Southborough Doctors Will NOT Move to Car Park for Now

A statement released on Friday by the Southborough doctors’ surgery indicates that the practice has once more changed its mind. Instead of moving to the Yew Tree Road Car Park the surgery will now move to nearby Pinewood Court at the end of August.

(UPDATE: The doctors’ move to Pinewood Court went ahead and they are now there. UPDATE SEPT 30: The doctors now plan to move back to their old site before the end of the year after repairs to the roof and floor are completed.)

It is thought that arrangements to construct temporary modular buildings and associated utilities could not be completed in time for a direct move to the car park. It is also believed the planning authorities had concerns.

This is the latest statement from the St. Andrew’s medical practice:

We can now confirm that we will be leaving our current premises after the close of evening surgery on Friday 26th August 2016.

“It has been necessary to secure an interim site at Town and Country’s Pinewood Court from 30th August 2016. This interim move allows us to continue our medical services in Southborough whilst we seek to secure the permissions required for the new temporary surgery to be built at Yew Tree car park.

“Our address from August 30th will be: Pinewood Court, Pinewood Gardens, Southborough, Kent. TN4 0NP

“We apologise to all our patients for the inconvenience caused and are very grateful for all the support received in helping to ensure that St. Andrew’s continues to remain in Southborough.”

Also on Friday, Southborough News obtained the full statement from the former Southborough doctors who own the existing site, which they issued to the Courier on June 30th, 2016.

It remains unclear why the site’s owners and the current doctors were unable to reach a compromise deal to allow the practice to continue operating in their current premises.

Dr Paul Bowden, a co-owner of the building and who was responsible for the building of the surgery in 1987, said: “We started negotiations for a new lease to the St. Andrew’s Partnership in June 2012 and Heads of Terms for a new lease of 15 years were agreed and signed by both parties in March 2013.

“The form of the lease was broadly agreed by January 2015. In March 2015, the partnership served notice that the taking of a lease on the building would not be in their best interests and they offered to purchase the building at well below market value. This was declined by the owners.

“In June 2015, the Partnership tried to re-negotiate the entirety of the arrangement in particular the lease to be for a period of 5 years only. This was also unacceptable to the owners.

“Since June last year little communication has been received from the Partnership or their legal representatives.

“The negotiations having been ongoing for nearly four years and now seemingly stalled the owners were left with no option but to try to bring the matter to a head by serving notice to quit.

“The intention of the notice to quit was to bring the Partnership back to the negotiating table and to proceed with the lease. The option of a lease is still available and welcome to the owners but the Partnership has, once again, failed to communicate.”

The Courier published much of the above statement in this report on June 30th, which also includes comments from Cllr Peter Oakford:

http://bit.ly/2aisiix

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Southborough Doctors Confirm Move to Car Park

Doctors at the St. Andrew’s Medical Centre in Southborough have confirmed they will be leaving their building at the end of August to move into “modular” buildings on the Yew Tree Road Car Park.

An earlier scheme to move first to Pinewood Court has been abandoned.

The doctors’ statement says:  “We can now confirm that we will be leaving our premises at Pinewood Gardens after the close of evening surgery on Friday 26th August 2016.”

“Our new site will be in Yew Tree Road car park and we are working hard to achieve an opening date of Tuesday 30th August, this date will be confirmed as soon as possible.”

“With 6 Weeks to go the new building has been commissioned, it is a single storey modular build commonly used within the NHS for clinical services and is built to exceed all NHS premises requirements. The new building offers the same number of consultation and treatment rooms ensuring our level of service continues.”

It seems converting half the Yew Tree Road car park into a doctors’ surgery did not need planning permission, so one disruptive move into Pinewood Court has been avoided.

But mystery still surrounds the issue of why the surgery has to move out of its building in Pinewood Gardens, which was purpose built in the 1980s.

It seems two retired doctors who own the current surgery site had wanted the current doctors (the St Andrew’s Partnership) to sign a new 15-year lease, but the current doctors had failed to negotiate about terms, amid the prospect of moving into a new building in the planned Southborough Hub.

One of the owners responsible for serving a “notice to quit” for August 31st said the order was served merely to bring the matter to a head.  Dr Paul Bowden told the Courier:  “The option of a lease is still available and welcome to the owners but the Partnership has, once again, failed to communicate.”

