Petition Against Current Hub Plans Reaches 1,000 signatures: Local Priest says “pay attention”

The electronic petition that was started a week ago under the title “Southborough Deserves Better” calling for the current Hub designs to be scrapped reached 1,000 supporters on Sunday, only a week after its launch.

The evidence of continuing dissatisfaction with the Southborough Town Council project prompted the Priest in Charge at St Thomas’s Church in Pennington Road, Rachel Wilson, to say: “If a thousand people are upset, you cannot ignore it.”

Rachel Wilson put a formal submission supporting the Hub plans in September arguing: “this development has the potential to both support the regeneration of the area and improve community cohesion.” But she told Southborough News on Sunday: “I understand where the objectors are coming from. It is incumbent on the people in power to pay attention.”

The main petition organiser, Brian Dury (pictured below), said: “I am overwhelmed by the level of verbal and written support we have received… I would just like to thank everyone for their support and to ask them to keep on encouraging more signatures and for people to write into the planning department expressing their views. Now is not the time to give up!”


Brian Dury was born in Southborough and has lived in the town all his life. He has been involved in campaigns to save the Ridgewaye Fields from development since 1991.  Before retirement, he was a professional engineer in telecommunications. He is now Chairman of Kent Area of The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and visits schools to encourage students to take up a career in engineering, as a STEM ambassador.

Mr Dury told Southborough News on Sunday: “In just over 8 days we have hit and gone beyond the 1,000 signatures mark and the numbers are still growing. Together with a small army of helpers we have delivered 5,000 leaflets across Southborough and High Brooms. From Bounds Oak Way to Welbeck Avenue and Valley View to Bright Ridge we have received nothing but encouragement.” The petition site is here:

Strong opinions on both sides of the Hub debate were clearly in evidence when Southborough News spoke to people at random in the town on Sunday afternoon. Mike Lucas of Pennington Road said: “I don’t see any merit in preserving the ugly Victoria Hall…knock it down.”  A resident of Summerhill Avenue said: “I think the Hub plan looks great…we need new facilities…it looks positive.”


By contrast, Paul Funnell of Fernhurst Crescent said he thought money should be spent refurbishing the Royal Victoria Hall and reopening it, not knocking it down. Mr Funnell said his family had been amazed at the high quality of a production they’d seen there, arguing “it was so good in every respect…it felt like an evening out at a London theatre.”

The petition organiser, Brian Dury also told Southborough News that: “There is almost total ignorance about what is going on with the Hub and people are only now just waking up to the fact that within a matter of months the Royal Victoria Hall and council offices will be demolished, leaving a hole in the town like the old cinema site in Tunbridge Wells”.

Mr Dury, who ended his career controlling budgets of more than £ 100 million a year delivering new hardware and software projects, emphasised the financial risks with the current Southborough Hub plan: “I was surprised by the number of people who are asking how much the Hub was going to cost and who is paying. I don’t think many of them are aware that it’s them who are going to pay on their council tax.”

Mr Dury argued: “This is something we are clearly going to have to come back to since there is a complete and utter silence on the subject from Southborough Town Council. I think the public would be shocked to know that no councillor other than Glenn Lester and Peter Oakford could tell you anything about the Hub finances.”

glenn-crop-picGlenn Lester (pictured above), who represents Southborough Town Council’s interests on the Hub project, has previously argued to Southborough News that the Hub will allow the Council to build a new badly needed medical centre for the local doctors’ surgery.  Mr Lester said: “After 25 years plus of dereliction in the middle of Southborough High Street…I am passionate about giving Southborough back a central hub that will create a heart to our town to enable every member of our town to participate in what we’ve got to offer”.

Although the sample was far too small to be scientific, of 22 people questioned on Sunday afternoon by Southborough News, the results were:
* 14 were against the existing Hub plans to demolish the Royal Victoria Hall
* 4 were in favour of current Council Hub plans put forward by Glenn Lester
* 4 were undecided

Of the 14 opponents, only 4 had signed the electronic petition so far, suggesting that the petition numbers could grow further in the coming days.

The St Thomas’s Priest in Charge, Rachel Wilson, said she would support the idea of a Southborough wide referendum, with a ballot posted to every voter in the town to ask if they were for or against the current scheme.  She said: “a referendum may be the only way that all voices can be heard”.  17 of the 22 people surveyed by Southborough News on Sunday also agreed with the idea of a referendum.

Meanwhile on the Tunbridge Wells Planning Portal, formal objections are up to 191, which is 85 % of comments opposed to the Hub. On Sunday, Ed MacNaughton of Holden Park Road commented that the plans were: “not wanted by those living in the town, yet you don’t appear to want to listen to the majority…It is almost laughable that the theatre is not listed, but the Chinese restaurant next to the site is. It just shows what a mess your planning regulations are in”.

