Southborough Society calls for Town Museum and debates Library

The town’s heritage and amenities group, the Southborough Society, says a museum to display the area’s rich and varied history should be incorporated into plans for the new Hub.

The Society set out its ideas at its Annual General Meeting on Thursday night which saw the best attendance for a decade, with around 50 members and non-members attending.

The evening began with a talk about conservation work on Southborough Common given by Ian Johnstone of the Kent High Weald project and concluded with many members expressing their concern about the planned replacement for Southborough’s currently well-used library.

The Society’s retiring President, Lt Col Maxwell Macfarlane, told the Society’s members his view was that the replacement library should be a “self-contained quiet room, not a corridor with books in it”. He continued: “I’m worried that the library in the Hub is not going to be what it ought to be.”

The current brief for the new library has been published under a Freedom of Information request to Kent County Council.  The Council says its aim is  “to create a “buzzy”, busy space” in the Hub.  For full details click this link:

In his address on Thursday, the Southborough Society Chairman, Michael Howes, told members: “This year is a turning point in the history of Southborough as we eagerly await the planning application for the Hub project. This has proved to be a controversial and divisive development – to say the least – and the Society has actively encouraged members to monitor the scheme at its various stages including the public consultation which was held in January.”

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Michael Howes continued: “A pitiful number of people responded to this consultation and this suggests a huge apathy amongst members of the community who are presumably fed up with this political hot potato, not to mention the current eyesore of the site on London Road”.

The Southborough Society has had several meetings with Jonathan White, the project coordinator at the KCC, to advise him of the facilities the Society would like to be included.

Michael Howes’ address continued: “In particular, we have pushed for a museum area within the new library complex so that Southborough can at long last have somewhere to show off its rich and varied history. The draft plans which were released last week definitely have room for improvement and the local theatre people in particular have been vocal about the inadequacies of the proposed facilities. We look forward to the project progressing rapidly and intend to keep a very close eye on the developments”.

Local Election: Labour victory

Labour’s Dianne Hill has won a convincing victory in Thursday’s Borough Council election for the ward of Southborough (South) and High Brooms.

She said said she was delighted by an “amazing” result, having achieved 52 % of the vote in a ward where the leading candidates in recent years have usually taken the seat with only 30-40% of the votes cast.

The turnout of 32 % was similar to the last time a local election was held without a simultaneous General Election.

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During the campaign Labour’s Dianne Hill, told voters of her “regret” that the Royal Victoria Hall is to be demolished, while the Conservative candidate, Chris Camp,  had said he was “a big supporter” of the new facilities.

After the result on Friday, Dianne Hill told Southborough News: “I am delighted to have been elected again to the Borough Council today with a decisive majority. My victory is a victory for all of the people of Southborough and High Brooms who have said that they have had enough of the secrecy surrounding the development of our town centre.”

She continued: “People living in the town have said they want the chance to see and comment on the plans for the Hub before they are sent for final planning consent. Together with my Labour colleagues on the council I will continue to press for more openness in decision making and better communication with, and involvement of, all of the people and groups who will be using it long after the councillors and planners have gone.”

Election Candidate Party Votes %
Dianne Hill Labour 910 52%
Christopher Roger Camp Conservative 444 26%
Keith Murray-Jenkins UK Independence Party 197 11%
Matt Lyons Green Party 97 6%
Jo Wright Liberal Democrat 91 5%

Total votes 1,739

The ward is traditionally Labour, but the Conservatives won the ward in May last year.

Compared with last year in the same ward, Conservative votes dropped by 845 while Labour votes dropped by 325.

Compared with May 2014, Labour votes were up by 308 and Conservatives down by 147.

Meanwhile the team behind the Southborough Hub development have issued a new picture of what the new buildings will look like.  See below.  The four story building on the left is understood to be the replacement for the Royal Victoria Hall.  The library has the circular roof and the planned medical centre is somewhere behind in the picture.

S:London2014140552 - KCC - Southborough HubArchitects2-0 BI

The Southborough (South) and High Brooms ward has 3 councillors, who each face re-election every 4 years.  After Friday’s vote, the ward’s councillors are now Dianne Hill (Labour), Zulhash Uddin (Conservative) and Graham Munn (Labour).

Southborough North ward has two councillors.  They are David Elliott and Joe Simmons who are both Conservatives.  There was no voting in Southborough North this year.

Dianne Hill’s victory was the only win for Labour on the Borough Council in this round of voting. The Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, which runs most services and is the planning authority, saw voters electing 13 Conservatives, 2 Liberal Democrats and 1 Labour councillor.

For comparison, here are the past four year’s results:

May 2015 election result for Southborough (South) and High Brooms:

Zulhash Uddin Conservative 1289 38%
Dianne Hill Labour 1235 36%
Naz Mian UKIP 546 16%
Marguerita Gladys Morton Liberal Democrat 325 10%

Total 3395 voted out of 5331 electorate

May 2014 election result for Southborough (South) and High Brooms:

Graham John Munn Labour 602 32%
Peter John Oakford Conservative 591 32%
Richard Harrington UK Independence Party 486 26%
Marguerita Gladys Morton Liberal Democrat 190 10%

Total 1869 votes

May 2012 election result for Southborough (South) and High Brooms:

Alain Matthew Bryan Lewis Labour 630 41%
Nasir Jamil Conservative 604 40%
Christine Jennifer Marshall UK Independence Party 193 13%
Marguerita Morton Liberal Democrat 96 6%

Total 1523  votes out of 5303 electorate


Bluebell Bliss

If you haven’t been out today, you may have missed the best of the Bank Holiday weather.  On the Tunbridge Wells Circular Walk from Pennnington Road out to the Viaduct and beyond, the bluebells are at their best.P1090778

The Woodland Trust is inviting people to tell everyone about the best sitings:

The tiny lambs are another reason to venture out.


