborough Hub Design

The Councils designing the Southborough Hub have responded to public comments and it appears the plans may be changed to incorporate a larger kitchen or bar.

A new planning application is scheduled to be submitted in November 2018 with an outcome early in 2019 prior to start on site in 2019.  Compared with the original plans, the new plan sees “a major reduction in circulation space within the building but keeps all other elements as closely aligned to the previous submission”.

Nov18 Hub Air A new document on the Southborough Town Council website written by the project manager, Jonathan White, explains that: “the new designs have shifted the main hub building to the north ensuring that the town square can be made larger and accommodate more activity.”

The following additional questions and answers from the council have been published:

Q: There is no café/bar in the new proposals
A: Internal designs are being considered which if approved, would move the kitchen area adjacent to the library space and include a hatch in to the library. This would allow for a café and a bar subject to operational requirements.

Q: The kitchen being proposed is too small!
A: Internal designs are being considered which if approved would enlarge the kitchen area

Q: Will there be a disabled toilet and a baby change area?
A: Yes, there will be disabled toilets on both levels of the Hub, there will also be a baby change facility

Q: Toilets are all unisex!
A: Toilets remain as individual cubicles that will be allocated as Male, Female, Disabled, and Unisex in a flexible arrangement to meet equality requirements and optimal operational efficiency.

Q: There are insufficient toilets to meet the current standards
A: The building meets the current toilet standard requirements

Hub Nov18 Gnd Floor

Q: Will the hub building be fully accessible for disabled people?
A: Yes, the building will be fully accessible and will meet part L and M of the building regulations

Q: There is no lift to the second floor of the main hub building
A: There is a lift to the second floor of the hub building and it can be found in the west wing of the main hub building adjacent to the stairs

Q: There is insufficient space in the facility for when there are large theatre performances
A: The space in the library will be used flexibly with bookshelves being able to be moved out of the way to accommodate for larger gatherings – the library and the theatre will work together to minimise any disruption to their clients

Q: There is no segregated room for children in the new library. Does this not raise child safety issues?
A: There will be a children’s area in the new library space but the service does not require them to be segregated. Library furniture can be used to give the area a more defined space for children. There are no child safety issues with this proposal

Q: How will the theatre work if the community rooms which double as changing rooms are already booked out?
A: The operator of the hub will ensure that the hall/theatre requirements and the rental of the community rooms can work in harmony to maximise the use of the facility (Second floor plan shown below – part of medical centre is to right of plan)

Hub Nov18 First Floor

Q: The noise from the theatre will impact the library area
A: Libraries are aware of the impact the theatre may have on their service and will work with customers to ensure any disruption is minimised

Q: If the building is open at night people will steal from the library
A: The library service are happy for people to use the self service machines out of hours to borrow books from the library even when staff are not present. Theft of library stock is very rare

Q: The community rooms have been shrunk from the previous designs
A: The new community rooms are larger than the previous designs at 141 square meters excluding storage compared to 81 square meters in the old designs

Q: Are the Theatre Trust comments being addressed?
A: The Theatre Trust has raised the same comments as they previous did for the prior submission and once again these are being picked up and a response has been sent to them. They are a statutory consultee as part of the planning process and we will continue to work with them to ensure the best outcome for the facility. They have also raised the issue of the café and that has been picked up separately within these FAQs.

Q: The community rooms have large glazed areas that will mean they are not suitable to act as changing rooms for the hall/theatre
A: The project will ensure that the necessary blinds are in place to give the privacy required.

