Apathy as Royal Victoria Hall set for demolition

Plans to demolish Southborough’s 116 year-old Royal Victoria Hall Theatre and create a new hub of public buildings have been sent to the planners but only five members of the public have responded with comments so far.

The application opened for submissions three weeks ago on 19th August, but many residents were away on holiday and few seem to have had time so far to study the detailed drawings. hub-allTunbridge Wells Council confirmed to Southborough News that the closing date for comments is in just two weeks time – the end of Friday 23rd September 2016.

The application includes these details: “The Hub comprises two rectangular blocks connected by a central space provided in the form of a circular drum….The cladding to areas above ground floor is proposed to be finished in a lightweight translucent polycarbonate material which will provide opportunity to illuminate the building at night and also present a contrast to the bold colour of the central roof during the day”.

None of the public comments so far have called for retention of the old Hall, despite a campaign two years ago in which 6,000 people signed a petition to keep it open.

The Royal Victoria Hall was recently rewired and is structurally sound but its seating needs replacing so it was closed two years ago.  Three views of how it looks now are shown below.

stage

Comments on the scheme can be made by accessing the Tunbridge Wells Planning site and searching for  16/06081/HYBRID.  One key document is “Design and Access Statement: 8 of 9” which is at the bottom of the long list of documents.

Plans have been approved by a majority of the elected councillors for Southborough, although Labour and Liberal members on the council are opposed to the latest scheme.

seats

(Picture above: Tiered seating and balcony at existing Royal Victoria Hall, built in 1900)

Given that the project has been developed in conjunction with the planners, the application is only likely to be refused if there is a last minute intervention from a statutory body like Sport England, the Theatre Trust or Historic England.

Sport England have indicated they will be commenting about the loss of two soccer pitches under the scheme.

rvh-in-1920

The picture above shows two local children in the costumes in which they appeared after a production at the Royal Victoria Hall in 1920.  I understand they were nieces of Charles J. Gallard, the former mayor of Southborough who made a speech to open the hall in 1900. No one at the Theatre Trust could tell Southborough News if they would be making a comment on the plans for a new theatre.  Meanwhile, Historic England have decided in the past that the old building is not worthy of a listing which would protect it.

4-balcony-stairs

The public’s objections will only be seriously considered 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

hub-hallIn the most recent submission, (Friday 9th September 2016) Matt Spink, who lives in Crendon Park says he believes the “designs look good” for the Hub, but he now opposes the development due to it being funded by the building of blocks of apartments behind his house.

Mr Spink says: “We will have an eyesore built behind us overlooking our garden and ruining our views and our privacy…I would rather not have the Hub if it means that these out of place, poorly planned dwellings do not materialise.”

The first three submissions were positive, with Jacqueline Prance looking forward to “long overdue regeneration.” She states: “It will provide a much needed focal point. Also the new facilities will be more environmentally friendly and cheaper to run and maintain.”

hub-library

Judy Rose wrote in support saying: “Southborough is in dire need of a facelift and the Hub will not only achieve this, but will also be a centre for the community to use and enjoy. I look forward to seeing the project completed and for it to become the heart of Southborough.”

Jennifer Wright, who has a flat opposite the site on London Road expressed concern about parking but wrote in support, saying: “we are excited by the prospect of these services for the local community – particularly as my husband and I work in theatre.”

hub-all

Another resident Lynn Green objects on parking and traffic concerns and says she doesn’t believe the town needs a new theatre. She also expresses concern about a lack of a business plan for the development.

Lynn Green commented: “I find it rather worrying that Southborough Town Council has not already considered the need to balance income and costs of running such a site….I imagine the cost of maintenance, security, staffing etc will be huge.”

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