More Views 2016

My initial page of public comments submitted to the Tunbridge Wells website about the Hub planning application 16/06081/HYBRID contained all comments up to lunchtime on Saturday 25th September.  See:

https://southborough-news.com/views-2016/

Those that have been posted in the month or so since then are available on this page. (Was last updated 11am on Thursday 10th November 2016)

TOTAL = 272 comments so far (from both views-2016 and more-views-2016 pages). from named individuals or organisations:

Objections = 237
Supporters = 34
Neutral = 1
(87 % objecting)

For those comments that were emailed or posted, I cannot copy the text directly, therefore in some cases – due to lack of time – I have had to transcribe a sample of what the submission contained. Comments are available in full on the Tunbridge Wells Planning website. If any people have had their comments edited on this site and can email me the full versions, then please contact martin.webber10536@gmail.com and I will add in the missing bits. The Petition against the Hub had 1,274 objections.

 

Jeremy Bates, Western Road, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 10 Nov 2016

Southborough hub plans my objections
1. The building itself is appears nether traditional nor contemporary. It looks like a cheap throwback to the 1960s.
2. The residential blocks do not look as if they have sufficient parking for the units
3. The loss of recreational facilities is counter to the dire need to promote the health of the community. Recent projections predict that obesity and attendant diseases such a diabetes will break the health service.
4. The overall plan could create an urban village type setting which could become central attraction for the area promoting retail, recreation, leisure, cultural, activity. It falls short.
5. The library and community hall are a downgrade if existing facilities both being compromises. The library looks as if it will not even be quiet.

 

Mr R J Tillotson, Birchwood Avenue, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 9 Nov 2016

I wish to object to the current design and land allocation of the proposed hub,on the following grounds;
1. Loss of amenity as it will cause the loss of at least two football pitches,which are badly needed in our town which is already short of sports amenities for young people.
2. Spectacularly poor design of its main building which is not at all in keeping with existing local architecture. This is not anything futuristic or modern.It is another 1960’s type mistake which the town will have years and years to regret,before being demolished at some point in the future.
3. We will lose buildings with a history,to be replaced by buildings of no architectural merit,and a swathe of dense small housing again not in keeping with any local design. In summary,if the architects could throw away their 1960’s compasses and slide rules and replace them with talent,taste,design skills and imagination then we may end up with something to be proud of. A plastic,glass and stone box from “any town” adds nothing to Southborough.

 

Mrs Angela Darby, Summerhill Avenue, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 9 Nov 2016

I wish to strongly object about the proposed HUB for Southborough- as you are aware over 1,200 residents have signed the petition arranged by SEAM and we feel strongly that the proposed development will be highly detrimental to Southborough. Personally I feel that Southborough needs to be transformed and the Royal Victoria Hall should remain and be improved.

We need decent homes, businesses, a new Medical Centre and adequate parking. However, I feel that an incredible number of residents share the concern that the HUB is totally inappropriate and not suitable for Southborough. There seem to be secrets concerning the total cost of this project and surely we as residents should be fully informed of the proposed construction budget. I urge you to reject the plan and to rejuvenate the Royal Victoria Hall which is an iconic building. Planners need to be fully aware of all implications and mindful of the impact of demolishing this remarkable Victorian Gem in the heart of Southborough.

Last year I emailed all Councillors in Southborough and Tunbridge Wells to express my concerns. Some of them agreed with me, although others did not. However, a few did not even bother to reply. As you are fully aware the campaign Friends of RVH collected over 10,000 signatures in 2015 and this was totally disregarded by a small number of Southborough Councillors who agreed that the RVH should be demolished. I strongly urge you to reconsider this extremely serious matter and I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Mr R J K Bassett, Pinewood Gardens, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 9 Nov 2016

I would like to express in the most strongest possible terms my opposition to the principles and design of the so called ‘Southborough Hub Development’ and the associated housing development. As a resident and rate payer of Southborough for the past 34 years I have seen the decline in what was considered a thriving town of Southborough with it’s own identity gradually being absorbed into the borough of Tunbridge Wells. This proposal again appears to be another retrograde step.

I consider that the proposed development is totally out of character with Southborough’s existing street scape. I consider, like many other residents, that the overall concept is wrong and will result in loss of amenity open space. Also it will be a severe drain on public services and increase in traffic flow which currently is at saturation point. With respect to the aesthetics and siting of the proposed Southborough Hub I consider the overall massing, choice of materials and the pure architectural merit extremely poor and does not enhance or promote Southborough.

I am pleased to reinforce my objections below:

* There appears to be no consideration to the additional traffic that will result which will certainly add to the major traffic congestion problems and serious pollution in Southborough, which the Kent County Council and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council have not addressed or appear to appreciate.
* The loss of the historic Royal Victoria Hall donated to the people of Southborough, which appears to have been intentionally neglected by the Southborough Council over the years, to justify demolition and replacement of a heritage theatre with an inferior basic community hall. Had the planners been more sensitive to the Royal Victoria Hall in the past they would not have granted permission to construct a the hideous facade and canopy under the Southborough Council remit and therefore the theatre would certainly have been listed as a heritage building and therefore we would not be in the position we are now in.
* The over density of housing on valuable amenity space cannot be justified. This will certainly add to the school admission numbers which remain a problem at this time together with medical care and social services in the town.
* There is no justification for Southborough Council to have expensive offices in the proposed development when at this time there is a call for shared resources which could be easily accommodated for meetings etc in the Tunbridge Wells Council offices.
* The transfer of Southborough Library again is vandalism to demolish a usable functioning library to make space for further housing. The library certainly merits being retained as it has achieved a Civil Award and is ideally located for schools and residents. Therefore, my previous comments regarding housing and demolition vandalism applies here as well.

I consider that the whole development should be rejected and the whole concept be dropped. I believe the whole proposed development is yet another council ‘pipe dream’ and certainly not being carried out on behalf and for the benefit of the residents of Southborough, but to achieve housing targets set by central government together a monument to yet another failure of local governments unqualified decision makers. I am sure that the local residents would appreciate a sensitive approach by all concerned and taking into account residents objections to the project. Had the local council taken the same approach to building on open green space in Southborough as to the encroachment on Green Belt there would be no question of entertaining the building of the proposed 69 houses.

I am confident that at a minimum the Royal Victoria Hall should be retained, refurbished and rejuvenated so it remains at the heart of Southborough to be proud of which is what the residents demand. There is no point in moving the library as nothing can be gained other than more unwanted housing. Therefore, without the Southborough Hub there would be no need for selling off the part of the playing field to finance the project. I am confident that tax payers money would be ideally better spent on providing a health centre within the old council offices and refurbishing the Royal Victoria Hall which would certainly go a long way to satisfy the needs of the residents of Southborough. I trust the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council Planning Department will give due consideration to my comments with regards to this planning application and forward this email to the planning committee. 

 

Andrew Sharp, South Grove, Tunbridge Wells (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 8 Nov 2016

I am not a resident of Southborough, but a regular user of the A26. One of the reasons I moved to Tunbridge Wells 12 years ago was because of its fine buildings and architecture, not just in the centre of Tunbridge Wells but in its suburbs and surrounding areas. For many visiting Tunbridge Wells, the A26 through Southborough is their first experience of entering the Borough.

I am a member of the Pugin Society and take an interest generally in the importance of architectural design and how it impacts on a community. While I would not expect for one moment that the building should follow Pugin’s style, I would say that any such development should fit around the community and people it wishes to be its users. We are fortunate that there are many fine Victorian and Georgian buildings to see and with some exceptions newer buildings have been designed to be sympathetic with the area’s architecture.

The proposals for the design of the Southborough Hub seem completely out of keeping with the area’s heritage and architecture and I would respectfully request that the designers should go back to the drawing board and come up with something far better that is both architecturally in keeping with the area and meets the needs of the community.

Finally on the question of community, it is vitally important that there should be provision for Social Housing. Many sons and daughters of Southborough residents cannot afford to find homes in their home town. The provision of some social housing would greatly help the community’s cohesiveness if we encourage the next generation to continue to play their party in Southborough’s community and its heritage.

 

Victoria Marks, Darnley Drive, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 8 Nov 2016

I am appauled by the new Southborough Hub plans. The proposed building is an eyesore. Selling off the fields is unacceptable, there is not much green open space in Southborough and it is used by many, many people. Knocking down a beautiful, historic old building is a shame, surely a plan incorporating it would be far more acceptable to local people? There is already so much conjestion in the area, adding more housing is only going to make things worse. A dissapointed resident.

 

Tanja Wylie, Westpark Avenue, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 8 Nov 2016

Please do not proceed with the hub…I’m a tax payer and will like all of us fund the project.  We ask the theatre which is heart of the community please restore it to its former glory. Let us keep our football pitches, so we have places for youth to enjoy.

 

Petition – Southborough Deserves Better (Objects, although not counted here)
Comment submitted date: Tue 8 Nov 2016

Please do not approve the Southborough Hub plans in their current state. We want new high quality designed community buildings that are fit for purpose and are centred around a refurbished Royal Victoria Hall (RVH). We want less of our playing fields lost to development, and less in-town traffic congestion, parking problems and pollution. Signed by 1,274 people.  Names and postcodes supplied.

 

Martin Hibbert, Prospect Road, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 8 Nov 2016

The latest suggested exterior alone does not bear any resemblance to that which was suggested on the initial and following public consultations and therefore previous views expressed for approval should not be seen as to approve these plans. There are also several other changes that have taken place that have not been seen at the public consultation stage and the people of Southborough should again be asked to approve the suggested format.

Secondly the use of the land currently used for Junior football should not be used for public housing and certainly not to high level suggested. With the current increase of girls and womens football it will not be long before we need more football pitches and not less. The health of the youth of Southborough and the surrounding area is important and we should not be allowing the loss of any ground or building which supports healthy activities.

Thirdly, the planning application shows retail units which if successful (and I doubt that they would as only local residents would know of their existence), would take trade away from our High Street which would turn it into the drive through take away that it is becoming with boarded empty shops in between. Lastly I believe that there will be insufficient parking to supply an expanding medical centre, a library, a theatre, shops, and a café.

 

James Walker , Chestnut Avenue, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 7 Nov 2016

…you cannot knock down a historic building ….

 

Matthew Lyons, Bondfield Close, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 7 Nov 2016

1. Funds have been given to support the conversion and improvement of Trinity over many years, which rather than being an existing theatre such as Royal Victoria Hall, needed much conversion work to make it fit for it’s new purpose.
2. Arts organisations connected to the Assembly Hall (which would never be allowed to fall into the same state of disrepair or progressive neglect) have also received many years of financial support of different frequencies and amounts. Where was Soutborough’s help in it’s area to stop our theatre being run into the ground?
3. The hub has been an awful and flawed plan, which in respect of points 1 and 2, is subject to decades of smaller funding assistance which has resulted in bigger bills for progressively heavier renovation which has been needed since not just five years ago, but way back to the 1980’s. When has it never been a ‘good year’ for the council constantly putting the theatres future right down the bottom of the pile of help available in the last three to four DECADES.
4. The theatre design has no natural light and scant ventilation and looks like one of those new schools, where it is all glass , plastic and sealed windows, which becomes a disaster when the air conditioning fails, including wasted energy by not being able to ventilate. No bar area, no orchestra pit area, no storage for sets and stage have been looked at, with no information on the interior design being of any substance or assurance to justify this plastic box and the overlapping run through from council areas and the medical centre  space and activity. As a musician and with many friends in the theatre, I have yet to speak to anyone that has not been worried by the lack of information and scrutiny for design and also the vast majority know what the theatre is like and how awful it’s replacement will be in every way. It’s even an abomination by architects standards.
5. The original building should have been listed for it’s status and history.
6. Through a set of clashes and biased agendas for the complex overlap of the patchwork of ownership surrounding the theatre and hub development (KCC, TWBC and STC land) everyone is expecting something to happen to various pieces of land as part of how they expect their areas to be considered with planning agendas which, as a focal point as the only way of making the hub happen, is to build houses on the Ridgway playing fields.
7. The building of houses to make enogh overlapping cash into the pool that makes the new theatre happen, is totally unacceptable and is seen by the majority of residents as the “Tesco superstore land grab Mark 2”. There have been plenty of brown field sites contributing to the feed in congestion from residential units (former Kent and Sussex hospital, former Birchwood garage site, former milk depot/diary). The last area of green land for the public to enjoy in the centre of Southborough removes any quality of life and just makes the whole area a continuous residential place where people may exist, but have no quality recreation or free facilities. The common is available to the South but is far from central to the centre of Southborough.
8. Starvation of assistance from the Borough Council in sale of assets from Southborough from land to council house sales has been kept and not put back onto our community (re; points 1 and 2.)
9. Southborough town council do not need new council offices. They already have empty spaces and rooms in their existing building, which if not used, have not been used as a part rental to someone that could have given an income stream to help in the restoration of the theatre, yet field space is being sold?
10. The partial loss of land to the playing fields completely ridicules the proposal of a football club house, which the majority of residents did not want in any case. The sale of land on this field to a housing developer reduces it’s size considerable and with the reduced use, by default, will cancel a large number of teams that can no longer meet in multiple matches at the same time, therefore, rendering the clubhouse an oversized white elephant. This is like having a theatre where the stage is so big that there are hardly any place to put the seats for an audience to actually see anything! The football clubs started off as a few small teams that have grown in size but without inadequate parking. Southborough residents are well aware that STC have allowed them to continue to grow in size to the point where roads are grid locked with too many matches at anyone time. It is time to get this back into check and if the football teams want to continue to grow, they should, like the majority of growing clubs, use schools with large parking areas and fields that are already available. At the moment, the rent appears to be minimal or non-existent and if any is charged for use of the Ridgway fields, then why has it not been helping by directly contributing to the restoration of Royal Victoria Hall.
11. Tunbridge Wells borough council also stopped the football clubs using the access road that borders the allotments many years ago, which then pushed the increasing match frequency traffic into our residential roads. Southborough town council have made NO attempt to cap match team meeting numbers, allowing far too many matches and teams to place at once, causing often aggressive and obstructing parking practices by the attendees, including 100% on pavement parking. Southborough Town Council has many pro-football supporters and previous promises to get them to use the Hockey Filed opposite for parking to relieve the pressure of parking from adjacent roads has seen them to instead, allow the football clubs to use this field for even more matches, increasing the misery at the weekends further for the majority of residents in this proximity. This shows the council is prepared to take what they deem to be the popular vote over the concerns of the majority of residents in this area they are supposed to serve and respect.
12. The existing library and fire station buildings won a civic award for their excellent purpose and construction. There is absolutely nothing wrong with these buildings, they are exactly the right size for library stock and desk area and for engines and their space at the fire station too.
13. The doctors surgery has just renegotiated the lease of the medical centre and is fit for both size and purpose. There is no point in it’s resiting to a hub. All existing civic units are within minutes walking distance from one another and the whole hub concept is pointless by default!
14. Yew Tree road car park is also absolutely fine for purpose and of adequate capacity. The charge recently introduced to this car park has also increased long term parking in residents roads, with people working in the town and footballers now worried about the being a little over the two hour free rule and those mostly low paid workers in the shops refusing to pay for a season ticket in protest. This has increased a previously free flowing Yew Tree road and caused to have parking staggered on both sides, causing lots of weaving and parked vehicle obstructions, which has completely ruined the previous
steady and constant moving traffic in this wide road.
15. Providing extra parking spaces for the theatre and/or football clubs has completely overlooked that the capacity will become inadequate one more, for example when a restored or new theatre runs a Saturday matinee or other afternoon performance which is then combined with football matches. We WILL see the parking then go back round to all the roads encroach into the residential areas once more, cancelling any perceived improvements by losing the fields to provide parking spaces.
16. A reduced area for football matches, if running at their current unchecked level, will see the same if not more loss of the area of these fields, where some space is left for families to enjoy for general use, be it walking, picnics or general recreation.