Hub Nov18 Upper RmQ: There are insufficient changing rooms
A: The community rooms are very large and can be split up to provide further changing rooms if required

Q: The building will be built using timber and pre-fabricated panels. This sounds like a cost saving exercise and how long will the building last?
A: The design life of the product is over 60 years however if maintenance is done properly the building will last forever as with any other building which is well maintained

Q: Where is the storage?
A: There are numerous storage areas throughout the facility including a large store adjacent to the hall able to take the stage and seating

Hub Nov18 In TheatQ:  The hall can only accommodate 250 people. This is too small.
A: The hall can accommodate different setups up to 350 people

Q: What cladding is being proposed for the facility?
A: The cladding being proposed is a mixture of red terracotta cladding and a zinc based tile. There will also be some brick work at lower levels

Hub Nov18 First

Q: STC office is out of the way, not prominent enough and not accessible.
A: STC office location has been agreed by the Council and it is fully accessible

Q:  You have not consulted with anyone on the designs?
A: A list of consultation discussions over the whole period of the project is available on the STC website

Q: Will there be any disabled parking for the GP surgery?
A: Yes there will be two disabled spaces provided adjacent to the GP surgery, these are in addition to a further two spaces being provided on the Ridgewaye Car Park as well

Q: Parking is inadequate when football clubs are present
A: An additional 40 parking spaces are being provided adjacent to the recreational ground to reduce the parking issues. In addition to these, a further 19 car parking spaces will also be provided via an extension at the Yew Tree Road Car Park.

Q: Will the library have fewer books than before?
A: The library will have just as many books as before

Hub Nov18 In LibrQ: Can we please have another name than the Southborough Hub?
A: It is anticipated that prior to opening a name will be given to the facility

Q: Will the pharmacy be going in to the retail unit?
A: The partners are in negotiation with a number of potential tenants about who goes in to the space. The existing pharmacy in Southborough is not at risk from this development.

Q: Medical centre waiting area is too small.
A: The space being provided meets the NHS requirements

Q: There is no kitchen in the medical centre?
A: The space being provided meets the NHS requirements

Q: The building will cost Southborough lots of money to run and locals will end up subsidising it. When can we see the numbers?
A: The hub has a number of income streams notably from the GP surgery, retail unit, library and others which seeks to offset the running costs of the facility. The aim will be to ensure that STC are no worse off than they were before. The detailed numbers will be released once all agreements have been signed securing the income as doing so before hand would undermine the councils negotiating position.

Q: Why is there no air conditioning in the building?
A: Tinted glass, air handling units and large ceilings will ensure that air conditioning which is expensive to run and maintain will not be required.

Q: Who will run the centre?
A: The operations of the facility have yet to be agreed but will ultimately lie with Southborough Town Council with input from Kent County Council and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.

Q: How much will the Southborough Hub development cost?
A: The total cost of the entire scheme including residential investment is c£30M. The Hub capital build costs are anticipated to be around £10M.

Q: How much did you get from selling the land to Crest Nicholson?
A: The sale value of the land has yet to be finalised as Crest are delivering part of the infrastructure works which will be offset against the land value once completed. Roughly speaking the land sale will pay for two thirds of the Hub buildings with the remainder coming from partners, grants and investment from the NHS.

New Hub Images Released as Theatre Experts Warn of “Grave Mistake”

The latest images for how Southborough’s new Hub have been released, just as the national experts on theatre provision called the decision not to include a cafe in the complex “a grave mistake.”

The statutory advisory group Theatres Trust said it did not have confidence in the long term viability of the Hub based on the latest plans.

The new images have been on display at Southborough Library over the past week. The old library will be demolished when a new library is built together with a Hall/theatre, meeting rooms and medical centre in the new Hub (shown below).

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Hub Nov18 Library

The view below is from the London Road looking south towards Tunbridge Wells with the new council meeting room overlooking the A26.

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The Theatres Trust have written to Kent County Council, who are overseeing the work on the Hub.  The Trust said: “We are increasingly concerned that the project is proceeding without a decision on who and how either the Hub as a whole or the theatre component will be operated.”

The Theatres Trust letter continued: “This is all the more important as the current proposals indicate that all front of house and back of house support facilities are to be dual use. There needs to be a clear vision about the purpose of this cultural facility and how it will be used to inform the design, layout, access and technical needs and also to ensure that this can operate effectively and serve as a viable and sustainable replacement to the Royal Victoria Hall”.

