Southborough’s Angry Voices at Annual Town Meeting 2017

The Annual Town Meeting held on Wednesday gave an opportunity for ordinary residents to explain their concerns with the two hours dominated by the Hub project and anger at the replacement of garages with more housing.

The full audio of the meeting is available here in 5 parts.  LISTENING TIP FOR iPHONES: Click on the words “Listen in Browser” in the pictures below.

The first section (below) lasts 9 mins and is where the Chairman of Southborough Town Council, David Elliott, gave his report. He explained he often used his “fantastic” electric bicycle to get to many Town functions.

Mr Elliott said the key event of the year was the granting of planning permission for the Southborough Hub and he said he was satisfied that “proper public consultation has taken place” over the development. He argued the Hub “will revitalise the centre of Southborough”.

The second audio section lasts 11 mins and starts with the report by Cllr Sheridan Bowie, who is the Chairman of Planning and Transportation Committee.  He explained that his committee had often objected to planning applications as overdevelopment but: “sadly in almost all cases, Tunbridge Wells have ignored our comments and approved planning.” He also said there had been “little success” in improving the bus service.  Cllr Glenn Lester’s report (begins at 1 min 40 secs) on Parks and Cemetery then explained there was new help for the fish in Holden Pond and there were new fences and a crazy golf facility in Pennington Park.

After 4 mins 25 secs, Cllr Peter Oakford (pictured above) begins his report as Chairman of Finance and General Purposes Committee. At 9 mins on the recording, he argues there is still “a small minority not supportive of the (Hub) project.” Cllr Oakford said the KCC project manager Jon White had taken “a great deal of abuse, but has always acted with utter professionalism to get us where we are today.”

Cllr Oakford announced a 2% increase in the Town’s council tax, which is a rise of £2.17 a year.

The third section deals with the Southborough Hub and lasts 30 mins. It starts with a progress report by Glenn Lester and then questions start at 7 mins.

Maxwell Macfarlane asked about forward planning for the management of the Hub theatre. Another resident asked why no survey or study had been carried out into the need for a new theatre before deciding to build it.

The fourth section is a continuation of the questions about the Hub and lasts another 32 mins:

The first question is about how the extra housing will impact on the traffic. KCC’s Jon White said “the car parking has been massively increased” in the housing development. Martin Betts pointed out that no business plan has been published and asked “how much is this going to cost?”

The fifth section is the 20 mins of general questions which followed:

They start with questions about cars parked on pavements and there is a very heated section about demolishing garages and replacing them with more new housing. After 5 minutes, one resident is asked to “calm down”. Then after 7 mins the exchange goes: “I think you’ve made your point…No, I haven’t!…We have lost 93 garages already, we are about to lose another 20”.

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