All the comments are available on this link:

The Planning decision is expected to be made on Wednesday 9th November at 5pm, so residents have very little time left to register their views before documents are prepared for the planning committee at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.

“Heritage Asset” Status awarded to Royal Victoria Hall – But Only Just

Tunbridge Wells Planning officials have agreed that the heritage value of the Royal Victoria Hall should be taken into account in the forthcoming decision on whether to demolish it – a decision likely to welcomed by groups hoping to save the building.

Previously the Borough Council did not have the ability to give any weight to the loss of the Hall’s heritage value, when looking at the merits of the planning proposal.  However, it seems the new heritage status is unlikely to be a major factor when the planning committee meets in the coming weeks to decide if the 116 year old Hall should be knocked down.

The news emerged as a petition against the current Hub plans continued to gain steady support.  800 people have now signed the electronic petition in the past 6 days.  It was started by veteran local campaigner Brian Dury and is explained here:

Meanwhile, on Friday afternoon the public comments on the official planning site totalled 189 against the Hub with 33 in favour, so 85 % are now objecting.


The Royal Victoria Hall is not deemed by Historic England to be a building of “national importance”, which means it has no national listing and so there is no compulsion on the planning committee to reject the plans to demolish it.

However, buildings can be recognised on a local level and 15 ordinary residents completed a three page nomination form in recent weeks, proposing the Royal Victoria Hall as a “Local Heritage Asset”.

The conservation officer for Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, Mark Stephenson, made the case in a 9 page document just published on the Tunbridge Wells planning website that “The Royal Victoria Hall be considered a Non Designated Heritage Asset for the purposes of this development proposal.”

thumb_img_5450_1024This status gives the same level of protection to the Hall as if it had gone through the process of being named a “Local Heritage Asset.” Mr Stephenson said this “Local Heritage Asset” category couldn’t be taken forward as there wasn’t enough time to go through the usual 12 week process.

The head of the Tunbridge Wells Planning team, Karen Fossett, Mark Stephenson and another planning official visited the Royal Victoria Hall on 7th October and decided after a hour long tour of the whole building to accept the Conservation Officer’s recommendation to consider the theatre a “non designated heritage asset.”

However, Southborough Town Council, which wants to demolish the 116 year old building, will welcome parts of the Conservation Officer’s report which effectively argues the Hall only just scrapes through the process in which four different categories are considered for a building to qualify for heritage asset status.

The Conservation Officer’s report says: “Given that the building would only meet one criteria in one category, the level of significance as an non designated heritage asset would be substantially less than for a building that met multiple categories and multiple criteria in each. Although some judgement needs to be applied to the importance of each category and each criteria.”

img_0974The new designation could help save the Hall in a finely balanced judgement, but if the planning application is viewed by the councillors on the Tunbridge Wells planning committee as having great community benefits and also meets the Borough’s targets for new house building, then they would still be likely to approve the current Hub plan.

A bigger block to the planning proposal is the objection from Sport England.  It emerged on Friday that the Hub team have proposed overcoming that by issuing new plans that mark out extra football pitches on the northern end of the Ridgewaye fields in an area that currently slopes severely and is mainly now used by dog walkers and joggers.

The Conservation Officer’s report included a lengthy debate on the degree of alteration of the Royal Victoria Hall.  It dismissed evidence that 94 per cent of the volume of the Hall (i.e. the inside of theatre itself) is still substantially unaltered.

img_0831Mr Stephenson concluded: “This is not, to my mind an appropriate value calculation. Rather, when determining the level of alteration, it is most appropriate to discuss the parts of the building that hold significance and how that has been altered.”

Mr Stephenson concluded: “The form and nature of the existing building can still be readily observed for the most part but much of the finesse has been lost or hidden.”

On balance Mr Stephenson concluded that the Hall should not be disqualified from heritage status due to the degree of alteration.  His report acknowledged that the pitch pine doors, Victorian tiling and banisters, the proscenium arch, panelling and ventilation system remained in tact.

thumb_img_5513_1024Here is a summary of the key points from Mr Stephenson’s report on the four key categories:
(1) Architectural interest: “While the building in its original form was typical of its period with interesting detail and form, and while its interior design appears well appointed and functionally the building is stated to perform well, there is no strong evidence that the design or construction is of a particularly high quality or includes any particular technological innovation.”