The Trust then says: “We strongly recommend the various parties involved in this project make that decision now and involve an operator in this design phase.” The latest ground floor plans are shown below:

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The Theatres Trust notes that the planned capacity of the new theatre (shown below) has been reduced from 350 to 250 and it asks that “community groups are involved in this discussion to ensure that the auditorium size…is sufficient to allow them to cover the cost of the productions.”

Hub Nov18 In Theat

The Trust’s bluntest words are over the decision to reduce the costs of building the Hub by axing the original plans for a daytime cafe that could double up as a bar in the evening during theatre intervals.  It lists a number of places including Chester which have seen library usage rise strongly thanks to a neighbouring cafe.

The Trust says: “There is no provision except for a coffee machine within the library.  We feel that is a grave mistake….A cafe will help provide daytime animation to the building and entice people to spend more time in it….theatres reply on bar income as an important income stream and potentially undermining the viability of the venue.”

The Trust expresses concerns that the dual use of dressing rooms as committee rooms will create clashes, but it does welcome the addition of windows into the Hall to make it more attractive for daytime events.

The project team at Kent County Council have indicated they feel the involvement of officials from the Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall in the plans means that advice from local experts has already been taken into account.

Further images are shown below showing the library and medical centre looking north from ground level:

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From the same point but looking right over the Ridgewaye fields:

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This is the inside view of the library:

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The First floor plan includes two potential meeting rooms for Southborough Town Council:

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Hub Nov18 First Floor.jpg

This is the pavilion for the soccer club:

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Finally, a view from above:

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Southborough Hub: “Design is Great” says leading Conservative

The most prominent Conservative on Southborough Town Council has described the latest hub plans issued on Friday as “great” and perfectly meeting the design brief.

Councillor Peter Oakford (pictured below) who sits on Kent County Council, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and Southborough Town Council also confirmed that space has been left for a retail unit to generate income for Southborough.

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In a statement to Southborough News, Cllr Oakford said: “Personally I think the design is great. With so many local authorities, NHS organisations and CCGs selling off under utilised buildings that they can not longer afford to keep, the new hub meets the flexible design brief perfectly.”

He continued: “Every element of the facility – other than the actual STC office – is a multi use flexible space that will ensure maximum utilisation of the building and therefore financial security and, as I have said before at no extra cost to the tax payers of Southborough and High Brooms.”

Cllr Oakford added: “The pharmacy is an idea at this stage, not anything that has been confirmed but would be a natural fit with the medical centre. The space is a retail unit which will be leased out by STC but the architect added the word pharmacy for demonstration purposes”.

Meanwhile there have been dozens of comments on social media about the new plans. Concerns include lack of news about the building’s outer cladding and appearance, lack of facilities for the type of theatre productions formerly held at the Royal Victoria Hall, a lack of a separated children’s library and a lack of a new formal public consultation before the designs go for planning approval. Others expressed their hopes for new modern facilities.

Southborough’s Hub Has New Shape

The Southborough Hub is to built with a rectangular footprint according to new plans issued to the public on Friday, with the previous “circle and two blocks” layout having been abandoned.

The new plans were outlined at a Southborough Town Council meeting on Thursday, although no artist impressions as to how the building will actually look are available. It is still not clear if brick, concrete or any form of plastic cladding will be used for the outer shell.

Although the plans for a cafe have been abandoned, a retail unit/pharmacy is still incorporated, which presumably it is hoped will yield some rental income for the council for its 94 square metres.

Southborough News has used photoshop to try to clarify the plans published on the Southborough Town Council website, colouring the new Hall in pink, the doctors’ surgery in yellow and the library section in green.  (see below).

Large Area blog

The new footprint appears to cover almost the same area as the Royal Victoria Hall before its demolition two years ago.

The dimensions of the stage in the new hall are given as 9.25 metres by 9 metres.  The total size of the hall is 342 square metres. Here is the ground floor in more detail:

Hall blog

The Hall’s changing rooms are located between the hall and the A26 which runs to the left on the diagram. There is a kitchenette shown which is 14.5 square metres, plus a workshop that is 26 square metres.

Dressing Rooms blog

The library is shown with views of an open space to the south with shrubs or trees and the A26 to the west. (see below)

library blog

This is the first floor plan published showing the location of two community rooms of 68 and 73 square metres, plus Town Council offices and a balcony to the Hall:

First Floor blog.jpgThe new scheme will require fresh planning permission.  The previous layout that went through the planning process two years ago is shown here at:

Overall plan

6 pdfs are available on the council website, with 3 of the Hub (all shown here) and 3 more detail the football pavillion.

New Look for Southborough Hub to be Unveiled Tonight

Southborough Town Council will meet tonight to be shown revised plans for the Southborough Hub development by Cllr Ian Kinghorn, who has told Southborough News that “these are exciting times for Southborough and we can at long last see the regeneration of Southborough”.

But Cllr Kinghorn (pictured below) confirmed that the revised designs must go back for planning approval, adding a further potential delay to the project. Meanwhile, the plan for a cafe in the Hub has also now been definitely dropped, something that would have yielded rental income for the council.

Kinghorn 18

The public are being encouraged to attend tonight’s meeting at Southborough School in Broomhill Park Road at 7pm, where the Council’s Conservative majority is expected to nod through the updated scheme, even though the new plans won’t be published in full until the day after the meeting.

It is now nearly two years since the original scheme to build a combined library, theatre, doctor surgery, football pavillion and home for the Town Council was passed at a planning meeting in Tunbridge Wells.  Councillors on the planning committee ignored a petition signed by 1,300 local people who wanted to save the Local Heritage Asset, the Royal Victoria Hall theatre, and argued most people in Southborough wanted something new in the town.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Southborough Town Councillor Ian Kinghorn said: “The re-design was never about starting the project again, it was about refining the current scheme that we already had and sticking as close as possible to what was already consented. To that end, I am pleased with what the architects have done and consultation with the public can now start and will be based on the planning process, with any further minor refinements happening once we receive feedback.”

The architect Ptolemy Dean (shown below), who lives in Wadhurst and co-presented BBC2’s popular “Restoration” series, said at the time the original planned Southborough Hub scheme was “poor”.

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Mr Dean, who serves on the National Trust Architectural Panel, told Southborough News two years ago: “Southborough has a rich architectural tradition. The proposed design might be anywhere, and would have been enriched by the retention of the existing historic building.”

There is speculation that the original plans to use plastic cladding on the new Hub may be dropped in favour of more traditional brick cladding.

The original design statement from Hub architects Pick Everard stated: “The local context fails to create an architectural vernacular for the centre of Southborough and therefore it is the aim of the Hub to establish a new vernacular. The material palette for the hub has been chosen to create a dynamic and active landmark for the centre of the town.” The planning meeting two years ago was shown the illustration below as an example of how the Hub would look.

facade

Wednesday’s update statement was issued by the Southborough Hub project board which is run by Kent County Council under the supervision of the 3 interested councils (Town Council, Borough Council and County Council) and said:

“The plans previously submitted and agreed by planners have had to be revised following cost increases that have led to the current consented scheme being over budget. The new plans reflect the previous aspirations for the facility and include a hall/theatre, community rooms, GP surgery, library, football pavilion and council facilities. Final sign off on the plans will be done by the Project Board…who will agree to submit the plans for planning approval and this will take place in the next few weeks.”

“The project has saved costs through predominantly cutting back on generous areas of circulation space which delivers little in terms of tangible benefits to the scheme. In addition the café has been removed as the business case for it no longer stacks up given the four cafes now open on the high street and the potential for a further one next door on the Crest Nicholson scheme. The facility will however consider meeting customer needs for a café via a high quality self-service machine and comfortable seating.”