In summary, this whole concept of a hub should have been talked down, as a ridiculous idea and struck off the very first minutes of STC when the first time such a concept was first tabled as an idea. Most residents want to see the council fight more for funding that is due them, the Borough council finally actually send some substantial money Southborough’s way, instead of looking at what is happening just in view from their own civic block or close by.

We have seen money wasted on projects such as “A day at the Wells” and other schemes where money has been made available for what is good for Tunbridge Wells central. What will happen when even the hub gets approved, when it needs a new roof or rewiring in 20 years time? In the same way that the current theatre has been able to be constantly be put down as a consideration for regeneration cash, despite poor governance and plans from STC, what to say we not need to sell more land on the Ridgway field to refurbish a new one in the next two decade. That will just a repeat of what is happening now, in the first instance this happens.

No attempt has been made for a joined up and fundraising or lottery application which deals with the RVH directly as an issue. It’s neglect is being deliberately used as a trigger and catalyst to set a chain of land sale events into action that serve few, it is a horrible building, a completely useless and unwanted hub. The fact that we have complex land issues with multiple ownership has resulted in each of the three tiers of council all wanting their own agendas satisfied, all built on a poorly thought out and completely unwanted and unnecessary concept and pet project that has got out of hand. RVH is being used as an excuse to take away our fields as the only complex way of getting our theatre back.

Royal Victoria Hall has seen many performances of shows and music which have made it the ideal alternative to the more mainstream shows and acts booked by the Assembly Hall, with many performances of shows and music that simply would not be able to afford the much higher rates of the bigger venue, or not be risked as they are not a big enough theatre or music group to be placed on the booking list of acts, with the balancing act of a large capacity venue and the need to make sure that this larger venue fills to a larger capacity.

For smaller shows, we should not have to travel to independent venues for a town of Southboroughs size. As part of reducing traffic and congestion, by securing the
restoration and modernisation of RVH, this would get more cars off the road and support the local economy here, in addition to the obvious heart it will keep at the centre of Southborough.

The whole process of the hub proposals put before us could easily fit into three columns of Private Eye, I have seen much less worse proposals or failures get into the Rotten Boroughs, Nooks and Corners (planning and building fails with historic property) or even ‘Levelling the Playing Fields.

Please stop this now and reject any more hub proposals, please can all councillors look at how very little help Southborough. As long as I have lived in Soutborough and people I have spoken to that have lived here longer, I have never seen a year where the Borough Council has not had a ‘bad year’ when it it comes to Southborough. The town council has barely enough money to pay for it’s grounds persons and keeping the existing building just about secure, let alone give them a coat of paint to stop them looking shabby and forlorn.

Can we for once, have one of your land sales or a cash grant in the borough for brownfield or other assetdispsal/ land release, for once, actually go to Southborough?? It feels like we are the town council that the Borough has historically forgot and constantly put on the finding and grant back burner ( the Southern borough of Tonbridge, if only we could get their help!)

Something has to be seriously wrong over many decades, when the only way of restoring a building is to execute lots of complex land losses and the pushing forward of a useless civic concept (the HUB) as the only way forward, I would prefer that the residents were allowed to jointly help in independent and hopefully joined up contributory funding to restore RVH, rather than see so much complex and green space destruction as the only way forward.

 

Michael Bonfield, St Lukes Rd, Tunbridge Wells (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 7 Nov 2016

Can you please explain why you would want to build an eye sore….

 

Wendy Wooster, Holden Road, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 7 Nov 2016

Southborough has a long history and deserves a building of greater architectural significance than the one proposed. Please consider developing the existing hall and its surroundings. Please do not destroy the green spaces that children and adults use.

 

Mr Zohaer Yassin, Oak End Close, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 4 Nov 2016

I would like to add my voice to the growing concern over the current plans regarding the Southborough Hub. The removal of The Royal Victoria Hall does seem a shame and the proposed new building a bit of an eye sore. An opportunity to really improve the centre of Southborough is on offer here, use of environmentally sound materials and design would send a message of sustainability and a build for the future , not just a quick fix.

The other concern of course is the loss of green space in Southborough , increased traffic and pollution. I do not have much to add to the above except that all the time myself and my family have lived in Southborough (since 1976)
any investment in the actual town centre/high street has been non-existent. Why is it we have to build houses/flats to fund improvement to a town? Why are we only interested when a project involves housing? Why if housing is necessary do we have to remove green space? I know the answer is money and cost but I would rather just see the Victoria hall refurbished and forget the Hub if we cannot locate new housing elsewhere. Has the council asked the lottery fund for assistance, seeing as it involves a site of special heritage?

 

Susan Oakley, St Andrews Park Road, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 4 Nov 2016

Dear Sir/Madam I am extremely disappointed that despite holding a public consultation, the result is a very unsatisfactory one for the people of Southborough. For me, the very worst aspect is the loss of two football pitches, at a time when obesity is continually in the news it is criminal to take away open space. I am also appalled that the mews style housing in the original plans is to be replaced by a four storey apartment block. It would appear that almost everything presented in the public consultation has been changed,with this in mind I urge the planning committee to reject the current plans and rework them so that they are more acceptable.

 

Martin Duhig, London Road, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 3 Nov 2016

I write to register my objection to the Southborough Hub development proposals. I wholeheartedly agree that this area is in desperate need of re-development, and I also agree with the many valid points already made about the knock-on effects of high density housing, increased traffic, parking, loss of playing fields, etc., but my personal objection is based purely on the ugly design of the replacement building for the old municipal theatre, which will form the shop window for the whole regeneration project.

Southborough, or at least the areas flanking the A26 south of the Tesco Metro, is already a bit of a grot spot. If the old theatre has to be knocked down, then we have a marvellous opportunity to create a statement building in its place, which would hopefully lead to other developers smartening up the surrounding empty shops & offices. The proposed design for the plastic clad building will become a carbuncle Im sure, & will let the whole area down. I dont know how far in the approval process this has reached, but I urge you to consider & invite other more sympathetic designs before consigning our town to further stagnation. Besides, as a main thoroughfare from the A21 to Tunbridge Wells, Southborough has a once in a lifetime chance (an obligation, even) to showcase the best of architectural design to visitors to the area, let alone the residents.

 

Ashley Adams and Mrs Ashley Adams, Yew Tree Road, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 3 Nov 2016

We wish to raise our objections to the planned Southborough Hub development. Our concerns are as follows,
1. Loss of playing fields for young people and recreation space for the public.
2. 69 + new dwellings will add pressure to already overstretched local schools, medical facilities, parking and traffic. No solutions have been proposed.
3. The suggestion that the Hub and new dwellings will not have an impact on the already log jammed Yew Tree Road is nonsense.
4. Despite the expensive new traffic light system at the London Road/Yew tree road junction, at peak times traffic is jammed well down Yew Tree road . The air quality must surely already be at dangerous levels to health, and to add all the Hub traffic trying to exit the Ridgeway can only make traffic jams and pollution far worse.
5. The Royal Victoria Hall is a much loved and unique local facility.
6. It is barbaric to demolish it, and replace it with a cheap, ugly, not fit for purpose Hall.
7. It has not been explained how the running of the Hub will be financed. How will staff, and maintenance be paid for. There is no such provision in the existing Southborough budget. Will our council tax be increased?
8. Finally the general local opinion is that the proposed design is cheap and tawdry. We have raised all these points at various meetings and consultations, but they have been ignored! We feel that public opinion and democratic processes are being flouted. We may have to consider seeking a judicial review if the secretive Council deliberations ignore genuine public concerns.

 

Alan Richards and Margaret Richards, Darnley Drive, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 3 Nov 2016

We object to the current plans for the Southborough Hub. We would prefer a scaled back fully costed plan which keeps the RVH, has less housing and keeps more green space.

 

David and Elaine Kerrigan, Park House Gardens, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 3 Nov 2016

We understand that the above scheme is being considered by the Planning Committee shortly. We would like to strongly object to the scheme as proposed and suggest that it be declined until it is revised in scale and mass, more readily respects the needs of the community, complies with various national and local development policies, substantially reduces its land take and particularly respects public open space and the recreational and play needs of the area. The visual amenity of the streetscape on this main route into Tunbridge Wells is also a concern, the proposal is out of keeping with the local area.

Of particular concern is the loss of open space for the construction of excessive numbers of residential high value housing units, presumably to fund the development. Once we have lost so much open space it will not be available for public use for future generations to come. The proposed loss of the town theatre, a significant heritage building with great history in Tunbridge Wells and with such relevance to Southborough is not acceptable. It has been greatly valued by the community over the years.

We have lived in Southborough for the past 28 years and brought up our family in the town. There is a great need to sensitively make sustainable improvements to the amenities and facilities of the area, to address the transport movements and vehicle numbers that clog up the town at most hours of the day, seven days a week, and to provide sustainable community facilities that are required. Having said that, the proposals as presented, having taken so many years to bring forward, are out of keeping in design, mass and claim far too much land to warrant the benefits that are proposed by promoting the high number of housing units proposed in support of the scheme in general.

Surely this poorly considered scheme is not the answer to the future needs of the community. The scheme should be rejected and a request made for it to be redesigned to be more acceptable to the community and townscape and to retain the public open space for use of all age groups and dog walkers.

 

Tessa Caroline Atkin, Pennington Road, Southborough, (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 3 Nov 2016

Whilst I am very much in favour of something finally being done in Southborough – ie the HUB – having lived here for 21 years and waited all that time to see all the talk of a Hub finally coming to fruition, I am extremely disappointed in what is finally being proposed. The look of the new Hub was one of my primary concerns – which I stated in previous questionnaires and consultation documents (obviously all a waste of time) – and to see what is being proposed is just totally unacceptable.

A nasty, uninspiring box, which is totally out of keeping with everything else in Southborough, should not get approval by the Council. The facilities within the Hub seem inadequate and not suited for purpose. After waiting so long for this plan to actually be put in place, please do not rush to the finish line and compromise all that COULD be good about the Hub. Please listen to the people of Southborough and give us what we want – not something that everyone will object to and end up not using. The Hub should be unifying the community, but this compromised plan is only likely to cause division. Take time and get the HUB right – we’ve waited too long for it to be the wrong plan.

 

David Reed, Victoria Road, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 3 Nov 2016

I would like to know why the people of Southborough have to put up with substandard boring ugly unimaginative plans, which will dominate Southborough high street for many years to come !!…I would like to know why we cannot have a brick building which will be modern yes !!!…..but reflect the victorian or Georgian architecture of this town and tunbridge wells ,But instead you seem to think that we should be ecstatic to have a building that looks like a monstrous blot on the landscape !!….we have a chance to have a building that Southborough can be proud of !!..not something that future generations will always say why was this ugly building aloud to be built !!!!!…

 

Alan Turner, Oak End Close, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 3 Nov 2016

I would like to register my dis-satisfaction with this building, the proposed and longdiscussed ‘Southborough Hub.’ I understand the concept of the building and how it could be a useful focal point for the Southborough community. However, the current plans fall down on every count. The library facilities appear to be an afterthought – especially when compared to the excellent facilities we have in Southborough at present. Even the Council accommodation appears to be inadequate. As for the theatre, I think the average church hall is far better appointed. And the outside? Oh dear. It makes the neighbouring blocks of flats at Hythe Close the epitome of architectural style. The vast majority of those who have an expressed an opinion do not like what has been proposed. Please, can this be taken on board? Can we try again? Yours, in hope.

 

Mrs Elizabeth Pretty, Breedon Avenue, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 3 Nov 2016

1) I wish to formerly object to the Southborough Hub Plans as they currently stand and have signed the SEAM petition.
2) The Royal Victoria Hall should be recreated as a multipurpose unit but I do not believe this requires demolition and a full rebuild. The building could more economically be brought back to use and remain as an iconic piece of Southborough history. I am led to believe that the building itself is sound.
3) The plans for a library where the world troops through at all times (as I understand from the plans) is ill thought out.
4) It looks as if there would be insufficient parking for visitors when so much parking space has to be allocated to houses/flats. The town can ill afford even more traffic trying to pass through; and what will happen to the work recently completed on the “intelligent” traffic lights at the hub. Will all that have to be re-worked? If so what a dreadful waste of money that will prove to have been.
5) Finally – what about the once lovely listed building that has been allowed to go to rack and ruin? I refer to the derelict “Water Margin” restaurant. Surely a compulsory purchase order is long overdue if the owners cannot be persuaded to do something about it. If it stays there it will place an eternal blight on any redevelopment which eventually goes ahead.

Of course something MUST be done to resurrect Southborough – it has taken 25 years to get this far but please be more practical and create something that will last and look good for the next 100 years. I am totally in favour of redevelopment but not if it is going to look ugly and be totally impracticable.

 

Brian Dury of SEAM (Southborough Environmental Action Movement)
Comment submitted date: Thu 3 Nov 2016 (not a new Objector, but new comment)

Having read Tuesday’s report from TWBC Planning Officers to the TWBC Planning Committee, we have found serious errors in the “facts” contained in that report which would invalidate the conclusion of the TWBC Planning Officers to recommend approval of the application. We will discuss the issues in detail before the Committee on Wednesday next week, but we are making you all aware now of some of the errors in this submission.

A: ERRORS OF FACT

(1) “Iconic Building?”

Para 7.69 written by the TWBC Urban Design Officer says: “It is vitally important to create a sense of place and an identity for Southborough – a design of its time, iconic and stimulating.” The planning officers report contains no evidence that an “iconic” design has been achieved. And the idea that a building, which around 200 members of the public in their comments to planning have argued is wrong in mass, design and shape, can be made “iconic” simply by late variations to the cladding materials – as suggested by the TWBC planning officers – is clearly false. The evidence provided in public comments from two independent architectural experts make it clear that the proposed design is a standard functional box of no architectural design merit.

Objectors include:
(a) Michael Lees of the Tunbridge Wells architectural practice ARC-ML that specialises in masterplanning with clients from Berlin to Riga to London who says: “The poor quality design that has been submitted should not have got this far…The plan form of the proposed Hub building is gratuitous and gives form to “blocks” and a circular element which do nothing to give an important sense of place and enclosure to the associated public space around the building. Good design does not rely on gimmickry of this type.”
(b) Martin Jameson of London’s Serie architects with (clients in Singapore etc) and lecturer at the Architectural Association in London: “The design is weak. Clumsy massing – two boxes connected by a disc….Architects are now expected to work with existing buildings when taking on public work”.

(2) Southborough’s Character

Para 10.57 of the planning officers’ report contains a fundamental error which underlies much of the reasoning in the report. It says that the Hub building will create a ‘sense of place within an area that currently lacks any coherent townscape character’. Southborough town centre already has a distinctive local character. The buildings are largely brick built and Victorian and Edwardian. This character is recognised in para 4.5.4 of the TWBC Local Plan which specifically protects the commercial part of London Road because of features of architectural interest which contribute to the character of the local area.

(3) State of Royal Victoria Hall (RVH)

The planning officers’ appraisal states at 10.21 that the applicant has confirmed various issues including the following:
– Royal Victoria Hall has suffered “drains and walls collapsing”
– Various surveys highlighted various problems
– The current building is not flexible
– The seating is screwed down
– The building does not meet fire regulations
These 5 assertions are all incorrect.

No walls of the RVH have collapsed. Southborough Town Council (STC), who own the RVH, have supplied to Cllr Nick Blackwell the Boundary Wall condition report by the company BDR dated 17 April 2013. This clearly shows it is only the boundary wall and not any structural wall of the RVH that has any issues. The Royal Victoria Hall is generally agreed to be structurally sound and recent visitors all say it is in “remarkably good condition”. According to Cllr Nick Blackwell, the issue with the drains concerns the plumbing of the 1970s toilets in the rebuilt front of the building, which is not structurally part of the main RVH hall. The drain issues will require some investment, but they have not “collapsed”.

