New Tunbridge Wells Civic Centre “Will be a Place Making Cultural Investment”

LISTEN to YouTube film of Cllr Tracy Moore making the case for local taxpayers taking on a £77million debt to build a new Tunbridge Wells Town Hall and Theatre:

Around 50 local people attended a presentation at Southborough Library on Saturday 4 November where Tunbridge Wells Councillors argued that the Borough’s prosperity would be secured by the Council taking on a £77million debt to build a new theatre and Town Hall.

After the event, Borough Councillor Tracy Moore (pictured below) told Southborough News: “A lot of people I have spoken to have experienced for themselves the limitations of the [current] Assembly Hall theatre and are very excited at the prospect of a “fit for purpose” 21st Century theatre that can bring better quality programming to Tunbridge Wells.”

Cllr-Tracy-Moore Crop

When asked about the local Southborough referendum where 80 per cent of voters (on a 15 per cent turnout) opposed the plan, Cllr Moore said: “I think the difficulty with anything distilling it down to yes/no or black/white binary is that you are not looking at the nuance of the argument.  It is not the case of £77 million or nil.  To do nothing also has an extraordinary cost associated with it.”

Civic Centre 1

Cllr Moore promised that an improved larger theatre would tempt touring productions like the Royal Shakespeare Company to come to the town.  She said: “Tunbridge Wells deserves that quality programming.” Cllr Moore said that she wanted to make culture more accessible, with regional theatre much more affordable than a trip to the West End.

Tunbridge Wells councillors have recently been to see evidence from Canterbury that a modernised thriving theatre can create much wider economic and community benefits. The Marlowe (pictured below), which is owned and managed by Canterbury City Council, reopened in October 2011 after an extensive rebuild.


Marlowe theatre

The government now allows local authorities to benefit from local economic growth by retaining any increases in revenue from business rates, so Cllr Moore argued that “that growth [in business rates revenue] is what would allow us to fund discretionary and essential services to our residents”.

You can hear the full 11 minute interview with Cllr Tracy Moore making her case for the new Civic Centre (and her argument that views of Calverley Grounds will be improved) by clicking on the arrow below in the soundcloud app:

Councillors in Tunbridge Wells will vote on the Civic centre plans in December. Critics say the plans will require a half million pound annual subsidy to the new theatre and mean council tax payers having to pay £ 2.5 million every year in debt interest payments (or £30 per household per year), forcing cuts in key council services.

A petition has been launched which argues that: “Reworking and renovating the existing civic buildings would be far greater value for money than the current proposal with significantly less disruption.”

The petition link is here:

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