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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.