(2) Historic Interest: “It has been suggested that there is a strong connection with the end of World War II in that celebrations where held in the theatre…..However, such celebrations were held throughout the country in village, church and town halls of all types and sizes. While this is a national event of great significance, the connection to this building it is weak and does not confer any particular or unusual heritage merit.”

(3) Social and Economic Development, demonstrating an important cultural role within the local community: “I understand there has been a petition supporting the retention of the theatre, that had a high number of signatures from within the local community and beyond to surrounding communities and theatre companies or organisations. This has not been supplied either with this nomination or as evidence submitted by the public in relation to the current planning application. I am also not aware of the nature of the question upon which the signatories where asked to sign. As such it is difficult to give this matter significant weight….while there is good evidence that the building has significance to some in the local community, how strongly this equates to Heritage significance to the community rather than functional significance is difficult to ascertain from the submissions”.

(4) Townscape Character: “The loss of the original frontage and the removal of the enclosure and street trees resulting in an expanse of hard surface often used for parking have resulted in a more exposed, less accomplished presentation which does not contribute positively to the townscape in this location.”

Mr Stephenson concluded that only category (3) was possibly met.

Soccer Club on Ridgewaye says Trust in Hub Project Team “Has Evaporated”

The Secretary of the football club that uses Southborough’s Ridgewaye fields has said that the latest hub development plans for the area are “very very disappointing.”

Club Secretary Colin Niccolls said that trust between the soccer club and the Hub project team “has evaporated” and he has been “very frustrated” by the way the facilities being offered to the club have been steadily reduced over the past six months.

Sunday 2pm update: Brian Dury of the Southborough Environmental Action Movement (SEAM), which has been campaigning to stop development on the Ridgewaye playing fields since the 1990s, has launched a new electronic public petition against the current Hub scheme.  The petition gained 220 supporters on day one but probably needs around 2,000 supporters to make a difference to the Southborough Councillors who believe most people favour their scheme. See:


The Tunbridge Wells Youth Football Club motivates more than 500 boys and girls to play football every week. The age range is from 6 to 17 and the vast majority of the younger players are from Southborough itself.

Club Secretary Colin Niccolls, who has lived in Southborough for the past 17 years, says he is amazed that a small group of councillors are pushing forward with an unpopular scheme and “appear not to give two hoots” about what most local people want.

Mr Niccolls also told Southborough News that he understands that the KCC project team are attempting to overcome the Sport England objection to the Hub planning application by promising some major engineering works at the northern end of the Ridgewaye fields.

Mr Niccolls thinks they have a plan to build a retaining wall along the Ridgewaye lane hedges to bank up earth so that more of the fields will be made flat enough to provide replacement soccer pitches for those lost to housing in the Hub scheme.

Mr Niccolls says the plans for 69 housing units will obliterate two mini-pitches and render useless one full sized pitch. However, in the plans issued by KCC, the project team plays down the impact on the football pitches and argues that “The Football Pavilion has been sited to avoid impact on pitch layouts and is orientated on an east west axis in line with Sport England Guidance.”

The Design Statement sent to planners says: “This plan also demonstrates that there is no loss of football pitches within the AL/S03 site. There is still sufficient space for 4 under 7 pitches and two under 16 pitches to marked out on the field. The Football Pavilion and Ground Workers Storage Unit is located within the AL/S03 site boundary, however these facilities are provided to support the use of the open space.” See diagram below:


Mr Niccolls says that initially the club were optimistic that the loss of soccer pitches would be compensated for by a promise from the Hub project team of a large club house that would be a permanent base for decades to come and “do the community justice.”  Early in the process, he said “there was a real opportunity to do something for the community”.

However, Mr Niccolls says that the Hub project team are now only offering the club limited changing rooms in a building joined onto the Council maintenance block.  He said this is “worse in terms of space by a long way” compared with their current facilities and their concerns are being “ignored”.

The project team have stated that the football club are free to apply to the Football Foundation for funding to enhance the planned pavillion.


A key figure in promoting the Hub scheme, Councillor Peter Oakford, told Southborough News that he could not comment until after the planning committee meeting to decide on whether to approve the Hub. Public comments on the Hub are continuing to be published by the Tunbridge Wells Planning website and are still being copied onto this page on this website for ease of reading:

The soccer club currently use the former sixth form block of the Ridgewaye school and have spent their own funds creating changing rooms there.  This building is planned to be knocked down and replaced by new housing that will pay for the demolition of the Royal Victoria Hall and construction of the new Hub building.

Mr Niccolls stressed the importance of the club to developing a community spirit in the area as it “allows kids to be energetic, to learn to be active and develop team skills”.