The RVH was completely rewired five years ago, as explained in 2011 STC Annual Town Meeting Finance and General purposes committee (F&G) report, written by Cllr Peter Oakford who said: “The Victoria Theatre remains one of your council’s key focus areas and is an asset of our town that continues to thrive. The restoration has continued throughout the year with the re-wire and electrical work now completed at a cost of approximately £70,000, which was funded from reserves. The re-wire has designed to “future proof” the electrical requirements of the hall ensuring it will be ready for new equipment such as a PA and sound system, lighting etc.”

Mr Oakford went on to state in 2011: “A full fire safety audit has been completed; a new fire alarm installed and work is due to start replacing some of the ceilings in the back-up areas with fire proof materials. Some minor building works to the exterior of the building have been highlighted which will be completed this year.”

Cllr Nick Blackwell, who has been a member of the F&G committee on STC for the past two years, states that there has been no survey since 2011 that has identified any further essential works on the RVH demanding a substantial outlay.

The current RVH building has been used for dances, meetings and dinners over the past 116 years and so is clearly flexible. The seating in place since the 1970s (which was partially screwed down) has already been removed as can be seen in recent photographs. The health and safety inspector, David Menzies issued a risk assessment report, approving the new RVH movable seats in November 2014 and in his summary he says “this present arrangement allows STC to clearly demonstrate that they have eliminated the hazard associated with the use of the original folding seats by young children.” The hall was in use with these new seats for the December 2014 pantomime and fully insured with a small increase in premiums. The building does still meet fire regulations.

According to Cllr Blackwell, the RVH was passed by Jeffrey Lloyd of the Kent Fire and Rescue Service in June 2013.

(4) Views of Southborough Residents

Para 10.22 states that : “the local population voted overwhelmingly at the November 2015-January 2016 consultation exercise in favour of a new build”. This is incorrect.

The consultation in November 2015 offered just two design options: (a) demolish the RVH (with outline plan worked up) (b) Part demolish the RVH, including removing the balcony and cutting the seating capacity (with outline plan worked up) (c) Unspecified other (no plan) The people who wanted to retain a refurbished RVH in tact were not given that as an explicit option and so mainly felt they had been ignored and did not participate. The option to refurbish the RVH had been the most popular single option in the previous consultations. An expert in consultations all over the world, Ian Gavin, of Water Aid gave evidence on the planning portal that this November 2015 exercise was a “manipulated consultation”.

Mr Gavin also highlights there were only 369 responses from the whole of Southborough and Tunbridge Wells and says this: “represents about 3% of the population or 4.5% of those on the electoral register. This pitiful response…is in itself clear evidence of a failed process.”

In addition this wasn’t a “vote” of any sort. It was an event where supporters of the current scheme (Jonathan White and pro-proposal STC members) told any visitors coming through the door that “the better scheme was to completely demolish the RVH”. There was no alternative view available for consultation at the event. In some ways, it was similar in nature to the petition whereby dozens supporters of the RVH went round “door to door” earlier in 2015 with one opinion (saving the Hall) and asked people to sign up.

But there is one big difference. At the official consultation, only 214 people (that is 58 % out of just 369 respondents) supported the RVH complete demolition “new build” option. Focussing on the residents of Southborough and High Brooms, as few as 182 people supported demolition (that is 63% of 289 STC residents). On the other hand, 3,000 people from Southborough and High Brooms signed the petition supporting keeping the RVH open in 2015. Ten times more people responded to the petition in 2015 than the consultation.

The online petition in the past week launched by SEAM has made it clear that public views haven’t changed in the past year. No “vote” took place as claimed in the planning officers’ documents. That would require a town wide referendum with campaign material from all sides sent for residents to consider, something that sadly hasn’t happened.

(5) Facilities for Soccer and other recreation on Ridgewaye Fields

The planning document concludes at Para 10.93: “The new sports pavilion, improvements to the playing pitch levels in parts of the site to increase of the playable area of the adjacent playing fields will increase the playing capacity and enhance the facilities offered here.”

This is factually incorrect in many respects including:
(a) The new sports pavilion will not “enhance facilities” and is not an improvement on the current pavillion. According to the statement to the “Southborough News” online blog on 21st October by Tunbridge Wells Youth Football Club secretary Colin Niccolls, the new pavilion does not meet FA standards and “is worse in terms of space by a long way” than their current building hired from KCC next to the Ridgewaye fields.
(b) “Improvements to the playing pitch levels” to the North East of the Ridgewaye would require a large wall to be built to retain soil and a safety fence built above it, obscuring light to houses along the Ridgewaye Lane. Planning permission would be required, so this cannot be treated as a definite event.
(c) The facilities are not “enhanced” if the total playing area of already overcrowded fields is reduced by 20 per cent. The area proposed for marking out as replacement pitches on the north of the fields is currently used as an amenity for dog walkers, joggers and footballers warming up. If this is removed, there will be more overcrowding on the remaining space which may make the pitches more muddy and less usable for any recreational activity.

(B) RELEVANCE TO PLANNING POLICIES

The Planning Report disregards or misapplies a number of Local Plan or NPPF policies, partly because of the factual errors noted above. Given the lack of benefits of a landmark iconic building (as it isn’t), TWBC Planning Officers should review again their policies.

In particular:

(1) Chapter 4 of the Tunbridge Wells Borough Local Plan (Environment) Introduction: It is clear from Para 4.1 that the aim of the plan is to ensure that the unique character and appearance of the Borough is maintained and enhanced for future generations. Para 4.6 says that control of external appearance is of great importance in this environmentally sensitive area and para 4.8 says that all proposals will be considered in relation to their setting. Policy EN1: This requires “the design of the proposal, including external appearance, roofscape materials and landscaping, to respect the context of the site”. The context of the site is that Southborough is a largely Victorian/Edwardian town in scale and form. Para 4.14 stresses the need for high quality design. Para 4.15 says that a ‘landmark’ building may sometimes be taller or bulkier than existing development, but it makes no exception to the principle that building styles and materials should respect the local context.

EN1 also says that the proposal should not result in the loss of significant buildings. In this case, it is hard to see how the demolition of the Royal Victoria Hall can be justified, as it is a non- designated Heritage Asset. Policy EN8 This requires the minimum amount of lighting necessary. This aspect will need to be considered in conjunction with the rules on control of advertisements, as the proposals place a strong emphasis on ‘signage’. It hard to understand why the designers seem to regard coloured lighting and advertisements as desirable from a planning point of view.

(2) New Site Allocations Local Plan The EN1 and EN8 policies have recently been expressly saved by Appendix 1 of the new Site Allocations Local Plan. They are not overridden by Policy AL/SO2. Para 3.75 of the Site Allocations Local Plan provides that development within the allocated sites must still comply with all relevant national and local policies.

Para 10.19 of the report refers to the new SALP Policy AL/S02, which requires all efforts to consider retaining the RVH. As explained elsewhere, the demolition of the RVH is a choice made by councillors who have a preference for a new modern building. It is not something that has been forced upon them by the condition of the building.

Therefore the planning officers are wrong to accept in 10.23 that “the policy requirement for the applicant to explore opportunities to retain and improve the Royal Victoria Hall has been complied with and the reasons why this option has not been pursued have been clearly explained”.

(3) National Planning Policy Framework Turning to the NPPF, para 63 gives great weight to outstanding designs which help to raise the standard of design more generally in the area. As noted above, the Hub design is poor. Para 64 says that permission should be refused for poor design.

Para 58 emphasises the importance of responding to local character and history and reflecting the identity of local surroundings and materials (while not discouraging appropriate innovation). Para 61 requires authorities to address the integration of new development into the natural, built and historic environment.

The Planning Report denies Southborough its distinctive historic character and fails to address this integration in any meaningful way. Part 12 of the NPPF specifically discusses conserving and enhancing the historic environment. Para 126: requires local planning authorities to recognise that heritage assets are an irreplaceable resource and conserve them in a manner appropriate to their significance. Para 128 says that an applicant should be required to describe the significance of any heritage assets affected, including any contribution made by their setting.

Para 131 of the NPPF also states: In determining planning applications, local planning authorities should take account of: the desirability of sustaining and enhancing the significance of heritage assets and putting them to viable uses consistent with their conservation; the positive contribution that conservation of heritage assets can make to sustainable communities including their economic vitality; and the desirability of new development making a positive contribution to local character and distinctiveness. No real weight appears to have been given to these considerations in the Report.

(C) CONCLUSION

Having understood that the information that underlies the planning recommendation is inaccurate, we trust that the planning officers will alter their recommendation to refusal. Otherwise their decision will be at odds with planning law and so open to judicial review

 

John Britton, Carville Avenue, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 3 Nov 2016

As a resident in Southborough for the last 20 years, I have been left utterly dumbfounded by recent decisions surrounding a true cultural icon. The story of Southborough’s Royal Victoria Hall must surely be one of the greatest local tragedies of the 21st Century, fuelled chiefly by the tyranny of Councillors, whose motives will only ever result in a more ugly, marginalised, and intrest-free void, which used to go by the name of ‘Southborough’.

To view the site as a lost cause, rather than an interesting and exciting restoration project involving the people of Southborough, is a travesty. Surely the opportunity to develop the hall should be seized upon with vigour, with help from residents, for the residents? In light of the thousands of signatures on multiple petitions in objection to Southborough Town Council’s plans, public appreciation is hardly lacking.

The council’s job is to listen to the views of the masses, not to disregard the public opinion in manner that would not look out of place in a satirical novel. Is it any wonder that the hall is no longer viewed as solvent? The appalling combination of a lacklustre restoration a few years ago, just to say “we tried”, total indifference towards the current state of the hall, and an active lack of promotion or public consideration, so there will come a time when we have no option but to knock the decrepit building down, makes STC’s interests very clear.

The replacement idea of a community hub has zero in the way of cultural integrity, is a totally dismal embodiment of what Southborough will come to stand for, and does not present the potential economical benefits of a well-run historical theatre, such as the Royal Victoria Hall has the scope to become, and as has been achieved nation-wide with similar theatres. I hope you can appreciate that the hall is an asset to the life of the this historic town. I hope that you can show an interest in the suggestions made by organisations such as Friends of RVH, Sport England, The Theatres Trust, and Historic England.

And I, finally, hope that you can take an example from numerous other thriving municipal theatres in towns, similar toSouthborough. The Royal Victoria Hall is important for the forward movement of the town, and forms an illustrious character of the town’s past. Unnecessary bureaucracy and mistaken ideals will not achieve the cohesion we strive for as a community. I trust you will seriously appreciate the voices of the many thousands of locals who hold the same view as I do. Southborough deserves better!

 

Sascha Fromeyer, Crendon Park, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 2 Nov 2016

The currently suggested multi-rise apparment blocks will offer views into two of our bedrooms and the privacy of our garden…..

 

Nigel King, Bishops Down Park Road Tunbridge Wells (Objects) 
Comment submitted date: Wed 2 Nov 2016

I have looked at the above plans and feel compelled to object. Not because I am a musician who has performed at and attended many events at the Victoria Hall which enhance my memories of this area and my life in it, and because I would want my children to have the same chance, but because I think the proposed development will be a blight on the area for generations to come.

The proposed Hub building is outlandish in size, and completely out of keeping with the surrounding architecture. In its current guise it will be an eyesore of future notoriety. That’s aside from demolishing a piece of heritage to make way for it. Similarly, the proposal to build on the adjoining playing fields is a depressing adjunct. Instead of maintaining a proper balance between housing and recreational land, it looks like we propose to build on any spare space where it is cheapest and leave nowhere for children to indulge in activity that promotes teamwork, leadership, and responsibility rather than phone gazing, hanging around the town centre and getting legless at MooMoos.

I very much support the provision of affordable housing, but the level of recent development in Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding areas is too great. Although the public can object to specific planning applications if it directly affects them, there is no provision to question the sheer volume of development, en masse.

We are just about to see the impact on the A26 of the new massive development at the old Kent and Sussex Hospital site and adding another huge development at Southborough will simply add to the daily gridlock on that road between Tunbridge Wells and Southborough. The pollution impact alone should be enough to force a rethink of plans. In my view, Tunbridge Wells cannot accept more traffic on the A26, and that either has a knock-back effect to housing, or there has to be a bypass for the A26 to link it to the A21. And the latter requires proper public consultation on the route as it will necessarily destroy some part of the beautiful countryside around the town.

In short, to admit new housing in any volume that will rely on the A26 between Tunbridge Wells and Southborough we need to significantly reduce other traffic on that road and have a fully thought out plan for developing the necessary infrastructure and services for the new additionts to the local population.

Ian Dury, Lady’s Gift Road, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 2 Nov 2016

Please let me start by saying that I am not against the hub development as a whole and thank you for letting me have my say. I am not an expert in planning and these are my personal thoughts on the drawings that i have seen. I have not gone into any small detail (eg is a door big enough or placed right) but as a concerned resident of Southborough I feel that the plans that the council now wish to put before the planners are a missed opportunity and needs further thought. Do we really need such a large development that will require us to lose for ever our valuable green spaces.

At a meeting that we attended in the Old Victoria Hall, after the failure of the last supermarket bid to build a new store our high street, I remember that everyone was agreed that we all wished to see a rejuvenated high street where people would stop – a nice place – an attractive and inviting space. Im not sure that that was ever going to be possible but we didnt want to see yet another large, overbearing supermarket development.

I hear that a lot of thought has gone into the project and thank those councillors involved for getting things this far after so many years but I feel strongly that a three/four storey frontage as proposed onto London Road will not entice people to stop, shop or stay in the area.

m not against modern buildings, but I am concerned about the use of valuable space. There seems to have been no consideration to the way the new building will blend with the existing street scene – the old public houses the bank and alms houses. I note that some of the proposed out building have enclosed areas like the back of the bank – why not make them more open and accessible – even take the existing fences down from the back of the Alms houses and add attractive tree lined seating areas to the edge of the car parks – I know Im a dreamer but have seen it work in other towns around the country.

We have heard the arguement that the new frontage on London road will look great when careful consideration is given to the outer cladding. But I still feel that it will look intimidating and overbearing. If the front was a nice theatre or even a new Victoria Hall then maybe people might wish to visit but now any Theatre or Community Hall will be hidden within The Hub.

I hear that the planners insisted on rotating the original concept to ensure a retail unit to the frontage but on the proposed designs it looks as if the retail has been bolted on as an afterthought. Will the outside space beneath the rooms above not make this a dark and forbidding corner. The glass windows will get pasted over with ‘todays latest offers’ and other advertising.

Surely the overbearing theatre/community hall would have been better located to the rear of the development and the now Medical Centre bought to the front. We then may even had been able to open up the hall onto an attractive green field site when holding events such as weddings and flower shows in the summer months. Another lost opportunity to sell this space to any potential customer.

I disagree with the argument that this would not have been possible as you cannot have people looking into the Medical Centre from the road. The design at present indicates that people would be able to approach the outer walls if they were so inclined. If the proposed two storey Medical Centre was placed behind the retail outlet as at the Kidney Care Centre on St Johns Road. This then could have meant that the larger Community Hall / Theatre could have been placed towards the rear of the development and not towering over the high street. The view greeting people when travelling from Tonbridge towards Tunbridge Wells seems unattractive in my view – whatever you do to pretty it up – the the main design feature of The Hub will be hidden.

If we go back to the first concepts that were unveiled in March 2015 we saw a cental circular Hub with two larger squared buildings to either side and a smaller cafe building to the rear. The vision seemed to fill the towns requirements of a new Community Hall / Theatre and Library fit for its primary purpose. Although only conceptual at this time these ideas seemed to have been lost.

After a packed meeting in Southborough School in April 2015 it became clear that the designs and the theatre in particular required a lot more thought. In December we then were asked to comment on and decide which of the two revised proposals we the community would wish to pursue further. It was then proposed that a new building for a Medical Centre be provided.

