“Vibrant Focal Point” or “Plastic Lunch Box”?

The Southborough Councillors who’ve spent the past year developing plans for the Southborough Hub are unlikely to be swayed by the balance of comments submitted by the public to the planning authority.

As of Saturday afternoon, 82 per cent of comments were opposed to the scheme, with 103 objectors and 23 supporters.

But Peter Oakford, who is the Conservative Town, Borough and County councillor pushing most strongly for the scheme, (pictured below) believes most of the 10,000 people in Southborough are ready for change.

OakfordHis planning comment argued the plans created a “new vibrant focal point for all residents”. He said: “The fabulous integrated design which brings so many of the services under one roof will lead to an active town centre which is something sadly lacking within Southborough”.

Mr Oakford said: “The inclusion of a new improved medical centre is critical as with the demise of the existing facility without this development Southborough and High Brooms residents will need to travel to Tunbridge Wells or Tonbridge to see a GP. The entire town benefits from this development including the 500 children and young people that play football on the Ridgewaye as the project includes a new and enhanced pavilion for the football club”.

But Richard Blackwell, who is a former Southborough mayor and served on Southborough Council for 31 years from 1972, says he “strongly” objects to the current proposals. He believes the Royal Victoria Hall is “much loved” and should be retained.  It is shown below pictured today with a skip apparently ready to remove its fixtures.


Mr Blackwell said: “It was an honour to serve two terms as Town Mayor. They fell during the towns centenary in 1994. The salute was taken outside the RVH on the day of our celebrations – the same spot that previous civic leaders had saluted the homecoming veterans from two world wars. Concerts, shows, drama festivals, exhibitions, the annual flower show and the much loved pantomimes were all enjoyed by many residents and visitors for decades.”

Richard Blackwell says: “I, together with others, negotiated the purchase and transfer of the former Ridgewaye school playing fields, some 15 acres in all to the STC. Our intention was to retain, for the town, these valuable open spaces – not for the space to be covered by 69 houses.”

Mr Blackwell concludes: “In successfully buying the land for the STC I never envisaged that the legacy would be the imposition of a “large plastic lunch box”, dropped in the middle of our town.”

facadeThe picture above was published by the developers as how the new hub building might look when given its proposed finish of polycarbonate cladding.  Below is the look today of the brick-built Royal Victoria Hall.


13 year old Eloise Martin commented: “I loved our library when I was little, the best I’ve ever used. The new one won’t compare. With no separate children’s library = no cosy corners to sit and read or enjoy story time.”

Eloise said: “I love to learn about the history of Southborough. My road and surrounding ones were once busy with corner shops (now houses or flats) there were halls, hotels and churches which are now gone. I urge you not to get rid of the RVH as well. I for one want to see it remaining for the rest of my life.”

The planning authority has said comments can still be made for the next few days.

Comments can be submitted in writing or by email, but you need to include the following information in order for your comments or objections to be registered:

  • Your full name
  • Your full address
  • The reference number of the application which is 16/06081/HYBRID
  • clearly say whether you support, object or are neutral on the proposal
  • your comments
  • email to planning@tunbridgewells.gov.uk

If you want to see clearly exactly what everyone is saying, I have created a page with ALL the comments in full.  Link to it here:


In addition, a delightful account of the events of 1899 and 1900 when Southborough was a proud and independent town can be viewed here:


2 thoughts on ““Vibrant Focal Point” or “Plastic Lunch Box”?

  1. Mark A

    I am absolutely astonished to see two leading lights in the Southborough Society support the planet nine application for the Hub. Whilst everyone, for and against saving the RVH, agree a the need for facilities such as the Library and Medical Centre to be included their support for demolition of the RVH and indeed denigrate its historical significance is absolutely astonishing. I am truly shocked.


  2. The RVH was left by David Saloman to ‘the people of Southborough’. What right have Tunbridge Wells Council (previously rated as one of the worst planning committees in Britain) to remove it?
    The ignorance and smug complacency demonstrated is what one has come to expect from our representatives. For goodness sake, let’s stop the rubbish that they want to impose on us, NOW.
    They have no idea about good design and sympathetic use of materials.


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