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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One thought on “July 11-17: Final Hub Public Consultation

  1. Together with others I have been campaigning for months for the council to be be less secretive and more open in its communication about the Hub to ensure that the facility will meet the long term needs of people in the town.

    Despite public pressure, and the resounding ‘No to Secret Southborough’ message from voters in the May council election, nothing has changed. It was because of public concern and an email campaign that plans were unveiled in May.

    On the basis of these plans over 125 questions were sent to the Project Manager, the Project Board and to town and borough councillors. Most of these questions and concerns have not been acknowledged or addressed. Despite what Jonathan White has said there has been no proper engagement with interest groups and stakeholders – particularly theatre groups, and the project is still being managed in secret by a 3 person Project Board, only 1 of whom lives in the town.

    With dozens of financial, environmental and operational questions from residents remaining unanswered councillors are being asked to give 1) a blank cheque for a project that doesn’t have even the most elementary of business plans and 2) the go ahead to construct a building that will satisfy no one and is in danger of being seriously underused.

    The hall is not a state of the art theatre, nor is it a multi purpose community hall – it is a black box with no natural light; a library/noisy cafe with a corridor to a gents toilet; and a privately operated medical centre. If there is insufficient take up of bookings on the hall Southborough residents will have to pay a subsidy for years to come.

    It is for these reasons we should be telling our councillors to do their job and provide us with a business plan so that we can be satisfied that the figures add up. They should tell planners that they have to do more work on the plans and ensure that the Hub will be fit for purpose and meet local needs before they seek planning consent.

    Regarding the Medical Centre my understanding is that this is a private business that has clearly failed to get it’s act together in terms of sorting out it’s lease. This should be an issue between the Medical Centre and the NHS that has a contract with them.

    I can’t understand why the council is trying to sort their problem out. I echo others in asking the question who is going to pay for the move to Pinewood Court and providing portacabins and major disruption in the Yew Tree Road car park? I am presuming that there will be no costs to council taxpayers for this but given the council’s record of managing money on the Hub project I seriously have my doubts.

    Like

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