Only five months later and a week before Southborough Town Councils EGM to approve these revised plans we were presented with the yet further downsized design that is now proposed. One of the blocks has now been entirely taken over by the Medical Centre the theatre shortened and the Library, Cafe and offices all squeezed into an unworkable central open space. Please think – is this what the community wanted.

The latest design shows the so called Library at the centre of the circular Hub and I am led to believe this will take the form of moveable book cases following a similar scheme used at the Eden Centre in Edenbridge. Moveable to where? Up against the windows in busy times? How is this ever going to work with the proposed Cafe and open plan Office Space also now in what I would call the Hubs Reception Area. I have visited the Eden Centre to see for myself and whether midweek, Saturday morning or evening I have never seen it work as Southborough town library does now.

The original plan of a ground floor library/study with learning rooms and a balcony overlooking – making the reading experience a pleasure is now lost – as in time will be our so called New Library.

I am not an expert in theatre design and I am sure that others will make their opinions known. But when looking at the proposed layout I do have a few issues. Surely a theatre should be an enticing and pleasure to approach but who is going to see our Front of House from the street without first having to enter The Hub. Will anybody want to sit in the single row, balcony seats up in the gods looking towards the audience on the other side. In my view, even if you angle the seats, this is not going to be a friendly space that will make your evening a memorable one.

During any break in the performance, as a man, along with any unfortunate disabled member of the audience, we will have to make our way back through the Hub to a small little boys room tucked into the corner by the entrance to the Medical Centre. Surely in a new build of this day and age we should be looking after and respect the disabled needs above all others.

This usuable Theatre / Community Hall is surely the most important spaces and will need to pay its way but where is its Bar and Cafe or a place to cater for those wedding receptions, parties and events that i cannot see ever happening if the present proposed layout is approved. If the ‘great hall’ was to the back of the development could we not have had a lobby or windows / doors that open out to our open spaces. Would this not be a more attractive draw to potential customers.

I understand that the Medical Centre is now an urgent need as they have been asked to leave their present premises in the Town. But this should not push to the back all of the other issues that this proposal brings. The Medical Centre now seems to have become the most important of the spaces taking up around a third of the original space. What happened to the separate Medical Centre as originally proposed? Some of the consultation rooms seem a little small to me but again I am no expert and Im sure that the final users will have their opinion.

Change has also affectected the separate Pavillion for the Junior Football Club originally planned to move from the old school site into a new purpose built unit of their own. Not wanting to be joined to the Hub for obvious reasons to do with muddy boots etc. it was agreed that the ideal site would be on the area of land between the two main fields that are not suitable for pitches, serving both fields.

I believe that this was not going to be feasable due to the cost of installing essential services but now a downsized version is to be repositioned on the Ridgewaye field. This will also house the now required Council Works Storage Unit that was to be moved or incorporated into the ‘hub’. This pushes the proposed pavilion out further into the playing fields and will mean shortened pitch layouts in the future. This area was never going to be built on but has now entered the overall development land grab.

With the original supermarket scheme at least the footballers would only have lost the two small pitches that would always have had to go with any development – but they would have had a state of the art pavilion built for them on the old school site!

Maybe some of this is down to cost. I dont know what the original budgets were. This together with the proposed running costs have never been trusted to the community that will end up having to pay. There was mention of £30 million in the press back in days of the initial concept but Im certain the end cost will be well above what was originally envisaged.

I hear that the planners insisted on turning the original proposed layout and other changes but it seems that all that has been achieved is a revised concept, a new build tweeked to meet revised criteria. We could miss a great opportunity that will end up costing the community both in money and losing our valued, open, green space with ever increasing, unconfirmed residential units needed to pay for this development. A development that I feel has lost its way and could become the towns New Eyesore to replace the old. 

Annie and Gordon Campbell, Park Road, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 2 Nov 2016

I write with reference to the above planning application. This is for the ‘HUB’ planned for Southborough. Whilst the Hub in itself is a good idea the design and proposals are definitely to the detriment of the area.

The Old Theatre which is a heritage building should be incorporated into the new design. This is a historic area and every small part of original buildings should be used and not knocked down to house a modern monstrosity covered in plastic cladding.

The playing fields behind should have a preservation order on them as they are such an important part of open space in Southborough. Why take away playing fields when the Government is consistently telling us that not only adults but children are overweight. At the moment these fields are well used and children and adults are encouraged to excercise and just enjoy the green space. This is an area we use most days for walking and taking our Grandaughter to play. This is a commodity too lacking in town environments and yet you are proposing to take part of it away.

The A26 is one of the busiest roads in the country and you are proposing to build a high density development on the playing fields. How is this going to affect a road already full to capacity, not to mention the local schools and public services already under immense pressure.

I urge you to re-consider this development. Progress this project with an open view to better the current design and make sure that it does not remove the existing benefits of the area for the local people.

Linda Jagger, The Ferns, Tunbridge Wells (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 1 Nov 2016

Firstly I was really shocked to see that the Victoria Hall, instead of being lovingly incorporated into the scheme, is to be demolished. I’ve been to performances in the Hall over the years, by Hillview School where my daughter was a pupil, and the annual pantomime. The Hall is a vital part of Southborough history and surely should be the heart of the unique design this historic town deserves. Sir David Salomons must be turning in his grave.

Secondly, please could the maximum proportion of social housing be included in the scheme. This would still provide a good long term return on investment and meet the pressing need for secure, long term, affordable housing for local people.

Thirdly, how could anyone, in the throes as we are of the obesity epidemic, build over recreational space in the heart of the community. Please reject this horrid proposed scheme. It’s not too late to plan an enhanced Southborough centre, rather than destroy the soul of the town.

Lee Ireland, Edward Street, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 1 Nov 2016

I read with some concern that The Royal Victoria Hall might qualify on just one count as a community asset owing to it being used for a VE Day celebration at the end of the Second World War. The building has a much richer history that many residents, including myself appreciate.

The fact that it was the first municipal theatre in the country after the passing of the 1894 Local Government Act, is very significant; a trail blazer in providing for ordinary people – something now taken for granted as the norm.

The next important fact is that the hall carries the Royal prefix. This was applied for by Sir David Salomons and granted personally by Queen Victoria, not very long before her death. Further than that Her Royal Highness also gave permission for the Hall to display the Royal insignia. This is no small thing, and whether or not you value the monarchy it is an immutable fact and a testament to that great Queens love for the area where she spent so much of her early years as a princess. To me, it is a highly prized seal of approval that our tiny town, sandwiched between between the mediaeval Tonbridge and the spa town of Royal Tunbridge Wells, had a place in the heart of the greatest monarch before our current one. For the record, Tunbridge Wells received their royal prefix seven years after her death.

The life of the theatre is just as remarkable. It was one of the first in the district to be commandeered in, October 1914, as a VAD hospital (VAD No: Kent 98) until purpose built hospitals were geared up to accommodate the returning wounded. The war and its impact are keenly felt in the town, not just by the older generation. Perhaps the most significant aspect of The Royal Victoria Hall is the association with the man who proposed its building and paid £3000 of the £5000 costs. Sir David Lionel Salomons was the second of three namesakes. The provision of the theatre and his desire for it to be used by the people of Southborough and High Brooms was an act of philanthropy that sits alongside his other achievements locally such as providing electricity to Tunbridge Wells and putting on the world’s first motor show in 1895. He was a very accomplished man in the fields of science, engineering, photography, astronomy, communication, motor and rail transport; in effect he was the last of the great Victorians.

We have very little in this town that reflects this man and his achievements, or that of his uncle whom every non Christian MP should thank for his unswerving effort in changing the law; or of his son, who died with his men; our townsfolk, on board HMS Hythe. The theatre was designed from the start to be a multifunctional building to allow for other activities. It has an elegant sense of grandeur that is usually only found in the old London theatres and on the occasions I have sat in the audience I have sensed that ‘Big night out’ feeling.

Over the years there have been a few high profile musical acts that have graced the stage. The Who, Fleetwood Mac and even Blur spring to mind, In 1908 a dinner was held there in honour of local boy Kenneth Lotherington Hutchings, one of the most promising cricketers of his era who helped Kent win the county championship three times and played for England on seven occasions before his untimely death on the Somme in 1916. Personally I have been there for parties, discos, watched live bands, pantomimes, been to jumble sales, record fairs, stamp collecting fairs, charity auctions and countless other events over the years. I have also listened to people a little older than me talk of dances, lectures and many other activities that it was turned to when it was managed properly by people who wanted it to succeed and see the community flourish.

I believe the hall has been deliberately run down over the years with a view to making it untenable and I would say those people should hang their heads in shame at what they have done to a building much cherished by all ages of local residents.

It is a popular misconception, largely put about by certain members of the southborough Town Council that those that wish to see a retained and refurbished RVH are against the idea of a ‘hub’. This is simply not true. I want to see local amenities improved and so do the majority in the town but not at the expense of a building that has provided a focal point for, indeed is part of the very fabric of our community.

The proposed plans, such as they are, do nothing to inspire confidence in the future of the town I have loved living in for the entirety of my 43 years on this earth and if they are approved I would be insulted to think that we are worth so little. The new building lacks any sort of character and will be made of materials that will not stand the test of time. My daughter has made more aesthetically pleasing block buildings playing Mine Craft. What many people believe, myself included is that whatever needs to be built need not be so far reaching and should certainly not cost £30 million. The new building will be financed by building houses on land that should be kept for its intended purpose i.e. Recreation and sport. The loss of any playing fields would be permanent and the increase in housing will only add to the traffic misery that residents already have to put up with, not to mention the pollution.

I do not wish to stand in the way of progress but I will fight to keep what we have. Propria tuemur, the town’s motto means something along the line of ‘we look after our own’. The Royal Victoria Hall is our own, given to us all by Sir David Salomons. They should be proposing a statue of a great man instead of extinguishing the tangible evidence of his loyalty to the town.

I would scrap the housing idea, build a museum next to the RVH and a hotel that could provide local jobs and an ongoing income. The archaeology coming out of the Southborough valley is exciting and unbroken from Mesolithic to mediaeval. A well thought out plan with a bit of vision and engaging with the community could turn the area into a serious tourist attraction with guided tours to local sites in the area (yes even Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells could benefit). Add a colonnaded plaza where markets could be held and maybe a shop or two and it might mean people would stop off at the town rather than drive straight through. Funnily enough, before it shut, the RVH was the only thing in the borough that did that.

Before January 2015, I had never been involved in any sort of protest in my life. Since then I have stood in the cold, attended council meetings, knocked on doors, delivered leaflets and voiced my anger at this sad state of affairs to the point that it occupies my thoughts on a daily basis. If nothing else you should take time to wonder why someone might feel compelled to change the habit of a lifetime, and for that matter my voting habit too.

Gladys Moorby, Bounds Oak Way, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 1 Nov 2016

It has recently been brought to my attention that the wonderful hub we were promised is not to be delivered. I have seen the plans and object to this project.

I whole heartedly object on the following grounds :

The new building is ugly & an eye sore– Southborough needs improvement, not cheapening. The once beautiful Victorian municipal theatre has already been disgustingly altered some 40 years ago from its original Victorian architecture by the Southborough Town Council. RVH was gifted to the Town by Sir David Soloman to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.

No recreation ground should be lost – these fields are used by many, not just the football club – please do not allow the precedent of selling off a sliver here & there. I fully support the Sport England objection.

The Theatre has less facilities than the current Victoria Hall, why does the town deserve worse facilities.

Does Southborough Town council really need new offices in a modern world of technology? Surely a front face with a couple of meeting rooms is all that is required. Many officers could work at home, or in TWBC offices, or an alternative where there are already empty offices in the town, or at Bliss a local community cafe. There are many ways to make these buildings disabled accessible, a hub, losing playing field and demolishing a beloved gift seems excessive.

Pollution and traffic jams are already a problem in Southborough. This problem will be worsened by the addition of Residential properties being added to the town. Why did we not remove the bus lane from the A26 between the TWGSB and Southborough fire Station, when travelling towards Tonbridge? A turn left lane could have been introduced into Speldhurst lane, which would have made a major difference to the town instead, but it was only done in the opposite direction at Yew Tree Road. It is often quicker for me to travel from Southborough to Bluewater than it is to travel to Tunbridge Wells.

I am registered disabled and see no sense financially or environmentally for this project to proceed.

Stanley West and Monica West, Hillcrest, Soutborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 31 Oct 2016

We wish the planning committee to reject the current plans so they can be reworked to retain existing Royal Victoria Hall, avoid selling football fields, cancel proposed new access via the Ridgewaye.

Mrs Jan Bates, Western Road, Soutborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 31 Oct 2016

The proposed new building to replace the theatre looks to be cheap, basic and uninviting. I do not believe that it would be in keeping with Southborough architecture. I am dismayed that you would propose to place the Library area together in the entrance hall/ foyer. How absurd. This local community are subjected to pollution, dirt and noise from the traffic congested roads so why should we approve of plans to remove more of the green spaces to build upon? I believe the playing fields should remain as they are for the community and for the young. I am very disappointed by the proposals and ask you to reconsider them.

Gary and Susan Howes, Meadow Road, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 31 Oct 2016

We oppose the demolition of the Royal Victoria Hall in Southborough. We need to perverse our buildings for future generations. We need to keep our playing fields and open spaces for people to enjoy and children need to exercise outside, too many children are obese and spend too much time in front of electronic devices indoors. We do not need any more high density housing, the traffic problem and parking in this area is already at its limit.

John Stedman, Springfield Road, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 31 Oct 2016

I have just seen a picture of the proposed new “Southborough Hub”. My family have lived in Southborough for over 150 years, my grandfather, father and myself were all born here. I am appalled at this monstrosity.

Did you employ an architect (if so, get your money back) or did you order this from Wickes? It is totally out of character for the area, and shows no trace of design or thought. It is disgraceful that not only are we losing 2 playing fields (and I have been involved with junior football for many years) but we are losing one of the few remaining theatres in the area.

Tunbridge Wells is already a laughing stock and the 14 year fiasco of the old cinema site in the town is pure Monty Python. Is there no-one in the planning department with an ounce of common sense? How can this potential disaster have got this far?

Rest assured that I will do everything in my power and gather every supporter I can to stop this – how can we tell the next generation that we allowed this plastic shed to replace our theatre? What an opportunity missed, anyone associated with this should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. John Stedman  (a proud resident who will not allow this shambles to go ahead).

Michael Howes, Holden Road, Southborough (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Mon 31 Oct 2016

I urge the planning committee to support this application. It offers a long awaited opportunity to improve the neglected and unsightly plot on London Road which is detrimental to the landscape. The Hub will be a focal point for Southborough and will improve the community feel of the town with the provision of facilities such as a community hall/theatre, library, town square, council offices and coffee shop in one area. Residents of Southborough have had to endure 20+ years of political stalemate; we now have an exciting opportunity to look to the future and give the town the improvements it deserves.

Joseph, Patricia and Thomas Arnold, Hardinge Avenue, Southborough (Object)
Comment submitted date: Mon 31 Oct 2016

Sorry unable to sign the online petition. We are very much against the proposed. We feel it “cheap and nasty” and certainly not in keeping with the town.

Angela Lees and Michael Lees, Chapel Place, Tunbridge Wells (Object)
Comment submitted date: Mon 31 Oct 2016

(Their website states that they are professional architects from a practice that specialises in masterplanning, with offices in Tunbridge Wells and Berlin. Recent development locations include Berlin, Bucharest, Gdansk, London, Riga, Vilnius and Warsaw. Sites include urban waterfront, urban marginal, and brownfield redevelopment.)

Summary

Whilst we welcome the principle of a community Hub and of the densification of a backland site to provide residential areas, we write to object to the design approach and detail of proposals for the redevelopment of the Royal Victoria Hall site. These proposals ignore the local architectural context, the urban scale of the surrounds and the established pattern of urban development. Furthermore,our objection extends to a procedural point because the submitted documents are inadequate for their important purpose of allowing the interested public and the Planning Authority to gain a proper and critical understanding of the content of the application.

