The latest images for how Southborough’s new Hub have been released, just as the national experts on theatre provision called the decision not to include a cafe in the complex “a grave mistake.”
The statutory advisory group Theatres Trust said it did not have confidence in the long term viability of the Hub based on the latest plans.
The new images have been on display at Southborough Library over the past week. The old library will be demolished when a new library is built together with a Hall/theatre, meeting rooms and medical centre in the new Hub (shown below).
The view below is from the London Road looking south towards Tunbridge Wells with the new council meeting room overlooking the A26.
The Theatres Trust have written to Kent County Council, who are overseeing the work on the Hub. The Trust said: “We are increasingly concerned that the project is proceeding without a decision on who and how either the Hub as a whole or the theatre component will be operated.”
The Theatres Trust letter continued: “This is all the more important as the current proposals indicate that all front of house and back of house support facilities are to be dual use. There needs to be a clear vision about the purpose of this cultural facility and how it will be used to inform the design, layout, access and technical needs and also to ensure that this can operate effectively and serve as a viable and sustainable replacement to the Royal Victoria Hall”.
The Trust then says: “We strongly recommend the various parties involved in this project make that decision now and involve an operator in this design phase.” The latest ground floor plans are shown below:
The Theatres Trust notes that the planned capacity of the new theatre (shown below) has been reduced from 350 to 250 and it asks that “community groups are involved in this discussion to ensure that the auditorium size…is sufficient to allow them to cover the cost of the productions.”
The Trust’s bluntest words are over the decision to reduce the costs of building the Hub by axing the original plans for a daytime cafe that could double up as a bar in the evening during theatre intervals. It lists a number of places including Chester which have seen library usage rise strongly thanks to a neighbouring cafe.
The Trust says: “There is no provision except for a coffee machine within the library. We feel that is a grave mistake….A cafe will help provide daytime animation to the building and entice people to spend more time in it….theatres reply on bar income as an important income stream and potentially undermining the viability of the venue.”
The Trust expresses concerns that the dual use of dressing rooms as committee rooms will create clashes, but it does welcome the addition of windows into the Hall to make it more attractive for daytime events.
The project team at Kent County Council have indicated they feel the involvement of officials from the Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall in the plans means that advice from local experts has already been taken into account.
Further images are shown below showing the library and medical centre looking north from ground level:
From the same point but looking right over the Ridgewaye fields:
This is the inside view of the library:
The First floor plan includes two potential meeting rooms for Southborough Town Council:
This is the pavilion for the soccer club:
Finally, a view from above: