A plan to hasten the flattening of Southborough Town Council offices and Royal Victoria Hall was passed 10 to 6 in a full council meeting on Thursday evening.
£100,000 will be lent by the Town Council from its reserves to Kent County Council to fund demolition to clear the site by the spring.
The plan was strongly opposed by the six opposition councillors who say that the sale of the land on the Ridgewaye fields should be agreed before demolition and redevelopment starts, but they were outvoted by the 10 Conservatives who attended.
One long standing supporter of keeping the Royal Victoria Hall, Lee Ireland, had called for opponents of the current Hub scheme to go to the council offices and make their feelings known and a dozen members of the public attended but no one spoke in the public session.
Meanwhile, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council has confirmed the election timetable for the by-election in North Ward following the unexpected resignation of Conservative councillor Bill LeGrys:
Thu 5 Jan: Notice of Election published
4pm Fri 13 Jan: Deadline for Nominations
Mon 16 Jan: Names of candidates published
Thu 9 Feb: Election held
Only two people are needed to nominate a candidate. There is still plenty of time for residents to obtain postal votes if they think they will not be able to reach the polling station on Thursday 9th February.
Polling cards will be sent out to residents of the ward, which is one of the 3 wards that cover Southborough and High Brooms Town Council. The total cost to the rate payers of the town is thought to be around £ 5,000.
To emphasise this clearly, there is no vote in 2/3 of the Southborough Town Council area, just the North.
The following motion was approved at Thursday’s meeting having been put forward by the Conservative deputy of Southborough Town Council, Councillor Glenn Lester:
“That Southborough Town Council (STC) forward fund £100k to Kent County Council (KCC) in order to assist in progressing the Southborough Hub development including site clearance, subject to confirmation from KCC that the funds will be paid back following the successful disposal of the residential land.
Furthermore that STC council services be re-located based on the Collaboration Agreement as a matter of priority and that the representative of the board and the town clerk be given delegated authority to resolve any other matters to ensure that these outcomes are deliverable”
The following motion was put forward by Labour’s Councillor Blackwell, but rejected:
“That this council implements the advice of the Theatres Trust and agrees to undertake an Advisory Review of the Southborough Hub development conducted by leading professionals in the field. It agrees to undertake this process before moving to RIBA Stage 4 in order to achieve the best possible outcome for the new theatre and shared-space community buildings.”
More details of the meeting and video will be posted after Christmas. No plan has been agreed on what will happen to council staff, services or meetings after February when demolition starts but various options are being considered.
Planning permission will be formally granted at the end of January when final legal agreements on developer contributions are expected to be drawn up.
A recording exercise of features in the Royal Victoria Hall is expected to happen in January, which was one of the planning conditions. It will be done under guidelines set by Historic England.