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, KCC and Southborough Town Council should lead the way with good quality design on their own projects. The poor quality design that has been submitted should not have got this far without earlier intervention by the Planning Authority to insist on good urban design standards for the Borough.

Our objections and observations are also detailed.

  1. The Royal Victoria Hall, which is proposed for demolition, is part of Southborough’s heritage and, as the first Municipal Theatre in England and paid for by a local philanthropist, it should be kept in some suitable form. This should mean demolition of the ill-suited 1970s alterations to the frontage, restoration, and a careful reassignment of its use to form part of the desired Hub. The original building has architectural charm and is suitably scaled for the street in which it sits. It should be recognised that many a British town, or more particularly many a Local Authority, would have listed a building of this architectural and townscape quality and local historical interest a long time ago. The consultation of the residents ought to have included a demonstration of how the existing building might be retained in a desired Hub either as a main or subsidiary element.
  1. The proposed Hub building fails to address the London Road which is its setting as well as being one of the important approach roads to Tunbridge Wells. Instead of addressing the London Road and contributing to a frontage consistent with the established linear pattern of that street,the proposed Hub turns itself to address loosely defined public space to the side.
  1. The proposed Hub building is wrong in This is not a position for a solitaire building but rather a place for well-mannered architectural design and good urban planning which holds the existing locality together visually. Instead of this the proposed Hub tends towards the category of attention seeking architecture commonly found in a commercial strip. Southborough will not benefit from aping Blackpool but would benefit from a building which follows modest architectural and urban design rules to fit and to contribute to an air of being Southborough.
  1. The plan form of the proposed Hub building is gratuitous and gives form to blocks’ and a circular element which do nothing to give an important sense of place and enclosure to the associated public space around the building. With all of today’s emphasis on the importance of the public realm, and this, a key building project, it is surprising to see this aspect lacking or misunderstood by the designers. The circular form is without precedent and rather than be part of an integrated articulated design, it jars with the buildings it seeks to pull together. Good design does not rely on gimmickry of this type.It is difficult to understand the driving force behind the odd shaped ‘square’ and the arbitrary space between the blocks. Where does it lead to? A plan which recognised the importance of the frontage to the urban grain and which properly occupied the site could well have generated a less bulky massing and allowed a building to emerge in keeping with its neighbours.
  1. As a result of the poor plan,the scale of the proposed development is inappropriate and will dwarf the neighbourhood and mar the charm of the Scale is referred to in some of the design explanations of the application but mainly to give justification to the height of the proposed new Hub. This is only part of the story and this limits a proper appreciation.The discussion of scale must start with a declaration of what generally characterises the scale of that area of the London Road and it is that of mainly late Georgian and Victorian two-three storey buildings. It is correct to note the scale of the adjacent group of mid-20th Century residential buildings but not to raise it as a justification for a relatively tall Hub building. These residential buildings are an error in local scale which is immediately apparent in the approach from the north. Moreover, to increase the occurrence of this scale with the height of the proposed Hub will be to further weaken the sense of the existing more modest scale of the locality. One could argue that this raising of scale in a street happens all the time, but the established scale and quality of buildings here in Southborough preclude this approach. The proposals sit with a listed building to the immediate south,an exemplar Edwardian bank building just beyond and the charming alms houses further along and these together with those modestly scaled buildings on the opposite side of the road make a character and scale which should be respected.The matter of scale goes further into the content of the application because it is notable that the Council have validated drawings 552-PE-01-ZZ-DR-A-1207 and 552-PE-01-ZZ­ DR-A-1208. These are elevations of the proposed Hub which show it without its neighbouring buildings. This is a highly unusual approach in townscape design because the absence of these buildings can lead to an inability in the reader to form a judgement on the appropriate scale of the proposals. Even the visuals such as 552-PE-XX-XX-DR­ A-0220 etc. show the proposed building without its neighbours.Scaling from the drawings, the eaves level of the existing theatre is approx. 8.5m to the rear. The street facade has eaves of 6.3m rising to 7m in the centre. The level of the proposed eaves is 14m, in other words double the height of the existing frontage. This would be recognisable if the neighbouring buildings were shown. The proposed elevations should,at the very least, be shown with the neighbouring listed building, the Water Margin, indicated. It should be noted that the presence of the 1970s balcony access residential building does not license insensitive design for historic Southborough.
  1. The proposed Hub building does not contribute to the local architectural setting and the architect Pick Everard’s statement that ‘the local context fails to create an architectural vernacular for the centre of Southborough and therefore it is the aim of the Hub to establish a new vernacular’, betrays a completely misguided aim. Firstly, the architectural attributes and consistencies, already referred to here,are the effective and charming vernacular of this locality and the architect has ignored The secondary retail in this part of Southborough should not distract the designers from the architecture which it occupies. Secondly the architect’s notion that the extraordinary architecture of the proposed Hub should become the new vernacular’ clearly states the aim of this architecture becoming the dominant architectural character for London Road! Tunbridge Wells and Southborough have generally come about through a combination of understated architecture which, appreciated as a whole, is the overriding charm of the location.
  1. The materials proposed are not listed on the elevation drawings which is also an unusual approach to the planning The Design and Access Statement says: constructed as a rain screen system with panels or render to achieve a uniform contrast to the lightweight translucent material which is proposed to clad the mass of the hall space and the circulation core ‘. The DAS is not a statutory document but is, again, more than a little vague about the materials for the proposed construction. “A lightweight translucent material’ is not a traditional building material. While it is undoubtedly a relatively cheap material, it is not one which improves with age and is not an appropriate approach in this setting where the surrounding buildings are either of brick or rendered construction, or, as in the case of the listed building, of weather boarding. Pick Everard state: “it is the aim of the Hub to establish a new vernacular’ ‘. Are they proposing that Southborough should be re-built in “lightweight translucent material’? They would do better to recognise the existing vernacular of historic Southborouglh – the proposals represent an architecture that would be happier on an industrial estate where its “solid panels” would match its neighbours’.
  1. The proposals show a residential development in the backland of the In principle densification is correct and serves as good strategy for increasing the number of residences. However the layout of these blocks is an arbitrary interruption of the urban pattern and does not suggest good urban enclosures and decent external space but rather buildings arranged around car parking areas.
  1. The application should have benefitted from better and early steering by the Planning Authority in the matters raised The Client and Sponsor of the Planning Application is Kent County Council and Southborough Town Council. Such public bodies should act responsibly by providing the public with a clear communication of proposed projects and to a good standard. They have a responsibility to set the benchmark and to set themselves apart from the usually lower standards of the commercial developer. The Planning Authority , Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, should draw lessons from this application and the level of objection it has attracted and consider the implementation of a Planning Review Panel or a Quality Review Panel in Pre-Application processes so that an applicant may be guided properly and before the emergence of an expensive and inappropriate Planning Application.

Catriona Robb, Queens Road,  Tunbridge Wells (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 31 Oct 2016

I am writing in support of Southborough Environmental Action Group’s request to review the current plans for a hub on the site of the Royal Victoria Hall. I have been a resident of Tunbridge Wells for over 30 years, attended and participated in shows held in the Royal Victoria Hall and have family and friends who live in Southborough who will be directly affected by the proposed changes.

Whilst I understand that the area does need redevelopment the decision not to preserve any of the original theatre given to the town by David Salomons seems to demonstrate the same short-sightedness that allowed the original pump house on The Pantiles to be demolished to build Union Square, a development completely out of keeping with the surrounding area which is now due to be knocked down itself.

Clearly Southborough needs to provide facilities for present-day residents rather than simply being a memorial to the past but the area’s historic fabric is the only thing which distinguishes it from other towns of a similar size and with similar facilities. If those are lost it is at risk – as is Tunbridge Wells – of becoming an identikit commuter town, which no one has any particular reason to visit, especially given the problems with traffic congestion, which will only be made worse by the proposed development.

Further to that point, the hub seems to include an area for outside seating regardless of the fact it is situated alongside a major through road already known for heavy traffic and which even has an air pollution monitor on it. It is highly unlikely that residents or visitors would want to use this space whereas they do enjoy the green spaces Southborough currently offers (some of which will be lost if the hub scheme goes ahead). The number of new houses to be built as part of the development is only going to make the congestion worse and access to the businesses on the high street even more difficult (owing to the loss of the public car park)

The people of Southborough are a strong community who take an interest in and are involved in their town and yet the very people who are meant to use the new facilities seem to have had little involvement in the plans or to have had their feedback taken seriously. This does not bode well for the success of the venture.

It is possible to re-develop an area in a way which is sympathetic to its heritage and the needs of the surrounding community as with the recent development around King’s Cross. The current plans for Southborough risk creating buildings which will have an even shorter lifespan than the Royal Victoria Hall before they become “not fit for purpose” and have to be demolished themselves. Yours faithfully

Brian Dury of SEAM, Crendon Park, Southborough 
Comment submitted date: Mon 31 Oct 2016 (New comment not new objection)

The Southborough Environmental Action Movement (SEAM) was formed in 2011 to campaign against building developments on the Ridgewaye Fields Southborough and to keep them as a public open recreational space. SEAM submitted its objections to the current Southborough Hub Proposal, to the TWBC Planning Portal on the 25th September 2016.

Then, in response to local demand, SEAM launched a Petition through the 38 Degrees Organisation on the 21st October 2016, with the intention of submitting this to the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council Planning Committee and calling on them to reject the current Hub Plans.

In the 10 days following the petition launch, more than 1000 people had signed the petition and this number continues to grow daily. This submission to the TWBC Planning Department is to allow them to formally record the existence of the petition, post it on the Planning Portal, and then include it in the documentation pack given to the Planning Committee.

A representative of SEAM will then seek agreement to attend and speak at the Planning Committee meeting and present this petition, to show the strength of feeling against the current Southborough Hub Plans

The contents of the Petition are shown below – this can be viewed at https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/southborough-deserves-better-reject-the-hubplans

Please do not approve the Southborough Hub plans in their current state.

We want new high quality designed community buildings that are fit for purpose and are centred around a refurbished Royal Victoria Hall (RVH).
We want less of our playing fields lost to development, and less in-town traffic congestion, parking problems and pollution.

Why is this important?
This campaign is organised by the Southborough Environmental Action Movement (SEAM) http://www.seam.org.uk. The Southborough Community Hub is being jointly funded and managed by Southborough Town, Tunbridge Wells Borough and Kent County Councils so if you live in these areas you will be affected by this project. You will also have an interest if you are concerned about the preservation of historic buildings and playing fields or the availability of local theatre venues.

The petition is a summary of these objections to the planning application:
1)The Hub is poorly designed and takes no account of the town’s varied architecture. The off-the-peg design complete with plastic cladding looks cheap and will quickly degrade.
2) Demolishing our historic RVH Theatre (i) is short sighted and costly. It is structurally sound, adaptable and needs investment and better management.
3) The Hub will be part funded by the building of 69 houses. This will mean the loss of 2 or more football pitches, in a town that doesn’t have enough open spaces.
4) Over building of houses will increase traffic congestion, parking problems and air pollution.
5) The plan will destroy part of Southborough’s history, take away playing fields from our children, and badly affect the environment – forever.
6) We want a new scaled back and fully costed Hub plan (ii) that keeps the RVH at its centre, has less house building, and protects more of our green spaces.
7) We want the Planning Committee to reject the current plans so that they can be reworked to make them more acceptable to people in the town and users of the facilities.

(i) Gifted to the town by Sir David Salomons. Opened in 1900. First municipal theatre in the country.
(ii) A plan that tells us how much the Hub is going to cost local council taxpayers both now and in the future.

Ed MacNaughton, Holden Park Road, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Sun 30 Oct 2016

The planning is being pushed through by a town council, borough council and county council, but it is not wanted by those living in the town, yet you don’t appear to want to listen to the majority. Once you have removed our green space for your own benefits you will leave our children with limited areas to enjoy sports and recreation, successive governments have allowed our inner green space including schools to whittle the land away and then complain there is a strain on the NHS. Well I think you have your answer.

The local roads can barely accommodate the existing traffic, so more houses and people will only make matters worse increasing the pollution, congestion and parking issues that already exist. The football teams are already cramped for space so taking the land away will dramatically effect the club, teams and the boys and girls that use the pitches.

As for the design, it’s hardly inkeeping with the local area, looks to have been rushed through and leaves us what looks like a cheap plastic box with little design application and poor internally flow.

It is almost laughable that the theatre is not listed, but the Chinese restaurant next to the site is. It just shows what a mess your planning regulations are in. We do not want to lose the land to development and certainly don’t want this cheap, poor thoughtout box you are promoting, this scheme needs to be rejected and the development thought through again.

Mrs Louise Frost, St Andrews Park Road, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Sat 29 Oct 2016

I have just looked at the proposed plans for the development of the hub and was deeply disappointed with what I found. The building is an unimaginative box that lacks any kind of beauty. We already have a few ugly buildings on our High Street so please don’t give us more!! I thought we were trying to give the community a heart but who would want this at the centre of their town? It would be more suited to a school in the 1970s!

Southborough has developed from a small Victorian village with a strong village atmosphere. I think that our ‘hub’ needs to reflect this in it’s heart. That strong community still exists here and it deserves an area to be proud of.

What a shame to demolish a building that does actually have some history and meaning to the town for an ugly shoe box like this. If you are going to take away our green spaces and historic building then you need to give us something better than this!!!

Parking and traffic is a serious problem for Southborough and building more houses is not going to improve things. I don’t think that the current proposals meet the requirements of Southborough. Please think again.

Christian Mcilveen, Prospect Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 28 Oct 2016

…after seeing the proposed plans my heart sank.  I have seen buildings like this erected before.  In my hometown a similar one was built and after 5 years, it is now barely used….the design is not in keeping with the existing traditional architecture of Southborough…it would look incredibly out of place.  It is the theatre that should be placed at the heart of Southborough’s community.  It is an integral part of Southborough’s history and Aestetic and it seems to me it is vital the theatre is maintained…Please don’t let this potentially huge amount of money, which could be used to transform the area, be wasted.

Darren Hetherington, Chestnut Avenue, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 28 Oct 2016

Please re-think the Southborough Hub, surely we can manage something better than this building that looks like a 1960’s sixth form block, certainly not eye catching.

Hilary Clarke, The Ridgewaye, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 28 Oct 2016

I am writing to you about my concerns regarding the hub proposed for Southborough. This issue has been going on for years and the council constantly asked for feedback about their proposal. On repeated occasions I have written to object to the loss of green space in Southborough, particularly as the Councils own figures confirmed that Southborough has the least green spaces in the area. This was never listened to so finally people, including myself, give up providing feedback as it is ignored. Hopefully the planning committee will listen.

I agree that the area around the Royal Victoria Hall needs to be developed but question the need to demolish the original buildings completely. The illustration of the new hub is hardly in keeping
with the high street. I recognise the need for more housing but am concerned about the effect on the end of the Ridgewaye, and how the increase in traffic will be managed, particularly on workday mornings when turning into Yew Tree Road is already an issue. The tailback from the lights is terrible each morning, in spite of various attempts to synchronise the lights. Sadly I have little doubt that residents views will be ignored again, but hope that the planning
committee will consider my views.

Clare Ward, Modest Corner, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 28 Oct 2016

I am writing to object to the plans for Southborough Town Hall.
I think we shouldn’t be knocking down part of our heritage, but should be preserving it for future generations. I feel that the plans don’t fit with the size of Southborough. The design is completely out
of scale for the people who live in Southborough as we like it being a small town & don’t want to compete with Tunbridge wells town hall & civic centre.

