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.”
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.”
And 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.