The KCC planning application says of the new club house: “The building has been split over two floors to minimise the impact on the open space of the recreation grounds and also to maximise the views from the social space to the field where football matches will take place. By reducing the footprint of the building we have been able to maintain the existing number of pitches in this area of the fields”.

The KCC plan continues: “The pavilion will – like the rest of the hub – use a solid, masonry clad or render finish to the base of the building with a lightweight polycarbonate cladding at first floor to create a lightbox feature to the building”.

“Backstage” Pictures Reveal Secrets of Condemned Royal Victoria Hall amid New Delay to Planning Verdict

The long awaited verdict from the planners at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council on whether to approve the demolition of the 116 year old Royal Victoria Hall and its replacement with the new Southborough Hub appears to have been delayed again.

The agenda for this month’s Planning Committee (next Wednesday 19th October) doesn’t include a vote on the Southborough Hub. So the most likely date for a decision on the Hub is now Wednesday 9th November at 5pm.

Meanwhile, what may be the final photos taken of the Victorian tiling and other features in the backstage areas of the Royal Victoria Hall have been obtained by Southborough News and 20 of the pictures are shown below.


People who want to support or oppose the demolition of the Royal Victoria Hall can still  affect the outcome by commenting officially. You can either do a google search for “Tunbridge Wells planning” and then search their list for “hybrid”, then log in and comment. Or else simply email and include your full name and address and application number 16/06081/HYBRID.

The delay to the planning vote means local people will have a chance to discuss the scheme with the area’s MP, Greg Clark, who is due to come to Southborough Library for a drop in advice surgery on Saturday 29 October between 11am and 12noon. (His website says no appointment is necessary).

More of the backstage Victorian tiling is shown below:




Many of the Victorian fittings have survived in tact despite the changing fashions of the 20th century, such as the metal rail in front of the balcony below.


The supporters of the Royal Victoria Hall argue that the existing changing rooms (shown below) are still fit for purpose, and are actually larger and more usefully placed than those in the planned replacement Hub community space, where the changing rooms will also double up as the council meeting rooms.




This picture below suggests more of the original style of the building, before the rather bright red recent makeovers. In 1900 apparently all the wood was left unpainted.


At the front of the building, some of the original frontage ornate brick work is still in tact behind the 1970s facade (see below).


During the Second World War, the basement of the Royal Victoria Hall was used as a bomb shelter and these cast iron reinforcements below look to be from that time.


Below is the view from inside the control room at the back of the gallery and then how it looks from the stage.



Supporters of the old building also argue the roof is sound (shown below) and the electrics were completely replaced only a few years ago (new fuse boxes also shown below).



No one could be contacted in Tunbridge Wells planning on Friday to explain the delay to the planning decision but possible reasons for the delay could include:

  • Negotiations with Sport England who are objecting to loss of playing fields
  • Lower than expected land values from selling the fields after the BREXIT vote meaning the specifications may have to be reduced
  • Possible redesign of the new library – removing planned fixtures – so the area can be large enough to meet legal requirements to be used as a theatre foyer as set out in the Theatres Trust consultation response

Although 159 people and organisations have written objections to the current Hub scheme on the Tunbridge Wells planning website, the project team are still convinced most people in Southborough are behind the modern Hub designs.

The theatre groups that used the Royal Victoria Hall until its closure by the council in 2015 maintain the new facilities won’t match the Royal Victoria Hall (more pictures below) and productions in the new planned hall will have to be less ambitious.


thumb_img_5513_1024 img_0809

84% of Planning Comments Still Oppose Hub Plans

As of Sunday 9th October, I have calculated that there were 29 supporters and 158 opponents of the Hub planning application from named individuals or organisations visible on the Tunbridge Wells planning website.  There was one neutral comment. This means 84 per cent of comments were opposed.

The people of Southborough now wait to see what the recommendation to councillors will be from the professional planning officers at Tunbridge Wells.  The date of the decision by councillors is still to be announced. It is expected in the next few weeks.

The full comments are available elsewhere on this blog, but I have summarised them below, with contributors organised in alphabetical order by surname.


