The local estate agent Bill LeGrys resigned yesterday from the Town Council saying he was fed up with the infighting in the council over the proposed Southborough Hub.
There will now be a by-election in Southborough North before the end of January.
Mr LeGrys, who is a Conservative, told Southborough News: “The Hub is being used as a political weapon. The 18 Town councillors should just sit down round a table and get it sorted for the people of Southborough.”
Mr LeGrys has been convinced by the case made by Kent County Council that a new build and demolition of the Royal Victoria Hall is the best option, but he recognises that views in the town are still divided, arguing: “Maybe the best way forward is to have a referendum on whether we want to keep the Royal Victoria Hall or not”.
Mr LeGrys accepted there were still significant issues with the scheme that has been worked up by the County Council, including the materials and lack of bar facilities and theatre dressing rooms.
Mr LeGrys said councillors should be working for the good of the town and not their personal benefit and he felt Southborough’s main shopping street was struggling and desperately needed the new Hub to be a popular meeting place in the centre of the town.
He said he would make a fuller statement over the weekend.
Mr LeGrys didn’t attend last night’s Full Council meeting, which was an argumentative and lengthy event. The agenda published in advance had suggested a plan for the immediate demolition of the Royal Victoria Hall would be discussed, but after two hours it was announced that no debate on this could take place due to documentation not being available early enough.
Members of the public who had waited until 9pm for this news expressed their anger that their time had been wasted. The motion calling for the demolition of the Hall and Council offices – even before any money has been raised from selling the fields – will now be debated at December’s full council meeting.
This evening Cllr Nick Blackwell, the leader of the Labour group on Southborough Town Council told me he thought the controversy over Hub project could affect the by-election result even though he said the seat would normally be a “shoo in” for the Conservatives.
Mr Blackwell said: “Lots of people in the Town are very unhappy about the way things are proceeding and the fact that their views are being ignored. We had the recent SEAM campaign where we had an unprecedented number of people responding to the Planning Application – over 200- and we had thousands of people sign the petition as well. The Conservative group need to show that they are actually listening and responding to the concerns in the Town”.
I asked Mr Blackwell if there might be one opposition candidate to the Conservatives, who thinks that the Hub shouldn’t go ahead as planned and the Victoria Hall should be saved.
Mr Blackwell replied: “It will be interesting to see what happens. It will be 10 members of the public to call the by-election. I think it will be unlikely if it’s before Christmas….I know the Liberals will be keen to contest the seat. It may be that one of the local pressure groups also wants to put up a candidate. We will have to see what transpires”.