I feel it is wrong to sacrifice the playing fields which are used by children & adults for football every weekend, by dog walkers every day & by families to play & run around. I feel that the main road is already very busy so to add to the number of vehicles would be a disaster for those of us who live here & already feel the traffic is too heavy. I don’t think that people who live outside Southborough should condemn us to the chaos that this application will heap upon us. I think that not enough of the residents are even aware of these plans as I never received any notification at either of the properties I have lived in in Southborough.

Molly Perham, Pennington Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 28 Oct 2016

Sitting in yet another traffic jam on Southborough High Street, breathing in the dangerously polluted air, I wondered why oh why does anyone think it is a good idea to increase the volume of traffic and pollution by building so many new houses in an already over-crowded area? Our children (and older people too!) need green spaces to play in and fresh air to breathe. Please consider the health and wellbeing of future generations of local people and not take away our green spaces.

Kevin Bish, The Ridegewaye, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 28 Oct 2016

I am writing to express my objections for the Southborough hub building. My main concerns are:
The unnecessary loss of the historic and community asset the Royal Victoria Hall Theatre. This was given to the residents of the Town , the council has not moral right to take it away. Solutions for preserving the building and managing its use have not been fully
reviewed. This building was the first municipal theatre in this country.

The hub structure itself is not acceptable, it is too tall and its general appearance is not in keeping with the Town and will negatively impact on the Town and will set a poor example on the main thoroughfare into Tunbridge Wells itself.

I question strongly the need for this level of high density housing in this area and the adverse impact on additional traffic into an already very congested area. This traffic will also create more pollution in an area where the air quality is already very poor. Finally, it cannot be acceptable to lose public playing fields of this kind that provide
recreation for the community, I beg and urge that you reconsider your plans.

Mrs Christine Knight, Yew Tree Rd, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 28 Oct 2016

Having viewed the plans for Southborough Hub I would like to state my objections to the plan. It looks grotesque & far too modern looking for the ‘mish mash’ of surrounding architecture. Should imagine with the high pollution of traffic fumes on A26 it will require high maintenance & cost for the upkeep.

Why be short sighted & demolish the very first municipal theatre of the country. It’s unique, Southborough Council should have (indeed could!) have cared more for this building. Given by Sir David Salomons to the people of Southborough & High Brooms. Having been born here I’ve seen the council ignoring the plight. It
was a well loved/used theatre in the past. Councils can be insensitive & increase costs beyond the public’s purse.

The plans for more housing at the detriment of Ridgewaye Playing Fields, also would take from all the hard work & dedication put in by the people who run Ridgewaye Football. Just view how many youths & youngsters, are kept occupied and fit & enjoy learning about team spirit. Locals also enjoy going to watch the games. The tournaments bring a lot of enjoyment & pleasure to all.

The air quality is already an issue both A26 & indeed Yew Tree Road. We moved to Yew Tree Road 40 years ago, very rarely now open our front windows, curtains get so dirty & the fumes really bad whilst
traffic is waiting at traffic lights. Traffic obviously has increased with more people able to afford a car. The Industrial Estate also has an effect with large vehicles etc requiring access from A26.
May I add that I welcome a hub for all to use in principal however, please look further into the future, does Southborough really deserve such a plan as has been submitted?! After all the years of a blot of wasteland……….Thank you for your time in reading this.

Elisabeth Cooper, Crendon Park, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 27 Oct 2016  (edited)

Concerns regarding the development of the HUB are as follows:

  • Latest plans show now there could be apartment blocks on the Ridgewaye at the back of our houses along Crendon Park
  • Number of residential units have increased from the initial plans
  • Traffic on the London Road has not been eased since the highly expensive work done at the lights
  • Traffic will increase which in turn will cause more air pollution to a very congested road…
  • The building materials chosen…it will look completely out of place with the remainder of the high street…. if modern is what is being built at least make it a beautiful looking building

Steve Allan, Steve Allan Events, Space Business Centre, Knight Road, Rochester  (Southborough resident) (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 27 Oct 2016  

I have studied the proposed new build for the Southborough Hub apart from it looking hideous there are too many design faults.  The main design fault for me is the library position. It is too close to the new theatre.  If a musical show was running while the library was open, no amount of sound proofing would stop the sound bleeding into the library.  The amount of proposed housing has doubled since the first plans, with no contingency plans for traffic.  This is a one road town which is congested all day every day.

James Rutt, Springfield Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 27 Oct 2016

I object to the demolition of the current Royal Victoria Hall building. It is an historic building which is purpose built as a Theatre. And of good design! I believe that the Box Office at the front of the building should be demolished but the main hall could be updated and preserved. I did make this point previously at one of the public consultations. Now seeing the ‘artists impression’ of the replacement building; the new build appears ‘heart stoppingly ugly!’

I do not want a large plastic lunch box on my doorstep! What would be better would be a more sympathetic frontage similar to the original design, as seen in old photographs when the hall was first built. I am a great supporter of the project as a whole and want it to be re worked.

Another idea is to ‘make use’ of the LLoyd’s Bank area of ground, now that it has closed, so as to not encroach, any more than necessary, on the football pitches. Could a two storey carpark be designed, for additional parking provision? (Did out a basement area???) I would like the Planning Committee to reject the current plan.

Kenneth Ranson, Hillcrest, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 27 Oct 2016

I am strongly against the proposed development of the Southborough Hub Project on the grounds that we will lose our architectural heritage and the new proposed design of the RVH is not in keeping with the local area.  Far rather invest the money into the refurbishment of the present RVH which I understand to be
structurally sound and blends in with the local area.

My other concern is the lack of car parking in Southborough. Our local roads are already overused as car parks with vehicles parked on both sides of the road and on the pavements, in particular along
the whole length of Yew Tree Road as far as High Brooms Station, even though this is a bus route. Will you kindly advise whether or not pavement parking is allowed under local government regulations. Also are there any restrictions as to how near to the corner of a road a vehicle may be parked before that vehicle is considered to be a dangerous hazard.

Rebecca Offord, Carville Avenue, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 27 Oct 2016

I would like to voice again my strong Objection to the proposed plans of the Southborough Hub on the following basis
1) The proposed plans are very unattractive and not in keeping with the local buildings/architecture. I believe it could only devalue the local area, as it gives the appearance of an industrial estate, business park, not suitable for a residential area.
2) extra housing raises considerable questions about extra infrastructure, schooling, parking/ traffic, utilities etc. I am also concerned about environmental impact in removing open spaces and extra housing and traffic.
3) Loss of the Ridgewaye playing fields, an essential local asset.
4) Demolition of the Royal Victoria Hall Theatre, a much loved and irreplaceable local venue, a building of significant local and UK historical interest as the first municipal Theatre in the UK. The local community have protested hard to save this local gem. It is structurally sound and with the correct management could be turned into a true destination venue in the South East, and put Southborough on the map and bring work to the local community. The proposed community hall would not fill the brief as a working
theatre ( I am a Theatre Professional for the record), and is unlikely to attract the paying Theatre companies & local groups that a refurbished RVH would.
5) Southborough deserves a re- thought and re-designed Hub that listens to the needs and requirements of thohse living in this much loved and valued town incorporating those existing assets which we are very strongly opposed to losing.

We are all very proud of our town and the proposed plans do not enhance this community. Particularly as they are designed to loom unattractive and cheap with high maintenance and destroy much of what we value as a community. I hope you can listen to our concerns.

Rodney Warrener, Pinewood Gardens, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 26 Oct 2016

I have just signed the petition about the plans for the proposed Southborough Hub.
As someone whose career was in property Management in Central London with responsibility for listed properties on the Howard de Walden Estate (Harley street, Wimpole Street and central Marylebone) and previously the up market area of Little Venice around the Regents canal in Maida Vale, I am appalled that in 2016 such a hideous example of 1960’s Brutalism should be proposed for this “Hub” in Southborough. It is 50 years out of date in concept and is just as ugly as the Ridgway School; which stood on the edge of the playing fields in the 1960’s.

The international brick style of buildings favoured by supermarkets such as Tesco and Waitrose would be more in keeping with the surrounding buildings in the Ridgeway and Yew tree road. The Victoria Hall has been the subject of much discussion over the years but the ugly facade has remained and there never was a proper concerted effort to either copy or regain the old cast iron porch, which adorned the entrance (even if the doors did resemble those of a barn) This should remain and be properly refurbished and restored.

The whereabouts of the iron work were found and more pressure should have been exerted to obtain it or have moulds made so casts could be taken. I was born in the area and lived here in the 1950s and 1960s before going to London in 1975 and finally returning in 2000, and I remember seeing Southborough gradually go down over the years when coming to visit my mother who lived here.

On another matter, I am most disgusted that as a resident in what was once considered one of Southborough’s best roads. that Pinewood Gardens, built as a whole in 1935 for the Jubilee Of King George Vth and Queen Mary, by local builder Lewis Thorpe. we have had to witness the precedent of an unnecessary extra story to No 9 and also the building of a garage that goes right up to the boundary fence with No 7, thus cutting off outside access to the rear of the property. I was always under the impression that all buildings had to be at least a metre (3 feet away ) from a property boundary. Such is not the case here. Other smashing of boundary walls and building of car ports in front gardens are slowly ruining this once pleasant road. God alone knows what will happen when Pinewood Court is sold.

It seems that Tunbridge Wells planning dept. is unable to see anything though which will better the area and improve life for the residents, and still keep the ambience of the area The road works completed earlier this year at Yew Treed Road are a case in point.( I know it may be Highways responsibility!) Residents were expecting a roundabout to improve the situation as per local election flyers last year. but all we got was updated electrics for the signalling system. The excuse was that the A21 roundabout needed the money. Well with the volume of traffic here , the money should have been found somehow for both. Southborough is no better off than it was before months of disruption. Every day there are still vast queues of traffic as we have seen for over 30 years.
Well the much needed rant is over and spurred by the flyer about the hub.

Rachael Mills, Welbeck Avenue, High Brooms (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Wed 26 Oct 2016

Southborough Hub – I actually think it’s a good thing!  As I’m sure you’re aware, SEAM have leafleted the local area today asking that residents sign their online petition to reject the Southborough Hub plans. They say that there are 31 official supporters of the plans and 163 objectors (I assume this official supporters/objectors to the planning application).  But of course it’s much easier to rally people AGAINST something than it is to get them to write in SUPPORT of something and so here I am, doing just that (the exact opposite of what SEAM want to happen of course)

I’ve lived in High Brooms for 2.5 years and have watched the tussle over the Southborough Hub with interest – perhaps with new eyes as an outsider. I came to the consultation event you held at St Matt’s and have read the minutes in the Parish News and I just want to say that I have nothing but praise for the local authority officers (who I think have received quite a bashing) and indeed for the Southborough Hub plan.

The theatre – though clearly beloved of many locals- is an eye sore. It’s not fit for purpose and I think has had its day. The new proposals will bring a vibrant focus to the community and I think give us all a new sense of belonging. I think it will attract new residents, business and customers, as well as providing much needed services to the existing parishioners. I think the plans are forward looking and fresh. It’s time for Southborough to move on!

Dave Jarvis, resident of Charles Street, Southborough for 29 years (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 26 Oct 2016

With reference to building the hub on the ridgeway , I am strongly opposed to building on the land, there are few recreational spaces for families relaxing events sports and exercise this to me is as it is is a valuable open space that should be preserved, along with the Victoria hall with its great acoustics which I would like to see re instated , I see everywhere that there is pressure on authorities to build houses and to sell assets and dispose of expenses and upkeep etc I hope this is not another one of those exercises, Where as a consequence are left with another mass of overbuild on the landscape where we are all crammed in with barely space to move

Naomi Hintz, Edward Street, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 26 Oct 2016

As a local resident of Southborough, the plastic-cheap-looking facade of this project threatens to further diminish what remaining little bit of charm Southborough has.
There must surely be a better architectural solution than this. To tear down Victorian heritage and replace it with a highly unimaginative building that looks like it will age terribly?

The Courier recently published an article about attractive versus unattractive shopfronts in Tunbridge Wells. Southborough has absolutely dire plastic shopfronts all along this stretch of the A26 (CostCutter, Premier, Tesco, to name but 3) and needs smartening up, not more plastic looking buildings.

I have no opinion on sports fields as I don’t use them, nor am I bothered by the housing solution, but I do know that this stretch of the A26 is an embarrassment. Empty buildings such as Lloyds and Water Margin and very few nice shopfronts. Please can this project improve this local area, not make me want to move away from it.

Glynis Dickinson, The Ridgewaye, Southbrough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 26 Oct 2016

Although I believe there is a need for improvement and development on the site where the current Council Offices and the Victoria Hall currently stand I do not believe that the current plans under consideration adequately address the needs of local people and believe that although a certain amount of consultation has taken place the views and opinions of the community have been ignored.

The proposed ‘Hub’ construction appears to be an ugly building which will do nothing to enhance the appearance of London Road in Southborough. We were promised a ‘State of the Art’ Theatre but instead the plans show nothing more than a multi purpose space with no natural light, no box office, no bar facility and inadequate kitchen facilities. The library facility will offer nothing in addition to what the current library provides so why move it?

However, most worrying will be the loss of an area of the Ridgewaye field in order to enable and finance this project through a housing development. I understand that The Ridgewaye Football Club are not happy with the proposals. They will be losing an area of green space and having been promised new changing facilities as part of the developemnt find that they fall far short of FA standard requirements for young people.

As a local resident I know how popular the football club is with many children and young people and their parents and given the government’s position on encouraging children and young people to become more involved in sport and exercise it is scandalous that this popular club, which does such good work in this regard should be compromised in any way.

My understanding is that there will be a minimum of 69 new homes, flats mainly, on this development which will inevitably increase the traffic flow and parking problems in the area. This is perhaps the most worrying issue of all! The recent new traffic light system at the junction of Yew Tree Road has certainly not improved the hold-ups and congestion through Southborough as any local resident will concur! Traffic continues to be slow moving, often at all times of day but especially during peak times ie. early morning and
early evening. This fact combined with what appears to be inadequate parking around the ‘Hub’ development (69 new homes will potentially bring at least 69 new cars regularly into the area which will require adequate parking which has not been properly allocated) will lead to increased traffic chaos and a worsening of air quality.
The current plans will not enhance life in Southborough for its residents. In fact they will do the opposite which is why I object to the current plans most vehemently.

Davina Figgett, Brian Crescent, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 25 Oct 2016

I urge you to re-consider the current plans for the ‘Southborough Hub’. I have many objections to the proposed application, including:
*   The loss of a historically important building (Royal Victoria Hall)
*    The loss of a well-used civic amenity (playing fields / football pitches)
*    Considerable increase in traffic in an already over-congested area (owing to over-
development of housing on the site)
*    The new building being completely out of character with the existing architecture
of the high street (London Road)
*    The lack of a clear, costed business plan
*    The loss of a local theatre venue
I know that I am not alone in these views which, although long-held & expressed through all the appropriate channels, appear to have been dis-regarded. A decision as great as this, which will be a lasting legacy for future generations, should be made with the best interests of the local community at the forefront & with due consideration given to the strength of local feeling about it.

Melaine Knight, St Andrews Park Road, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 25 Oct 2016

I am writing to express my view on the latest SH plans. I feel the project has gone off from the original concept. It is know longer of benefit to the local community. The theatre will be of NO use what so ever, NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE, as originally promised when I first agreed to the idea of the Hub. I have no desire to stop a purposeful project that would benefit the community, nothing about the current plan will. Yes the Doctors surgery desperately needs modern facilities that are large enough for the growing community.
More housing that will cause even more congestion on the Yew Tree Road crossroads, as ever increasing numbers are being added to cover costs of a building that will NOT work as a theatre. In turn the extra traffic causing more pollution in a town that has an extremely high level of pollution already. I’m sure if a study was carried out on the increase of asthma in Southborough it could be related to the increase in traffic.