Mrs Jean Allanach Grimsby Some of the design is not to my taste
Cllr Bob Backhouse (Con) T Wells RVH is not fit for 21st century while hub will provide a much needed focus for civic purposes
Alan Collins Sboro Hub will provide improved modern facilities
Cllr David Elliot (Con) Sboro Currently mayor of Sboro – will put heart back into town and improve its appearance
Alex Green (Trinity Theatre) T Wells RVH would need significant upgrades to provide a venue of standard area deserves so redevelop
Cllr Nasir Jamil (Con) Sboro We get a brand new state of the art theatre
Jacqueline Jedrzejewski Sboro Hub will be the envy of other towns
Ian Kinghorn Sboro Can’t wait for heart to be put back in town. We need new hall for non-theatre groups as used to happen in RVH
Olwyn Kinghorn (Southboro Society committee) Sboro Loss of RVH offset by exciting community centre We hope for museum space in new hub
Benjamin Lester Sboro Saddening that RVH ends but need sth new
Sarah Lester Sboro Welcome plan to revitalise high street
Cllr Glenn Lester (Con) Sboro Building is wonderful opportunity for Sboro
Cllr Mrs Leah Markwell (Con) Sboro Football players will still have plenty of pitches
David Marshall T Wells I am a patient at St Andrews medical centre and it needs a bigger building
Neil Maxfield Sboro Object to theatre being included
Lindy Maxfield Sboro Hub access is badly planned but supports Hub
Judith Mitchell Smarden Hub will put heart back into Sboro
Gary Mitchell Smarden Owns Sboro shops – Hub is truly visionary
Ms Nikita Oakford Sboro Hub is a wonderful, new & exciting development
Mrs Sharon Oakford Sboro Hub will be great asset & meeting place
Cllr Peter Oakford (Con) Sboro Hub vibrant focal point & fabulous design
Jacqueline Prance Sboro Hub provides much needed focal point
Judy Rose Sboro Sboro in need of a facelift Hub achieves this
Mike Scott Sboro RVH is unloved and underused hall
Mrs Tanya Shaw (St Andrew’s Medical Centre) Sboro Hub will provide a bigger medical centre for our patients
Mrs Shahanara Uddin Sboro Area needs investment for regeneration
Cllr Zulhash Uddin (Con) Sboro Housing should be sympathetic to area
Rachel Wilson (vicar St Thomas’ Church) Sboro Hub has potential to improve social cohesion but residents’ concerns need to be addressed
Jennifer Wright Sboro Wants theatre but worried about parking/noise


Simon Miller Sboro Saddened to hear about loss of soccer pitches


Sharon Acton (Sboro Brownies) Sboro Our brownie unit have missed panto
Mark Airey Paddock Wd My online petition had 5,000 signatures to save RVH–no mandate to demolish historic RVH
Jon Alcock Sboro Hub is badly designed box– seats don’t face stage
Pauline Alexander Sboro RVH is a Heritage Asset
Steve Allan Sboro RVH has been jewel in the Sboro crown – no need for another community space
Barbara Anderson ?? * RVH is a treasure in the community
Sally Angell Sboro I live in Hythe Close – Hub is in my back yard – its design would make me ashamed and embarrassed to live in Sboro
Mrs Teresa Baldock Crowborough RVH is a piece of history – listen to people
Mary Banks-Murayama Sboro Majority of residents want RVH renovated
Ian Barker Sboro RVH is building of great historical interest
Mrs Leonie Barker Sboro Hub is not viable as a hall, let alone a theatre
Margaret Barnes Sboro People in Sboro are horrified at dreadful hub
Joanna Bell Sboro Please don’t destroy this historic venue
Amelia Bell-Richards Tonbridge* Air pollution will worsen for my auntie
Letita Bell-Richards Tun Wells Object to historic heritage being torn down
Keith Bennett T Wells Keep historic amenity given by Salomons
Mrs Judi Best T Wells Preserve RVH as a community historic asset
Gwendoline Betts Sboro Prefer to keep RVH – new build doesn’t fit
Martin Betts Sboro Hub is totally inappropriate in style
Miss Rebecca Bing Tonbridge* RVH is heritage and a great venue; Hub hideous
Richard Blackwell Romney Marsh* Former Sboro mayor who served on council for 31 years. Hub design is “a large plastic lunch box” dropped in the middle of our town.
Mrs Diana C Blackwell Romney Marsh* Hub design is an “eyesore”
Ms Diana Blackwell Sboro Hub design is not in keeping with street scene
Cllr Nicholas Blackwell (Labour) Sboro Was mayor when hub tentatively first agreed, it is untrue that RVH is not fit for purpose – RVH is structurally sound & rewired recently
Cllr Fiona Brown (Labour) Sboro As Head of a Drama college, thinks hub space falls far short of “state of the art” theatre
Tamsin Brownbridge T Wells Hub is a disaster waiting to happen
Sylvia Browning Hounslow We deplore demolition without reason
Laurie Buckingham Wadhurst RVH is a gem of Victoriana
Chloe Byrne Sboro Shocked and appalled at monstrosity
David Byrne Sboro Looks laughably cheap and ugly
Jane Carden Sboro RVH is an iconic landmark
Judy Cave Sboro Hub is expensive modern monstrosity
Mr Leigh Chatfield Sboro Objects due to loss of football pitches
Sophie Chatfield Sboro Preserve RVH for future generations
Sarah Clark Cranbrook* RVH should be renovated
Jeremy Clarke Sboro RVH should be restored as part of hub
Charmain Clissold-Jones T Wells Hub is shoddy design
Ms Dominique Clothier Sboro New modern hub will accelerate decline of Sboro
Mrs Katrina Clucas Sboro Hub is out of character of Sboro buildings
John Clucas Sboro Hub is severely detrimental to local area
John Cole Ramsgate RVH is part of rich architectural tradition
Alastair Collie Sboro Hub is not promised “state of the art” theatre
Dr Arthur Cottingham Groombridge* Hub is crazy thinking
Mrs Wil Crittenden Sboro Hub looks like sea front kiosk
Robert Darling T Wells RVH is an historic building
Angela Dewar Sboro Ugly hub design is extremely distressing
Michael Di Palma T Wells Losing 15% of playing fields not acceptable
Mrs Keren Dibbens-Wyatt Sboro Not enough consultation on library
Jane Dury Sboro Hub building is totally inappropriate
Mrs Rona Dury Sboro Hub design is out of character
Brian Dury Sboro Hub is poor design & out of character in town
Brian Dury (Southboro Environmental Action Movement- 477 supporters) Sboro Hub project team have not listened to concerns. There is no state of the art theatre as was promised. Polycarbonate box is awful. Totally inappropriate. Over development on fields.
Ms Adele Ebbage T Wells* Hub does not reflect the character of Sboro – volunteers have offered to maintain RVH
Tony Egan Pembury New hall in the planned hub lacks many key features of existing RVH; hub will be eyesore
Graham Ellis Sboro Lack of parking and loss of soccer pitch
Mrs Lisa Everett T Wells Cheaper to refurbish RVH than build hub
Max Figgett Tun Wells Hub design clumsy; robbing us of soccer pitches
RJ Fitz-Gerald Sboro I despair and it makes me think long and hard about whether I will continue growing my business in Southborough
John Francis Sboro Loss of soccer pitches for children
Gina Franks Speldhurst* Hub hall/theatre is not fit for purpose
Mr Sascha Fromeyer Sboro Hub will worsen existing traffic problems
Mrs Katharine Fromeyer Sboro Hub would encourage anti-social behaviour
Ian Gavin Sboro Planning process has not been transparent
Hannah Glenville Sboro Will cast shadows over my garden
Matthew Glenville Sboro Traffic problems due to 69 housing units
Sarah Glover Devon* RVH is a fantastic place to perform as I did
Mrs Shelly Goldring Soaks Hub design not in keeping
Lynn Green Sboro Don’t think Sboro needs a theatre
Rhiannon Grundy Sboro Historic theatre cannot be simply demolished
Ken Hampton Sboro Hub theatre has not enough facilities
Brian Hampton Sboro Hub is not a “state of the art” theatre
Mrs E Harris T Wells RVH is an historical jewel
Philip Harris Sboro Loss of parking for allotment holders
Miss Carys Hatcher Sboro Hub is overdevelopment will be an eyesore
Ms Cheryl Hatcher Sboro New housing will overlook my home
Ms Liz Hatherell Sboro Hub is hideously ugly & out of keeping
Wiz Haynes Sboro Noone trusts the council
Anya Heilpern Sboro Hub is incompatible with planning policy EN1 which demands respect for “context of site”