There was criticism two years ago from theatre groups that used the original Royal Victoria Hall Theatre (shown below before and during demolition) that the new theatre would not have the facilities of the old building.

seats

stage

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But Wednesday’s statement insisted: “The hall remains as before, a flexible space able to accommodate up to 350 people with tiered retractable seating and the building will allow for multi-location pop up bars for use during events and shows. The community rooms and football pavilion have slightly increased in size to the benefit of the wider public. The GP surgery remains within the scheme as before but has had further input from NHS England. While progress continues to be made on this front, this area remains the last outstanding major risk to the project being fully funded and we are hopeful of securing the final funding elements within the coming months. ”

The original look presented to the Southborough public and planners is shown below.

hub-all

Wednesday’s statement from the project continued: “The previous design’s look and feel was very distinctive and would have made the building a clear landmark in Southborough. While this to a degree did contribute to some diverging local opinions, the Southborough based architects have made changes to ensure the new designs give a form and shape which is more traditional. They have also managed to create a larger square between the Hub and the housing by pushing the facility further north thus increasing the size of the public realm and accentuating the building and clearly defining it as a civic facility, surrounded by a suitably large civic space. “

“Work on site has now begun to put in the spine road, the parking, gas, water, drainage and electric connections for the Hub. Baxall have been appointed to deliver the main build and the engineering works on the fields are also now complete. The Council is also currently making good progress in negotiating heads of terms with the football club for their lease on the football pavilion and the club continues to improve on their fund raising target.”

Revised plans will be available from the 28 September onwards on the following website: http://www.southboroughcouncil.co.uk/southborough-community-hub/

History of Salomons Estate Explained in Heritage Open Day Tour

Around 60 people attended two days of group tours explaining the history of Victorian Southborough’s most famous family, the Salomons, as part of this year’s Heritage Open Days.

The Salomon Estate is now privately owned by the Markerstudy Group but under the terms of the donation of the house (originally to Kent County Council) by the last surviving member of the Salomon family, two rooms must be left open for the public to view memorabilia about three remarkable generations of Salomons.

Sir David Salomons, was the first Jewish Lord Mayor of London and one of the founders of what became NatWest Bank. He also made the first speech by a Jewish member of the House of Commons in 1851, despite not completing the oath of allegiance for an MP which at the time required adherence to the Christian faith.  The original bench he made that speech from is on display at the museum (pictured below).

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Hour long detailed and engaging talks were given by the museum curator, Chris Jones (pictured below), to the groups last Thursday and on Sunday.

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Sir David Salomons, who also campaigned for the political rights of other religious minorities, was succeeded to his title by his nephew, Sir David Lionel Salomons, who was a scientist, engineer, photographer and inventor.  Sir David Lionel owned the second car  in England in 1895. He succeeded in raising the vehicle speed limit above 4 mph.

Sir David Lionel built a “scientific theatre”, which is also usually available to visit if there are no private events there. The theatre (shown below) was equipped with one of the finest electrically driven philharmonic organs, which was restored by a Lottery Grant and is now the only one left in the world.

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Remarkably many of the original electrical fittings remain evident in the theatre.

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Sir David Lionel invented switches that used radio signals to control features in the theatre. It is preserved so well as it was essentially abandoned from the 1930s.

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Sir David Lionel’s only son, Captain David Reginald Salomons, tragically died during the First World War in the HMS Hythe disaster in 1915 that also saw around 100 other men from the area killed when the Hythe troop ship collided with another British vessel on a dark night off the Gallipoli peninsular in Turkey. Between the wars, the people of Southborough held a ‘Hythe Sunday’ on or around 28th October.

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Other notable features of the two room museum are shown below.  It is free to view. Among the exhibits are a piano, a 19th century fire bucket, a ceremonial wheelbarrow commemorating the Reading-Reigate Railway and a statue of Dick Whittington.

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NB This article was updated on 10.9.18 to correct the date of the second car  in England to 1895. The date of 1874 originally mentioned in my blog actually related to the development of a home-made electric tricycle, which David Lionel Salomons apparently abandoned as it was too much work to recharge the battery.