The Southborough News blog has still not been able to obtain any further clarification about why 8,000 patients and staff at the doctors’ surgery are having to uproot themselves,  presumably at extra expense to the the NHS, when the site’s owners apparently want the surgery to stay in its current building at Pinewood Gardens.

 

Councillors Still at Odds over New Southborough Hub

As Southborough Town Council pushes on with developing its plans for the multi-million pound Hub development, Southborough News has heard from two local Councillors who remain poles apart on the best way forward.

Cllr Zulhash Uddin from the majority Conservative group told us of the “real enthusiasm” he now saw from residents towards the Hub, but Cllr Nick Blackwell, who heads the Labour group, told us he was not convinced that the current plans represented the right solution for Southborough.

Both interviews are now available here as YouTube videos. Southborough News spoke to the two Councillors after the last presentation to the public of the Hub plans at Southborough Library on Saturday 16th July.

At a meeting on Monday 18th July, the Conservative majority on the council passed a motion to send the current Hub plans to Tunbridge Wells District Council for planning approval.  If no objections are allowed, the scheme would see the demolition of Southborough’s existing theatre, library and medical centre.

We asked Cllr Uddin about the loss of the 100 year old Royal Victoria Hall Theatre. He responded: “We are losing a building which had a lot of history and heritage, but also we hope that the decision that the council has taken will bring something bigger and better for the communities to enjoy. It was a very difficult decision, but the council had to make a decision.”

Cllr Uddin told us it would be a “sustainable project” and a “legacy for the community”. He  concluded: “This is bringing life back into Southborough ….and a community spirit back into Southborough.”

But Nick Blackwell of Labour told us he was “very sad” that the Royal Victoria Hall Theatre was not going to be retained and also expressed concern about the increasing numbers of homes planned for the site and the impact of those homes on traffic congestion. The Local plan for the site had suggested 25 homes were appropriate, but the number of dwellings now planned to be built on the Ridgewaye fields is 69.

Cllr Blackwell also remarked on the lack of a published business plan, arguing that if the building revenues don’t match the running costs when the Hub is built, it could mean a “massive hike” in council tax.

Cllr Blackwell then criticised the design being sent to the planners: “It beggars belief that they have designed a hall …that doesn’t contain any windows….This is supposed to be a sustainable building except it will be lit by artificial illumination….If they had consulted properly, this could have been a really good hall.”

He concluded: “We are getting a very cheap building. We’ve been told we’re getting Prada – we’re getting Poundland.”

Hopes and Fears over Hub as Scheme Heads to Planning Stage

Opinion remains deeply divided in Southborough about the building of 69 new homes on the Ridgewaye playing fields to fund the Hub development project.

After three further sessions in Southborough library over the past week, many residents came away from viewing the plans hoping for a “fresh start”, while others expressed deep concern that the development would worsen the town’s already chronic traffic congestion.

Southborough News spoke to people as they emerged from the library on Saturday morning when elected councillors and officers from Kent County Council were available to answer questions.

A film of the extended public comments can be viewed here:

Among those who spoke to us on emerging from the presentation, resident Ian Skilling said: “We have looked at the plans and we are really impressed with them.  Wipe the slate clean and start again!”

Pamela Wiley said:  “I am really quite pleased with the plans for the theatre because I think that’s going to be a really good adaptable space. But my concern is there is so much dense housing with its access onto Yew Tree Road which is already heavy with traffic.”

Glenys Dickenson said: “I live in the Ridgewaye and my biggest concern is the volume of traffic.”

Clare Martin said: “I was concerned before – and now I am concerned even more. I don’t see why we need a four story monstrosity that doesn’t fit in the landscape plonked in the middle of Southborough.”
Pic Hub
Stephen Lucas said: “Two of the major football pitches will be taken up with house building so that means about 200 children that play there every weekend won’t have somewhere to play football. The new policy of building houses on football pitches to secure money, I believe is wrong.”

But Janice told us: “The plans look really really good. I am particularly pleased that the Ridgeway fields are not being too encroached upon…I can’t wait for it to start…we need it all to be brand spanking new.”

ViewAnd Shane said: “It sounds quite exciting.  These things are good for the community.  It’s only building the community up more, especially for the younger generations as well, which is really important.”

Don Buckland commented: “The Victoria Hall has been a wonderful space for amateur theatre and musical theatre. If it was possible to retain it in the plans, I would say do so. But if they are determined to knock it down, they must replace it with something similar.”