Andy Hennah Sboro Hub is not in keeping with Sboro architecture
Tabitha Hennah Sboro Designs not in keeping with vicinity
Adam Henry Sboro Loss of two 7-side & 11-side soccer pitches
Cllr Diane Hill (Labour) Sboro I was elected to Borough Council in May with 52% of vote after I campaigned to keep RVH
Derek Holland Mayfield* “superb theare” will be lost
Lucy Ireland Sboro RVH is last heritage building on London Road
Paul Isaacs Kent Why lose following of RVH?
Lucy Jarrett Pembury The proscenium arch in RVH is very rare – dreams have been realised within walls of RVH
Trevor Jary Surrey Historical sacrilege & loss to young people
Anna Jones Sboro Refurbishing existing RVH is far better
Sarah Jones Sboro As professional access consultant, plans have poorly written Design & Access Statement
Mrs Susie Joyce W Malling* Hub is a monster that sounds vicious & cruel
Tun Wells Labour Party T Wells Represents 800 members in TW constituency – Hub has little beauty & is not fit for purpose
Southboro & High Brooms Labour Party (100 members) Sboro RVH is town heritage building and should be renovated and modernised sympathetically
Dinah Lampitt Battle* RVH is a magnificent building
Dave Leech T Wells RVH should be restored not destroyed
Jacky Leman Matfield Hub is totally out of character for Sboro
Joanna Lewin T Wells Save the RVH
Alain Lewis Sboro Modernising RVH is cheaper than new build
Peter Lewtas T Wells Hub is cultural vandalism – RVH is historic
William MacDougal Sboro Poor quality hub – theatre design faulty
John Manthorpe Uckfield RVH should be cherished
Coral Martin Sboro My sons play football at Ridgewaye fields
Miss Eloise Martin Sboro Wants to keep library & beautiful historic RVH
Ms Claire Martin Sboro Hub fills me with dread – restore RVH instead
Ross McPherson Staplehurst* Reconsider this preposterous plan
Miss Catherine Meade Sboro Hub design is completely out of keeping
Richard Millett Hildenboro Hub makes me question my decision to move to Sboro – after BREXIT, TWEXIT moment?
Melanie Morris Sboro Hub will be an embarrassment to us all
Mrs Lindsey Morris Tonbridge RVH is much loved & historic building
Cllr Graham Munn (Labour) Sboro Polycarbonate cladding will look shoddy –bats live around buildings to be demolished
Merlyn Neve Sboro RVH could be refurbished and modernised
Paul Newton Sboro Loss of football pitches and green space
Will Northcote Sboro Loss of 3 soccer pitches unnecessary – council could instead use funds from sale of Speldhurst allotments – Hub is worst of modern architecture
Enrique Novella Sboro Highly unlikely that hub theatre will work
Eleanor O’Shea Sboro Restore RVH to its original splendour
Dominic Offord Sboro RVH is piece of British cultural history -my child cried when heard council were bulldozing it
Rebecca Offord Sboro Hub will be less economically viable than RVH
Andrew Perkins T Wells Loss of soccer pitches
Kathleen Perkins T Wells Loss of football pitches
Helen Phillimore T Wells Not all can afford the Assembly Hall prices
John Phillimore T Wells This is an historic town – keep history
William Phillimore T Wells Save the RVH
Andrew Phillimore T Wells Enjoyed productions at RVH
David Podbury T Wells Hub design not in keeping
Robert Podbury T Wells Hub design not in keeping, more pollution
Mrs Saffron Prentis Sboro RVH should be restored to former glory
Mrs Eryl Rayner T Wells Hub hall seats at right angles won’t work
David Rayner T Wells As a retired architect I am astonished by the lack of quality in hub plans – should modernise the RVH at much lower cost than a new build
Cllr Jason Reeves (Labour) Sboro RVH has local heritage & cultural value
Mrs Mary Richards Sboro Unacceptable to lose the green space
Douglas Richards Sboro I totally object due to loss of green space
Alan Round T Wells Proposed Hub does not respect character of town RVH clearly has local historic interest
Mrs Holly Rowden Sboro Historic building being replaced by monstrosity
Nick Shaw Stonegate* RVH is a unique facility for artist & audience
Mrs Marion Short Sboro RVH is much loved – hub is not theatre
Matt Spink Sboro Will have houses built behind my home
Annette Stevens Tonbridge* Pse don’t knock down lovely little theatre
Chris Steward Sboro Hub more suited to an airport terminal
Mandy Strong T Wells Please don’t known down RVH
Tom Sullivan T Wells Loss of football pitches & smaller pavilion
Donna Swallow Sboro Hub not an environmental design & pollution
Michael Swallow Sboro Plan designed by a secretive cabal
Andrew Swann (Chairman LAMPS theatre group) T Wells Short sighted and selfish to rob your society of such a unique and historic place as RVH
Michael Taylor Sboro RVH belongs here – it is the town’s hub
Susan Taylor Sboro Introduce new facilities without destroying RVH
Suzanne Terrasse Sboro Demolishing RVH for a hall is ludicrous
Andy Thomson T Wells Hub denies chance of children to play sport
Scott Towner Sboro RVH should stay
Miss Marion Townsend Sboro Hub design is truly ghastly out of character
Mrs Norah Traquair T Wells Hub not in keeping with the local area
Susan Trusler Tun Wells Strongly object to loss of playing fields
Sylvia Villa T Wells RVH is small jewel worth saving
Mrs Lisa Ward Sboro Hub will look ridiculous in Sboro
Mat Waugh T Wells Town square is unconvincing
Hugo Webber Sboro Preserve RVH, hub contravenes planning policy
Ms Diane Williams Sboro Design of the hub is an “eyesore”
Peter Williamson Sboro RVH is important piece of Sboro heritage. Hub is unfit for purpose & laughable white elephant
Brian Wood Sboro Totally out of keeping with historic character
Anya Wood Sboro Hub will have a detrimental effect on town

