Interview recorded on Friday 8th April 2016
My name is Glenn Lester. I am the Mayor and Chairman of Southborough Town Council. I have been a member of Southborough Town Council for 5 years. I have been the mayor for the last 12 months. I come up for re-election as mayor in a month’s time. Hopefully I will be doing it for another 12. I have been heavily involved with the hub project and that’s the reason for carrying on for 2 years really as I seem to be the key player.
Q: How long have you lived in Southborough? What do you do in Southborough?
I moved to Southborough about 25 years ago when I met my wife who came from Southborough. She lived in Brokes Way. I was a young lad. I lived in Wadhurst – a carpenter and joiner, moved to Southborough, started my business. I am a building contractor based in Draper Street in Southborough. My children went to school in Southborough.
Q: In the past few months the plans to develop the key buildings of Southbrough – the library, the council offices, theatre – have all moved forward. So where are we with this big project?
A: We are moving forward really pro-actively at the moment. We are in the final stages of bringing forward a planning proposal which would be submitted to Tunbridge Wells Planning Authority at some point hopefully in the next 4 to 6 weeks. The final details have been drawn together with consultation with Southborough Town Council, the libraries of Kent. We are trying to involve as many key players as possible, so the football club has had a lot of input with regards to the pavilion. And it is not just about making buildings that look nice, it is about forming buildings that function well. So the operations of the building are key to the design of the building working well in the future.
Q: At the point of the planning application, will the people of Southborough have a chance to make their views known?
A: We obviously had our consultation. Once the final drawings are complete, then there will be an opportunity for the residents of Southborough to come and have a look, put a little bit of input into that and make sure they are happy, make sure that we are happy. Obviously, we’ve taken forward all the information we were given from the consultation and we have made quite considerable changes to the design. It is still fundamentally the same as the Option 1 with the round circular building in the middle and the boxes off of, to include the medical centre and the new theatre/public hall space that can be used as a theatre as well as other public facilities. We very much did a “you said, we did” approach and we’ve taken on board as much information as credible change as we can to try and bring forward a design that’s got as many people’s input as possible.
Q: So what’s your vision for what this will do for Southborough in the future?
Ah…my vision for Southborough….After 25 years plus of dereliction in the middle of Southborough High Street, the fact that it’s been woefully neglected, numerous different land owners on the old public house site that was known as the Bell, I am passionate about giving Southborough back a central hub that will create a heart to our town to enable every member of our town to participate in what we’ve got to offer. New library facilities and new doctor’s facilities. Our town has grown considerably over the past 25 years and the doctor’s facilities haven’t really changed significantly. We have got Southorough Town Council that’s squashed into three old Victorian rooms where the wallpaper is peeling off the walls and the windows are rotten and falling out. It’s time that Southborough had a breath of fresh air and I think however we move forward – and obviously we have made a decision following the consultation to move forward with option 1 – whatever we come forward with – we really want this to be the beating heart of our town and give Southborough an identity.