As expected, on Monday 18th July, the scheme was approved by the Conservative majority on Southborough Town Council, despite opposition from Labour and Liberal Democrat members.  It will now be sent to the joint project board which has one member each from the county, district and town councils.  All three councils back the plans.

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council planners will then consider the scheme over the summer and could approve it by the autumn.

An interview with councillors and an official from the libraries department should be available on this site in the next week.

 

July 11-17: Final Hub Public Consultation

You will have to act fast if you want to influence the future look of Southborough, as local councillors push ahead with plans to demolish the 100-year old council offices and Royal Victoria Hall Theatre.

The Town Council has announced that there is just one week left for public consultation on their scheme for a new theatre, doctors’ surgery, council offices and library.  The council is then set to send off their final blueprint to the planners after a vote at the full council on Monday 18th July.

Pic Hub

The planning application will be considered over the summer by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, when the public will only be able to register valid objections if they fall under specific planning criteria.  For example, people will be able to object under policy EN1 if they believe the design of the proposal in terms of “buildings, external appearance, roofscape, materials and landscaping” doesn’t “respect the context of the site”. Further details at:

http://bit.ly/29FGzrG

The final Southborough Hub plans will be on show in Southborough Library at these times:

  • Monday 11 July 9am-1pm
  • Wednesday 13 July  3pm-6pm
  • Saturday 16 July 10am-1pm

The council says “while the external footprint and framework of the scheme is not up for comment, we welcome your input on how we can further improve the internal layout, finishes and services for the community hub.”

Comments need to be sent by email to southboroughhub@kent.gov.uk by midnight on Sunday 17th.  The planning application is to be submitted by July 27th with the planning outcome expected sometime in October.

Overall plan

Since the original public consultation last Christmas, the theatre and medical centre have been swapped round and retail space added along the London Road.

I have provided screen grabs of the main elements of the latest drawings of the Hub in this blog – here is the link to a page that holds the pdf of the full plans (where it says Community Hub Draft Plans 05.07.16):http://bit.ly/29vDBts

Following concerns expressed by members of the Southborough Society that the library and theatre in the new hub won’t be as good as the existing facilities, the man at Kent County Council (KCC) responsible for delivering the scheme has just written to the Society to offer reassurance.

KCC’s Jonathan White said: “I would definitely hope that the final product will be as good if not better than what is currently there, but obviously that is quite subjective in terms of what styles/colours etc the individual likes.”

Library.jpg

Mr White continued: “I can confirm that the library will also be larger than its current facility and is almost certainly likely to have more books on that basis. I am not the service delivery side so cannot definitely confirm this, but from the drawings and the furniture they are ordering, that would appear to be the case. There will also be a space for the children’s library within this as well”.

On the concerns about demolishing the Royal Victoria Hall Theatre, which opened in 1900, Jonathan White continues: “Seating capacity has been retained, the stage will be bigger and there will be more balconies. I have never been given the exact square metres of the current facility with all the roof voids and basements so I cannot confirm for certain the sizes but given that we have four floors I would say there is a strong likelihood that the current facility will be larger”.

TheatreMr White continues: “We have worked with Charcoal Blue who are theatre consultants, the theatre trust and we have met with Trinity, FRVH etc… to ensure we get feedback on all elements of the theatre aspect. We have tried to meet all their aspirations but there have been several instances when requirements have diverged and we have tried to tread a fine line between them”.

Meanwhile mystery surrounds the shocking news that the Southborough’s main doctors’ surgery is to move out of its building in Pinewood Gardens on August 31st.  Patients will have to go to the Pinewood Court building for three months. After that, they will have to visit portacabins in the Yew Tree Road car park until the new medical centre in the hub is built.

It seems two retired doctors who own the current surgery site had wanted the current doctors (the St Andrew’s Partnership) to sign a new 15-year lease, but the current doctors had failed to negotiate about terms, amid the prospect of moving into a new building in the hub.

One of the owners responsible for serving a “notice to quit” for August 31st said the order was served merely to bring the matter to a head.  Dr Paul Bowden told the Courier:  “The option of a lease is still available and welcome to the owners but the Partnership has, once again, failed to communicate.”

The Southborough News blog has not been able to obtain any further clarification from Southborough Town Councillors about why 8,000 patients and staff at the doctors’ surgery are having to uproot themselves three times when the site’s owners want the surgery to stay in its current building at Pinewood Gardens.

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