Sboro includes High Brooms;

*comment indicates they still use or have used Southbrough facilities

(Con) or (Labour) means they have been elected to Southborough Town, Tunbridge Wells Borough or Kent County Council.

Full comments at:


Tunbridge Wells Theatre Boss Calls For Old Southborough Theatre to be Demolished

In an intervention that has angered members of the Southborough theatre community, the Executive Director of Tunbridge Wells Trinity Theatre, Alex Green, has said the Royal Victoria Hall should be demolished.

The Trinity Theatre has received hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money in recent decades to convert a church into a theatre. It employs full time staff and relies on around 200 volunteers to offer a mix of amateur and professional shows. It now gets £45,000 a year from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, but Arts Council and Kent County Council funding has stopped.

trinityThe Trinity Theatre’s intervention came in a formal letter on the Tunbridge Wells planning website.

Executive Director Alex Green said: “As a venue operator, I believe the current facilities (at Royal Victoria Hall) would need significant upgrades to provide a venue of the standard the area deserves. Combined with the repair/maintenance and health and safety requirements there is a strong argument for a comprehensive redevelopment of the venue.”

He continued: “An entirely new build would provide the opportunity for the flexibility required to give exciting opportunities for the Southborough community. I am aware of the concerns regarding the suitability of the plans (e.g. dressing rooms and bar).If unlimited funds were available I would support the development of enhanced plans. However I believe that the plans are workable and with such a project a degree of compromise is needed.”

Mr Green indicated he accepted the assurances from the project team at Kent County Council, concluding: “In terms of the facilities, my understanding is that there are plans and budgets allocated for final fitting out of the technical spaces and that the venue should end up with a high quality theatre performance space. Additionally their intention to install sky lights and retractable seating should also allow the space to double up as a large high quality hall which could be used for artistic and community purposes.”

Reacting to Mr Green’s comments, Tony Egan, who ran the pantomime productions at Southborough’s Royal Victoria Hall for 30 years, said: “I feel very angry that Mr Green has tried to intervene with no real substance to his comments.”

seatsMr Egan continued: “Mr Green is wrong about the Hall needing major changes.  As far as we are aware, he has never produced a production or performed in the Royal Victoria Hall.”

Mr Green spoke to Southborough News on Thursday and confirmed that he had been dealing with the finance and logistics at Trinity for the past six years and had attended performances at the Royal Victoria Hall, but had never performed or produced a  show there.

He said he hoped the community would get behind theatre activities in Southborough whatever happened in terms of the way forward.  He said he believed more work had gone on “behind the scenes” by the Kent County Council project team on working out how to make the new hall/theatre space in the Southborough Hub viable.

Meanwhile, over the past fortnight, support for the option of refurbishment of the Royal Victoria Hall has continued to pour in from many of the Hall’s former users, such as the amateur theatre group, LAMPS, which first performed at the Royal Victoria Hall in 1955.

small-side-of-stageIn an earlier submission to the planning website, the Chairman of the LAMPS, Andrew Swann, declared of the Royal Victoria Hall: “It’s a wonderful venue, both in terms of its social history, location and its size. I speak on behalf of a huge number of people that have performed there as part of LAMPS, who would not have met one another and had such fabulous memories of such a wonderful venue.”

Mr Swann concluded: “I must write that I cannot really describe how strongly I disagree with the destruction of the RVH – I feel it is short sighted and selfish of you all to rob your society of such a unique place, and I thoroughly hope that when you foolishly push through this course of action, that one day you will look back and regret every decision you make here today. Sadly it will be too late then, as we now stare down the barrel of a pen striking the order to demolish our cultural heritage”.

ground-floorAnd in a comment added on Thursday to the Tunbridge Wells planning portal, the former Southborough pantomime producer of 30 years, Tony Egan rejected the Trinity Theatre Executive Director’s arguments.  Tony Egan said: “Will the new theatre in the Hub which he is supporting have the facilities of the existing hall, a raked stage? a fly tower? backstage space with entrances to both sides of the stage for performers? back stage toilet facilities for both male & female performers? dressing room facilities for principals? dressing rooms and separate toilet facilities for juvenile performer? front of house curtains? Large vehicular access to a scene dock door? None of these items are on the current proposal for the Hub designated theatre/performing space. But they are all at the Royal Victoria Hall which is to be demolished! The RVH is flexible and can be used for other than theatre events as it has in the past with good and enthusiastic management”.