The architect Ptolemy Dean, who co-presented BBC2’s popular “Restoration” series, has studied the planned Southborough Hub scheme and condemned it as “poor”.
Mr Dean told Southborough News: “I think it is a shame that the replacement scheme is so poor, when something more thoughtful and careful might have been created that incorporated the existing building, which would have still satisfied the Council’s brief, but enabled something of the old character to survive.”
He continued: “Southborough has a rich architectural tradition. The proposed design might be anywhere, and would have been enriched by the retention of the existing historic building.”
Ptolemy Dean became a familiar figure thanks to his TV appearances on “Restoration” from 2006-2009. His firm, Ptolemy Dean Architects, specialises in conservation work to historic buildings, additions to historic buildings and the design of new buildings in sensitive locations. He also serves on the National Trust Architectural Panel.
Mr Dean used to live in Tunbridge Wells and now lives in Wadhurst. He said he knows the site quite well and his children have attended performances in the Royal Victoria Hall.
The design statement from Hub architects Pick Everard states: “The local context fails to create an architectural vernacular for the centre of Southborough and therefore it is the aim of the Hub to establish a new vernacular. The material palette for the hub has been chosen to create a dynamic and active landmark for the centre of the town.”
Pick Everard says the cladding to areas above ground floor “is proposed to be finished in a lightweight translucent polycarbonate material” of an appearance similar to the picture above. Pick Everard’s statement continues: “The civic and cultural functions of the building can potentially spread out of the building and animate a civic town square environment.”
Ptolemy Dean said: “Plastic cladding is hardly much better than UPVC weather board, albeit a different colour”.
Mr Dean continued: “The proposed redevelopment plan seems to create a large amount of empty public space where the present building is located – part of which I see is labelled ‘Town Square’. In reality, this won’t be a town square in any real sense as the buildings that contain it are too fragmented, incoherent and insufficient to enclose the space from the constant drone of passing of traffic along the A26. It would be better to keep and refurbish the old building and to create better and more meaningful public space on its southern side, with some screening of the A26.”
Mr Dean concludes: “If you visit the Trinity Church in Tunbridge Wells, the intimate spaces around the building here work much better than what is being shown on the Southborough plan.”