We have lost our last Bank, why haven’t you invited a bank to have an area within the hub?
Should the hub not include something that the community would want to go to? We don’t need posh council offices yes a new library would be nice but not essential. The community would benefit from a space that can be hired for private functions with all the relevant facilities this could be incorporated but I really don’t think the people on the committee are looking at what makes a community.

The playing fields will be reduced not only effecting the sports players use but local dog owners and families who have got reduced garden space in the modern trend of build more give less garden will have less green space. The potential for a community hub is there its just not being planned properly. Listen to the community and revisit what this project is all about and hear what we have to say and act on it. We are being ignored and WE will have to live with the poor choices that are being made.

Alex Hewitson, Frank’s Hollow Road, Bidborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 25 Oct 2016

…The proposal is an abhorrent monstrosity….How long does the council reasonably expect a plastic-clad box to survive? I would have thought 30 years at most (having studied architecture and now working in the field, I feel at least a little qualified to comment on this)…..The idea of building more homes accessing the A26 is mindless… Southborough deserves better

Edward MacNaughton, Holden Park Road Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 25 Oct 2016

Why are you removing our inner town green space? Why is it acceptable to do this and not use the green space on the outskirts of the town for building housing? Removing our inner green space has been going on for years whether it green space at our schools or parks. Then we are told our children are getting obese, take away their access to green space and what do you expect? Then this in the long term puts strain and stress on the NHS, you are creating a knock on effect by taking their green space.

The plans submitted are not acceptable, aesthetically it is not in keeping with Southborough and will standout like a sore thumb. It looks like a poor and cheap design. Furthermore I thought Heritage Buildings were to be protected, the RVH is part of Southborough’s history and identity and children have enjoyed the benefits it offers for years, why can’t you refurbish it, surely you can attract some lottery funds to support it rather than knock it down!

As for building the 60+ flats/houses. This will not only cause chaos to London Road during any building work the then additional people and the extra parking will cause extra traffic pain to and already hugely congested area, what are the plans to ease this? I haven’t seen any and these new people will not have green space to utilise as you will have removed it! On top of our lost recreational space for the children you will be affecting air quality with the extra traffic and I haven’t seen any solution that has been submitted by you in relation to dealing with this?

People say don’t let responses become personal when writing these messages, but it is personal, my son uses the Ridgewaye regularly and plays football for them, why should
you effect his enjoyment on using the space and 100’s of other children, families, dog walkers and the alike so you can for-fill your desire for a nice new comfortable office.
Reduce your requirements and keep your hands off our green space.

William Liddle, Powder Mill Lane, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 25 Oct 2016

I am writing to air my concerns about the current hub plans for Southborough. I am very disappointed that it does not currently include the preservation of the royal Victoria hall, which in my opinion is of great historical value and could, if managed well be a well used and thriving theatre again. It would be very disappointing if the theatre is not preserved. I am also concerned at the loss of green spaces which is used daily by local sports clubs and families. I am concerned that the look of the new hub is not in keeping with the current town scape. I am concerned that the density of new housing built will have an impact on traffic , which is currently very congested anyway. I am also concerned that this level of housing will impact on local primary school places, as there currently are not enough places for children in the area.

David Hobden, Welbeck Avenue, High Brooms (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 25 Oct 2016

My objection is based upon a number of factors which I list below (in no particular order)

1) the design proposed is not in keeping with the local surroundings. Southborough is. A traditional town, and the proposed development is far from in keeping with the traditions of the town.
2) Loss of playing fields. The proposed loss of playing fields would be a tragic loss to the community of Southborough. Of all the green space in Southborough (and there is far too little) this area is by far the most well used. Loss of recreational space to accommodate housing is counter productive, as the demand on green space increases with the population, but the amount of space available decreases. Any development of the playing fields should be stopped at all costs.
3) loss of historic building. The Royal Victoria Hall is a historic building, whilst I appreciate that the Hall needs updating and maintenance undertaken, the current situation has only been brought about by years of mismanagement, that it however a different subject. What is however relevant is the planned demolition of such an historic building and replacement with something little more than an upgraded school assembly hall would be wrong on so many counts. Not only would Southborough and High Brooms and indeed the wider community loose such an important historic building, the proposed replacement is a far cry from the state of the art modern theatre we were promised. This is a view supported by many outside bodies.
4) housing density. The facilities and infrastructure to support the proposed number of houses simply does not exist. The road network struggles now (despite the recently upgraded traffic system in Yew Tree Road), to add the increased traffic that this development brings would bring the town to a standstill at peak times. In terms of recreational space, I have already mentioned the loss of green space and this is a concern. Schooling. Southborough Primary has already been enlarged to cope with the increased demand for spaces in the area, and St Matthews is equally unable to accommodate significantly more children, having experimented with three form entry a couple of years ago.
In short this application is flawed on so many levels, loss of green space, loss of historic buildings, traffic chaos, lack of surrounding infrastructure, and is so out of keeping with the entire area, I urge the members of the Planning Committee to see sense, and listen to the serious concerns of so many of the local population, not to mention the views of Theatre and Sports experts and reject this application

Wendy Coleman,  Sir David’s Park, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 25 Oct 2016

I think the new Hub building is atrocious, and does not fit in at all with the Southborough image. I cannot see the reasoning behind knocking down a Heritage building that is part and parcel of “Southborough”. The proposed housing will be very high density, and this will bring further unwanted traffic to our village. This means parking will become even more difficult and further reduce our air quality.

The loss of our playing fields is quite unwelcome to our young people, who at this time use the fields extensively for recreational activities. All in all, as so many people in Southborough object to this ugly proposed building, I cannot see how this can go ahead. Can you imagine how tatty this building will look in ten years time?

Why can the Royal Victoria Hall not be renovated? The surrounding areas could be updated. Surely this would be a far more acceptable to Southborough residents.

Jan Wright, Quarry Road, Tunbridge Wells (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 24 Oct 2016

I am writing with my objections to the plans for the new ‘Southborough Hub’. The design is shoddy and cheap, and bears no relation to the area of Southborough, which has fine Victorian buildings. The facilities described are totally inadequate for the needs of the children living there.

The destruction of the Royal Victoria Hall is shameful, as there will be no proper theatre facility for such events as the Pantomime and the local Ballet Schools annual production. In that respect, my grandchildren will be deprived of taking part in creative opportunities near home, and the use of decent sports facilities, which they deserve.

As I understand it, a number of prestigious organisations have already objected to the plans. Are you really determined to push through a second class plan, and contribute to the loss of community in a very pleasant area to live?

Mick Slatter, Yew Tree Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 24 Oct 2016

I am writing to inform you that as a resident and home owner in Southborough, I am unhappy with the Hub plans as currently presented.  My main concerns are:

  • Traffic increase on Yew Tree Road which is already a nightmare.  There is frequently traffic backed up in front of my house (and we are at least 150 from the junction with the A21 and the stationary cars fill the road with pollution and emissions. More houses having access to Yew Tree Road will only exacerbate the situation.
  • The initial exciting plans for the football club (where I was once a coach) and the theatre appear to be watered down to the point where the loss of green fields space is not sufficiently compensated.

Ian Carroll, Edward Street, Southborough  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Sun 23 Oct 2016

Nostalgia is a wonderful thing and like most lifelong residents of Southborough I have fond memories of the Victoria Hall. But the Victoria Hall is a thing of the past and that is where it should be left. It’s time for Southborough to move forward and the Hub gives us the perfect opportunity to do this. The Plan for the Hub is not perfect and some compromise is required, but continued stubborn objections will just prolong the problem. If we don’t support the Hub we will just end up with more soulless houses and flats.

Carolyn Gray, Auckland Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Sun 23 Oct 2016

While I live near Tunbridge Wells town centre, I feel that the lives of Tunbridge Wells and Southborough are quite entwined. We have visited RVH to go to the Panto over the past 16 years, as well as going there for music concerts. Inside it’s a beautiful Victorian building.

Photos of the original exterior show that was also beautiful. The current plan looks very ugly, and out of keeping with the rest of Southborough High Street. With so many people having to drive along this road (although the new dual A21 may lessen this need slightly) I feel the building should be something to be proud of, not an ‘anytown box’.

There are ways to find funding to restore historical buildings, this one was bequeathed to the town by David Salomon – if TWBC are seeking to retain the TW town centre museum and library and convert to a Cultural Hub, please could the same be done in Southborough? Be proud of the past.

Councillor Trevor Poile,  Fernhurst Crescent, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 21 Oct 2016

There is too much housing proposed. The proposal is for 69 units which is higher than that stated in the recently adopted policy AL/SO 2 which gives a range of 50-60 units.

I would prefer that the existing historic theatre be retained and incorporated into the hub design but if it is to be replaced as is proposed it should be more in keeping. The planned design is not in keeping with the area in both design and layout. The layout leads to a sub-optimal use of the public space outside the hub. A more conventional layout would produce a much better town square for use by the community.  From Trevor Poile Southborough Town Councillor (Liberal Democrat).

Laura Tipp, Holden Corner, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 19 Oct 2016

The Hub will look totally out of character with the rest of its surroundings. Put a fraction of the cost into updating the RVH which is well loved by the community.

Issy Richmond, Oak End Close, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 19 Oct 2016

I recently moved to Southborough from a built up area in Tunbridge Wells and one of the reasons I was attracted to the town was because of its open spaces. I was therefore dismayed to hear that a large piece of the playing fields in the centre of town is going to be lost to intensive building. As I understand it the town actually lacks its correct share of recreational space so would agree with the Sports England objection to loss of playing fields and think that we must hold onto what we have got otherwise or it is lost forever.

Although I am not really a theatre goer I would also agree that it does seem very unnecessary to demolish the first municipal theatre in the country. I would object to this unless the replacement is significantly better in both design and what it offers. It is mainly for these reasons that I oppose the plans and ask that the numerous objections to this application are upheld.

I would ask that the Planning Committee should should turn this application down and ask the applicant to put forward a plan that is a better fit with the architecture of the town, that has the confidence of theatre groups and potential users and that preserves our playing fields and green spaces.

Andrew Day, Coniston Avenue, Tunbridge Wells (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 17 Oct 2016

I would like to object to the application to build houses on the Ridgewaye playing fields in
Southborough. My son spent many happy times there playing football and the club needs a selection of size pitches to encourage the youngsters through their different ages. At a time when many children do no exercise at all I believe we need to do all we can to encourage both boys and girls (and adults as well) to compete. Once gone these playing fields will be lost forever, not a great legacy for this council.

Martin Jameson, College Crescent, London NW3 (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Sat 15 Oct 2016

I am an architect and a lecturer at the Architectural Association in London. My thoughts are as follows:
1. The design is weak. Clumsy massing — two boxes connected by a disc. The materials are not suited to a civic building. The open spaces are under-designed.
2. Architects are now expected to work with existing buildings when taking on public work eg., Newport Gallery (Caruso St John, Stirling prize 2016); CSM Granary Square (Stanton Williams).
3. The existing building has merit. Brick built Victorian hall with interesting interior details

The brief for this project needs to be re-thought and far higher standards of design should be expected from the selected architect.

Robert Prance, Harland Way, Southborough (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Tue 11 Oct 2016

I hope I am not too late but I wish to state my strong support for the Southborough Hub project. I can’t say I am over the moon with the latest design which seems to have emerged from nowhere but aesthetics are always subjective and what’s inside is important too. Southborough has been without a centre for years and the existing buildings are a crumbling eyesore. We desperately need a centre which is for ALL the community and to have so many facilities in one place will make for a highly desirable destination for residents of Southborough and beyond. The outlook for this site if the proposals do not go ahead is horrific. There would be more residential development of the existing TWBC and KCC land on a scale greater than currently envisaged and the RHV would be left in an impossible position surrounded by houses, no access to the existing yard and questionable resources and finances.
I urge you to keep this project alive but don’t mind if you can make the building somewhat more attractive and in keeping


Chris Maxfield, Nevill Avenue, Hove  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Mon 10 Oct 2016

As a former resident and frequent visitor to Southborough I wish to offer my support this development proposal. It is not without it’s issues although I believe these can be addressed to the client/ stakeholders [local tax payers] satisfaction with appropriate design consultations. The Town and Victoria Hall site is a great opportunity to serve as a centre piece for the Town but is required to evolve in order to provide the showcase potential available.

Mrs Lindy Maxfield, ,The Ridgewaye, Southborough  (Supports)

Comment submitted date: Fri 7 Oct 2016

I have lived in Southborough for over 30 years and I have been dismayed by the gradual decline of the High Street and the overall presentation of the area. I am in full support of the Hub, with reservations about the access and the traffic provisions. I would also question the placement of the housing in view of the now empty properties (Lloyds Bank and the Bat and Ball site) on the main road. As the plan stands now, the new housing would appear to be separated from any other residential area. If these sites could be purchased and used, it would consolidate the whole development and save green space (ie the fields.) The access is badly planned and access via the end of Crendon Park, or the Yew tree car park into the Hub and one way exit from the playing fields down the Ridgewaye would be a more sensible solution.

Mrs Jean Allanach, Swales Rd, Humberston, Grimsby  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Fri 7 Oct 2016

I have visited family in Southborough on a number of occasions and was amazed to still see the derelict site on Southborough High St. This is in urgent need of development and I strongly support it. It must be awful to walk and drive past that every day. Some of the design is not to my taste but that surely can be amended at the final stages.

Tony Egan, Redwings Lane, Pembury  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 6 Oct 2016

I read with interest the Submission from Trinity Theatre Tunbridge Wells by Alex Green Executive Director. Are these the views of The Trinity Arts Management and Membership?

Having run Pantomime and other Productions at the Royal Victoria Hall for over thirty years I find Mr Green’s comments unfounded and ask has he ever been involved with a production at the RVH. Will the new theatre in the Hub which he is supporting have the facilities of the existing hall, a raked stage? a fly tower? backstage space with entrances to both sides of the stage for performers? back stage toilet facilities for both male & male performers? dressing room facilities for principals? dressing rooms and separate toilet facilities for juvenile performer? front of house curtains? Large vehicular access to a scene dock door? None of these items are on the current proposal for the Hub designated theatre/performing space. But they are all at the Royal Victoria Hall which is to be demolished! The RVH is flexible and can be used for other than theatre events as it has in the past with good and enthusiastic management.

Alex Green, Executive Director, Trinity Theatre, Church Road, Tunbridge Wells  TN1 1JP (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Fri 30 Sep 2016

As a representative of a similarly sized venue to the old Victoria Hall in the locality of Tunbridge Wells I would like to make the following comments in support of the proposed planning application. The original Victoria Hall is clearly much loved by both many of the residents of Southborough as well as visitors from further afield. I believe the operation provided a useful and valued service for the area and there continues to be demand for such an operation (which I can say with some degree of certainty as we often turn content and hirers away due to insufficient capacity).

However as a venue operator, I believe the current facilities would need significant upgrades to provide a venue of the standard the area deserves. Combined with the repair/maintenance and health and safety requirements there is a strong argument for a comprehensive redevelopment of the venue.

Although I am sensitive to the historical importance the venue holds as the first municipal theatre, the building has substantially altered since its initial construction. With the ironwork of the original frontage removed, the historic fabric has been diminished. In my opinion, whilst there is demand from the local population for theatre facilities (which as a supporter of the arts, would welcome), I do not believe there would be sufficient demand for a purely theatre/arts based operation to be financially viable without significant public funding. As a result, to ensure this operation is sustainable, it is imperative that the venue is built with significant flexibility in mind so that it may provide a variety of alternative uses.

The current venue lacks flexibility which will have contributed to its reduced usage and a redevelopment of the existing space would not substantially alter this. However an entirely new build would provide the opportunity for the flexibility required to give exciting opportunities for the Southborough community.

I am aware of the concerns regarding the suitability of the plans (e.g. dressing rooms and bar). If unlimited funds were available I would support the development of enhanced plans. However I believe that the plans are workable and with such a project a degree of compromise is needed. In terms of the facilities, my understanding is that there are plans and budgets allocated for final fitting out of the technical spaces and that the venue should end up with a high quality theatre performance space. Additionally their intention to install sky lights and retractable seating should also allow the space to double up as a large high quality hall which could be used for artistic and community purposes.

