Southborough Council Holds Final Meeting at its Home of 140 Years

A rousing speech from a former mayor, Richard Blackwell, began the historic final council meeting of Southborough Town Council to be held in its building in London Road, which is about to be demolished to make way for the Hub.

Richard Blackwell (pictured below) served on Southborough Council for 31 years from 1972, and his speech drew applause from councillors of all parties. This revised report ends with 2 new links to video highlights of the historic meeting.


Mr Blackwell said: “It is probably 140 years since the Local Government Board met here.  It was the meeting room in which the first Urban District Council met.  I was privileged to be the mayor at our centenary in 1994 when we celebrated with a magnificent carnival through the town, a church service and a flypast.”

He pointed out that Southborough goes back to the 12th Century and is therefore older than Tunbridge Wells. He remarked: “One of the saddest days was in 1974… when we lost the autonomy we had as an Urban District Council.   The old council built 850 social homes in this town. They built a magnificent park, Pennington Grounds.  They claimed the common for the people of Southborough – people thought at the time that £10,000 was a lot of money for a piece of land. What a treasure it is today!”

Here you can watch Richard Blackwell’s speech in full :

He continued: “Sadly we have lost too much in this town. We have lost our secondary school, our police station, our ambulance station, three banks, two building societies.  One wonders what we are going to lose next. But it is up to you friends, as the representatives of this council to fight for this council. We have to put politics aside, put people first and have a vision.”

Mr Blackwell, who last year dubbed the new Southborough Hub a “plastic lunch box” concluded: “We have lost the argument as this building and next door is coming down, but always hold before you that we want the very best for our generations which are to come in this town but never forget the debt we owe to those who worked in this chamber.”


Councillors posed above for a final photo in their old home.

At the meeting Councillors rejected a motion to start work on a neighbourhood plan for Southborough to try to influence the planned major housing development that the current government plans for the whole of south east England. Paddock Wood has apparently decided to consult local people on a plan, but Cllr Oakford said doing so in Southborough might duplicate efforts being made by the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.

Jason old RVHBelow are 20 mins of video highlights from the historic meeting in the old venue (above) which I filmed, edited and then uploaded to YouTube. If you care about where you live and its future development, do take a look.  Regrettably, I will not have the time to make every meeting transparent in this way, so please do make time to watch these speeches from the people that represent you. Everyone who spoke is shown speaking.

Here is the second part:

Any comments? Do submit them to this blog or email

Developers wanting to build housing on the section of the Ridgewaye fields that is raising the money to build the Hub and the demolish the Royal Victoria Hall and council offices are being invited to bid for the land. Applications through Bracketts of Tunbridge Wells:


2 thoughts on “Southborough Council Holds Final Meeting at its Home of 140 Years

  1. Cheryl H

    Thanks for sharing. It’s a real shame to see STC consistently voting along party political lines . Where is the debate and independent thinking? Challenge can bring positive change when combined with collaboration and team work. Let’s not allow Southborough’s Spirit to be swallowed up and suffocated.


  2. BD

    Thank you very much for producing this very valuable record of the last meeting of our Town Council in their original council chamber; the home of Southborough Council for some 122 years. How very disappointing though to see the strict party political voting on the subject of Southborough & High Brooms taking ownership of a Neighbourhood Plan. The level of debate was appalling, with so few of those against taking part – all just happy to just play follow the party leader and put their hand up against their adoption – including two councillors who don’t even live in Southborough.

    This was particularly disappointing, as the Localism Bill was taken through Parliament by our own MP – Rt Hon Greg Clerk – when he was Secretary of State for Planning. Back in 2011 – Greg said “Neighbourhood planning will hand power back to communities to decide the vision for their area as they see fit, encouraging people to plan positively for their future. This is localism in action and the enthusiasm across the country for neighbourhood planning shows how keen communities are to get involved.”

    I was not surprised by the vote against though – back in 2011 the Southborough Environmental Action Movement (SEAM) was fighting plans to sell off some of the Ridgewaye Fields for a large TESCO store. One Councillor in favour of TESCO issued a challenge to SEAM and said – “what would you do to regenerate the Town”.

    In response SEAM produced an evidence based 10 Point Plan. This was printed in the local newspaper, along with a response from Councillor David Elliot – now Mayor of Southborough. Item 2 of SEAMs Plan was – “Develop clear and decisive objectives regarding the future of the villages of Southborough & High Brooms. Take ownership of a Neighbourhood Plan and develop a vision for the future, with the full and active engagement of local residents, in line with the Governments Localism Agenda.* (See statements below from Rt Hon Greg Clark MP.)”

    To this Councillor Elliott replied – “At present these are Borough Council responsibilities but we will have to see what the Localism Bill delivers once it is enacted.”

    To which SEAM replied – “Localism bill has now received Royal Assent. At informal meeting with Greg Clark he has consistently spoken of giving more powers to Parish Councils and the need for Neighbourhood Plans. Southborough Town Council should just do it and tell Borough our needs.”

    We need Town Councillors who really care about the villages of Southborough & High Brooms, willing to be active in the Council Chamber and speak their minds and willing to work as one team across party divides, to deliver a confident, thriving and vibrant Community.


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