Plus we met one family group which has found a new way of getting children enthused about a long walk.  It’s a free app to get children to hunt for hidden treasures:



Local Election on Thursday: Party Pledges

Voters in High Brooms and the southern half of Southborough are about to say what they think about the dramatic changes planned for the area.

One seat in the powerful Tunbridge Wells Borough Council is up for grabs on Thursday and the result may be close.  The ward has traditionally been won by Labour, but in last May’s vote – which coincided with the General Election that saw David Cameron re-elected – the Conservatives were victorious.

There are three councillors who represent the “Southborough and High Brooms” ward, as it has such a large population.  Labour’s Dianne Hill lost out last year by 54 votes.  This time Dianne Hill is standing again as the candidate to replace the sitting Labour councillor Alain Lewis, who isn’t standing again.

It may sound complicated but essentially you have to choose one candidate to vote for out of the 5 standing on Thursday.  I have asked each candidate to summarise why you should vote for them and the Conservative, Labour and Green Parties have all responded.  I will add the Liberal Democrat and UKIP statements if or when they get back to me.

If – like me – you live in the Southborough North ward, there isn’t a vote for the Borough council, as this area only has two councillors. But we do have a vote for a Kent Police job.


Conservative candidate: Chris Camp

Chris Camp

Chris Camp was born and bred in Kent, has lived in Tunbridge Wells for 40 years and has retired from a major multi-national company. He was recently widowed and he has two children and one grandchild. Both of his children were educated in Southborough. Since his retirement he has worked with several small local enterprises in the Borough. He is also on the board of two charities, one in London and the other in Gillingham.

Chris is a big supporter of the new Community Hub for Southborough. It will provide an up to date theatre facility, a new library, doctor’s surgery and new council offices all on the same site. Ridgewaye Football Club will also get a much needed purpose built pavilion.

If he is elected on May 5th he will be a tireless campaigner for Southborough and High Brooms. Having recently retired, he has the time and energy to give something back to the local community.

Southborough and High Brooms is Labour’s only seat being contested in this election. Chris wants to send a message to Jeremy Corbyn that his brand of Socialism is not welcome here!

Tunbridge Wells has the second lowest council tax in Kent and is the only Council in the UK to have produced a balanced budget for the last four years. Only the Conservatives will safeguard this record.

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Labour candidate: Dianne Hill

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I have been on Southborough Town Council for 13 years and, until last year, 4 years on the borough council. I welcome the opportunity to stand again to represent the community I live in. I know the issues: parking, traffic, air quality, affordable housing, and loss of green spaces.

I am now retired but worked locally in the telecoms industry for over 26 years. I have 3 children and 4 grandchildren, 3 of whom attended St Matthew’s Primary School where I served as a school governor for many years.

I have fought many local campaigns and also led on the fight for kerbside glass collections.

I fought a successful campaign to get a bus service back in Kibbles Lane when Arriva cut the service in 2011 and will continue to press for better buses throughout our town on roads that are fit for purpose, not full of pot holes.

I regret that the Royal Victoria Hall will be demolished and will continue to press for a replacement theatre we can be proud of. I will continue to ask questions about the Southborough community hub, especially relating to parking and traffic generated from extra housing built on the playing fields.

I am proud to live in the ward. We have a strong community that has come together to form football and cricket clubs, scout and guide organisations, and other voluntary groups.

I am standing because I care. I care about this community that I live in and will continue to fight on the issues that affect us all.

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Green candidate: Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons Tunbridge Wells Greens-1

Property prices are now climbing out of the reach of those on not just locally set wages but also teachers and even shop managers. If we do not prioritise affordable housing, many key workers will be forced out of the area in a very similar way to London.

The main  A26 is on course to be gridlocked all the time from 7am to 8pm, as more housing is built along this road. This is causing more pollution. I will campaign for a better long term strategy on road use.

We are opposed to ANY  land sale of the Ridgewaye fields. There is no promise to restore full or new modern facilities for the Royal Victoria Hall (for music and theatre) in what should have been its refurbishment.

Plans are in hand to safeguard the long term future of the Assembly Hall and historically, grants have been given to other theatres and local arts organisations in the centre of Tunbridge Wells. Southborough’s facilities have by contrast been neglected for decades, with the only prospect being offered by selling valuable and irreplaceable land assets.

It would be better to just save the Royal Victoria Hall and council offices, rather than have a hub that can only be generated by losing land in the process.


  • I would like better a bus service with a circular Tonbridge to Knights Park and Hospital route and more late evening buses
  • Free parking should be restored immediately to Southborough
  • Potholes need to be repaired
  • Journeys to bottle banks should be replaced by doorstep recycling
  • The Tunbridge Wells to Lewes/Brighton rail line should be reopened

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UK Independence Party candidate: Keith Murray-Jenkins

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Liberal Democrat candidate: Jo Wright

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May 2015 election result:

Zulhash Uddin Conservative 1289 38%
Dianne Hill Labour 1235 36%
Naz Mian UKIP 546 16%
Marguerita Gladys Morton Liberal Democrat 325 10%

Total 3395 voted out of 5331 electorate


May 2014 election result:

Graham John Munn Labour 602 32%
Peter John Oakford Conservative 591 32%
Richard Harrington UK Independence Party 486 26%
Marguerita Gladys Morton Liberal Democrat 190 10%

Total 1869 votes


May 2012 election result:

Alain Matthew Bryan Lewis Labour 630 41%
Nasir Jamil Conservative 604 40%
Christine Jennifer Marshall UK Independence Party 193 13%
Marguerita Morton Liberal Democrat 96 6%

Total 1523  votes out of 5303 electorate