At the 2018 annual Town Meeting, Southborough residents were told that a contractor to build the new Hub development would sign up to the job next month.
The Town Council’s representative on the Hub project, Ian Kinghorn (above), was asked about progress on the site which currently houses a large pile of rubble from the demolished Royal Victoria Hall theatre.
Mr Kinghorn said: “The exchange of contracts is likely to take place in May with the contractor. They will then go through an evaluation looking at the design and that could take three months, we’ll say. So certainly three months after that, they will then go ahead with actually digging and building the foundations and building the actual Hub.”
Mr Kinghorn said the building would be finished “from when they start, it’s likely to be anything from 18 months to 24 months after that”.
The man in charge of the project for Kent County Council, Jonathan White, strongly hinted that after the three month “value engineering” review by the contractor, the Hub design will end up being significantly revised. Mr White suggested the planned curved glass design in the Library section was likely to be too costly.
Mr White said he’d seen the proposals from the various developers. He continued: “It does depend on what you like and what you don’t like. My personal opinion is that what was presented was an improvement upon possibly what we went forward with.”
Mr White continued: “I know it is a little bit self-demeaning for me to say that about a project I led on, but in my view, what’s being proposed by the developer is an improvement. One of the improvements is – for example – red brick not cladding going forward. So I don’t see it as a degrading of the project, I see it as an improvement.”
Labour’s Cllr Nick Blackwell expressed surprise that Council discussions about options for saving costs on the Hub had not been shared with the meeting. One resident asked the councillors “to come clean…this is just not on.”
The annual town meeting was attended by around 50 residents. But one key promoter of the Hub concept was missing: Cllr Peter Oakford – a prominent figure on the Town, Borough and Kent County Councils. Mr Oakford was attending an personal event in London.