The suggestion that this building should not proceed because it would be an eyesore is not justified as the cladding and final designs are yet to be finalised. In summary, I believe that providing a theatre and hall in Southborough will be of significant benefit and that this set of plans is a sensible way of proceeding to deliver a space which will benefit the local population for many years to come and they should be recommended for approval. Thank you for your time.

(Added later) from Alex Green Comment submitted date: Mon 17 Oct 2016

Following the responses to my letter of the 30th September I would like to clarify a number of points.  It is always a sad day when a theatre is demolished and I share everyone’s disappointment that a viable plan has, to my knowledge, not been developed to secure the future of the Royal Victoria Hall. It seems to me that, despite my reservations, the current plans and proposals present the most viable option to secure the future of a theatre in Southborough and to enable performances by the many local groups to resume. There is clearly much work to be done, however, to determine the details of such plans to ensure that the objectives of all interested parties are achieved and that they facilitate the ability to present high quality productions.

Just to reiterate, Trinity has always worked in harmony with the Royal Victoria Hall and believes that a properly equipped and designed theatre is an essential part of the project going forward. Thank you for your time.

Barbara Anderson (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 5 Oct 2016

I am writing to ask if you would consider not demolishing the Royal Victoria Hall. Although we have many happy memories of shows and events of the distant and near past, we know that we would be able to take part and enjoy future events here. It would be such a wonderful community asset . I’m sure it could be used for so many different uses . I don’t live in the area but because it was such an easy venue and the local schools etc made good use of this facility we visited . We of course loved the Pantos! Although the assembly hall puts one on annually the RVH was wonderfully local allowing people to participate in local amateur dramatics . Anyway I really hope you reconsider not just for me and local people but all the people that don’t realise the treasure they have in their community!

David Byrne, Colebrook Road, High Brooms  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 4 Oct 2016

I would like to formally object to the proposed Southborough Hub development, unless there are some significant changes to the plan.

Frankly, the design for the replacement ‘Hub’ looks laughably cheap and ugly, does not in any way suit the surrounding architecture and based on the information I have read and seen from a number of parties, seem ill-suited and not fit for purpose. The traffic in the area is already dangerous, and the accidents around there have been increasing so without any plans that detail development of roads and parking I cannot see how the hub can possibly go ahead in its current form without hugely denigrating the area for those who live in or around and those who pass through regularly.

I am also strongly against the loss of the playing fields, there are surely existing areas that have fallen into disarray that could be repurposed for house building that would be more suitable than taking over playing fields which are always in use and would be sorely missed.

Finally the lack of financial transparency has me very concerned. In a time of seemingly never-ending cash-for-favours scandals within the corridors of power, and overwhelming corporate influence over parliamentary bodies it seems to me that local councils need to be 100% clear on all aspects of funding and costings to avoid the embarrassing and damaging suspicions that often go hand in hand with local council projects. If a full investigation was announced into the funding of this project, would Tunbridge Wells council members have any concerns over impropriety?

We must have all financial plans, projections and details on the table before a spade is in the ground, in order for the people this project will truly impact to be able to make clear and solid decisions based on facts, not vague promises or assurances.

Hannah Glenville,  Crendon Park, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 3 Oct 2016

I would like to object to the design of the propose residential development because:
– some of the blocks of flats will overlook our garden and are also likely to cast shadows over our garden
– the traffic on Yew Tree road is already very bad, and the proposed hub will make it much worse. It regularly takes an extra 30 minutes sitting in traffic on the way back from the school run almost every day. To illustrate this, I have attached two photos taken this weekend, at 11:50am on Saturday and 2pm on Sunday, which both show the traffic from the junction stretching back a quarter of a mile to about 32 Yew Tree road. And this is on quiet days.

The choice of facilities in the hub also seems strange to me. A theatre/hall seems unnecessary when there are several better appointed theatres close by and a hall is unlikely to get much use from all but a very small number of local residents. And, while libraries may be important, their use in this day and age is again limited and becoming even more so (and I have young children myself). The facilities seem to be the kind that would have been great 20 years ago, but will have limited functionality now, and even less use in years to come.

Derek Holland, Newick Lane, Mayfield, East Sussex  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 30 Sep 2016

I have been associated with the Royal Victoria Hall since 1973 when the then Tunbridge Wells Drama Club put on the first of its Old Time Music Hall productions….Subsequently I played in several Drama Club plays…I therefore feel somewhat qualified to speak of the special attributes that this superb theatre has:

  1. The acoustics are better than any theatre I have played in, and over the last 50 years I have played in many.
  1. The stage has a superb “rake” and is a perfect height allowing audiences to see as well as hear everything no matter where they are sitting.
  1. The bar and bar area big enough for all those who wish to use it before, during the interval and after the show. The bar is big enough to serve its customers quickly.
  1. The stage has enough space above and in the wings to allow for scenery and players to move quickly and efficiently.
  1. There is ample dressing room space and rehersal and meeting room upstairs.
  1. Most of all – this wonderful historic building was given to the people of Southborough and run PROPERLY in conjunction with the new hub facilities could be an outstanding artistic and financial success.

PLEASE DON’T PULL IT DOWN – YOU WILL LIVE TO REGRET THIS SHORT SIGHTED DECISION IF YOU DO.

Mrs Sylvia Browning, Wheatlands, Hounslow, Middx  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 30 Sep 2016

Please save this fine historic building. Once gone, it can never be replaced, and one more treasure from our heritage will be lost – for ever. We deplore demolition without reason. Build somewhere else instead and save our national history, pride and heritage!

Donna Swallow, Elm Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 30 Sep 2016 (edited here)

I am writing to you in the hope that you will take into consideration the objections that I and many other Southborough residents have to the plans for the new hub. ..A library needs to be cosy and welcoming with a special area for children where they can develop a love of books and have the kind of story and rhyme sessions that both our daughters have enjoyed in its present building…Also I wouldn’t have thought that encouraging sick people to pass through a library on their way in would be good for the health of visitors.

Secondly, the Victoria Hall provided Southborough with a lot of character and was a delightful focal point for the community to come together.  If it had been updated it could have met the needs of the town for a theatre (much better than the proposed hub which doesn’t even have a stage!!) and a hall for general use and renting out.  A hall without any natural light and no bar is not exactly a thrilling or attractive prospect.  Also it cannot be cost effective or environmentally friendly to rely 100% on electric lights.

Thirdly, losing green space is a definite and dreadful loss for Southborough…I know that a percentage are supposed to be “affordable housing” but I wonder whether, in practice, they really will be.

Fourthly, and most importantly of all to me, we have a real problem with pollution in Southborough.  Some years ago our household received a letter telling us that we were officially over the proposed limits for air pollution in our area.  You can imagine how this makes me worry about our two daughters growing up in Southborough.  this hub can only add to traffic congestion and pollution.

Because of this I believe it should be kept simple and DOWNSIZED as we are already badly affected by pollution and congestion here.  Making the situation worse is unethical and surely we should be protected against these dangers?

Yours in hope of improvements which will make the project greener, fairer and more sustainable.

Wiz Haynes, Crendon Park, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 30 Sep 2016

I have objections on the following grounds : –
·    the unfeasibly high density of the housing on the Ridgeway Fields – I note that this keeps increasing with each plan revision – where will it end? These buildings are hardly “in keeping” with the surrounding area, contrary to what we were promised when the idea of the Hub was originally mooted. We would like some quality of life and not have to keep putting up with all this “money over everything else” attitude which becomes more evident as time goes on. Not everything in life is about money and ego. This is a typical example of why no- one trusts the Council.
·    the lack of parking for people on this large, multi-use site – they will no doubt opt for the “free parking” to be found in Crendon Park, where we can barely park our own cars now since the charging introduced for the Yew Tree Road car park.
·    The traffic impact on Yew Tree Road and A26.
The actual Hub itself I quite like – definitely an improvement appearance wise – such a shame that it has to come at such a cost and lack of consideration to the residents who care about where they live.

Michael Swallow, Elm Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 30 Sep 2016 (edited here)

I object strongly to the current proposals for the Southborough Hub. My reasons are:

  1. Local people have been given little or no opportunity to give input into the purpose and design of the hub.  The plan has been designed by a secretive cabal and represents Town Hall diktat at its very worst.
  2. The planned building does not fit architecturally with Southborough.  It will destroy what is distinctive about the town and replace it with an anonymous generic prefab that could just be anywhere.
  3. I was shocked an appalled to discover the low quality materials to be used in the planned building. Plastic cladding is cheap and nasty and will prove very expensive to keep clean…The building will become a filthy magnet for every particle of pollution in the air and become a colossal eyesore.  For God’s sake please think again!
  4. We were promised a “state of the art theatre” but the planned theatre will clearly not fulfil this promise…It almost seems as if this useless space has been added in order to tick a box, made necessary by the demolition of the Victoria Hall. It will prove to be a white elephant and I feel it represents a sordid attempt to defraud the people of Southborough.
  5. The library and medical centre should be kept completely separate.  it is simply unacceptable to have sick, infectious people constantly passing through, or near to, a library area used by mothers and toddlers.  Neither should library users have to share space with theatre-goers.

I feel that Southborough does need redevelopment, but it does not need this redevelopment.  I feel very strongly that the planning committee must now listen to the objections of the people of Southborough and not insist on pushing on with this deeply flawed, defective plan.

Trevor Jary,  Faulner Place, Bagshot, Surrey – formerly of Powder Mill Lane (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 30 Sep 2016 (edited here)

Are you seriously considering bulldozing down a cultural hub that’s been in the community for 116 years?

Let’s put aside the historical sacrilege you and you council men and women will forever be remembered for but think about the cultural impact this will have in the community; even less opportunity for the youngsters, in an era where they seem to be having anything and everything worth living for, removed.

Being involved with the arts is a life enhancing experience, teaching one self-expression….

There’s also the obvious social/communal cohesion that a theatre like this provides, by going to see a show, or being part of a show, helping out in the box office, ushering etc…

Answer this, what is the point in a council if it’s just going to be a dreary, tax paid conveyor belt of perfunctory grey services which drain the soul and life from a community.

Please reconsider your stance on demolishing the Royal Victoria theatre.

Chloe Byrne, Colebrook Road, High Brooms  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 30 Sep 2016

Initially I thought people objecting to a plan for some much needed regeneration in an area I honestly can’t ever remember being anything but a bit grotty, were just typical Royal Tunbridge Wells types. Stuck in the past and not up for change of any type. But after being convinced to take some time to review and look over the plans online myself, research into professional opinion on them and weigh up the pros and cons, I can honestly say I am shocked and appalled that anyone is trying to push this through – what on earth are they thinking?

Not only does every single aspect of the build … have major flaws, such as the theatre being completely unsuitable…how does it not have a stage, bar or box office? The library not providing enough space for mums and biggies etc (as an expectant new mum this is something that particularly worries me), as well as having to share space with the theatre as an interval space…?!

…The architectural design clearly needs to be looked at again, it’s a monstrosity…

Charmain Clissold-Jones, St James Rd, Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 29 Sep 2016

I write to add my strong objection to the plans to demolish the Royal Victoria Hall in Southborough and replace it with a modern box of very dubious quality. The theatre is important to so many people in Southborough.

Too many of our interesting, historical buildings are being pulled down without thought to their history, and relevance to the local community and environment. The proposed new building is a shoddy design. I see that Ptolemy Dean, the respected local architect, has already commented unfavourably on the ugliness and inappropriateness of the plans.

Far better, would be the refurbishment and renovation of this gracious old theatre to the benefit of all.

Although I live in Tunbridge Wells, we were visitors to the hall when my daughter danced there in various ballet shows when she was a child.

Sarah Glover, Willow Walk, Honiton, Devon  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 29 Sep 2016

I understand you are reconsidering the RVH and hope that you will decide to keep this after all. It is a wonderful facility for the area and a fantastic place to perform, as I did for many years. All the shows were well supported, showing its need and appreciation in the community. I only wish we had a similar facility where I now live. We still attend events when we visit locally and hope future generations will benefit from it.

Sharon Acton (2nd Southborough Brownies) Kibbles Lane, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 29 Sep 2016

(1) The Royal Victoria Hall is part of the Southborough landscape and should not be demolished and replaced with such a modern out of character building which will not meet the needs of organisations who use it – ie pantomime companies/performance companies

(2) For many people in the area it has historic relevance for example I danced there when I was a child and my daughters have been to pantos since they were 3 (now 21) and have also danced there over a number of years with the Southborough School of Dance. A Southborough based dance school should not be able to put on a show in their local area! However, the building will not, by the sound of it, meet their performance needs.

(3) The proposed development of 69 houses will cause even more traffic problems.

(4) Our brownie unit along with others in the area have missed our annual outing to the Christmas panto.

I do however agree that Southborough needs something to regenerate it but surely the Royal Victoria Hall could be incorporated into this? After all there are so many programmes on TV about saving historic buildings shouldn’t we save this one?

Sylvia Villa,  Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 28 Sep 2016

I would like to object to the demolition of the Royal Victoria Hall in Southborough. The reason being that it is a loss to the local community and the wider community of Tunbridge Wells and west Kent. The building has historic value as the first municipal theatre and should remain so. The building, although requiring repair and maintenance is not beyond life and could be refurbished to meet the current needs of the people of Kent. Too many theatres are being lost and this small jewel is worth saving.

Sarah Clark, Rogers Rough Road, Kilndown, Cranbrook, Kent  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 28 Sep 2016

I am writing to strongly object to the demolition of the Royal Victoria Hall and the proposed ‘Southborough Hub’, which is completely inappropriate for Southborough High Street. It is not in keeping with the surrounding area at all.

I was shocked and saddened to hear that the Royal Victoria Hall was going to close let alone demolished. It is a much loved historical building, central to Southborough, and was always a hive of activity with special events taking place there over the years. I have been to many shows and concerts there as well as various exhibitions.    We went to the Pantomimes there every year as a couple, with our respective families and then with our own children so it has given us many fond memories. I don’t understand why the theatre cannot be renovated and to lose the ‘green’ space in Southborough in favour of a building that will stick out like a sore thumb just seems ridiculous. What a waste of money!! I think it is very sad that an ugly modern construction is being favoured over an historical building that is already the hub of the Southborough community.

Regards,
Sarah Clark (former resident of High Brooms, Tunbridge Wells)

Nick Shaw, Cottenden Rd, Stonegate, East Sussex  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 28 Sep 2016

RVH Southborough. RVH is a unique facility for artist and audience and should be saved.

I lived in Southborough for 18 years up to 2000. I used and watched performances during that time and still do. I believe that performing in any art form is valuable to children and adults and being in the audience is a delight. This is a venue and resource historically and shouldn’t be dismissed.

Helen Phillimore, Bayham Road, Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 28 Sep 2016

My husband and family (3 children) and I have been lucky enough to enjoy various theatrical productions at the Royal Victoria Hall and strongly object to the plans to destroy it…This is a historic town and we need to keep as much of its historic buildings and traditions alive for all to enjoy from the wealthy to the poor. Not everyone can afford the Assembly Hall prices for shows, but for us and our family going to the Panto at Southborough was a treat we all enjoyed through the years.

We say – SAVE THE RVH!!

John & Helen Phillimore, William & Andrew Phillimore and Joanna Lewin (nee Phillimore)

Laurie Buckingham, Faircrouch Lane, Wadhurst (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 28 Sep 2016

Royal Victoria Hall…is a gem of Victoriana with immense atmosphere and history. Over the years the Victoria Hall has hosted a huge number of entertainers, from theatre groups to Big Bands. Worried of Wadhurst.

Cllr Fiona Brown, Argyle Rd, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 28 Sep 2016

As a relatively new Southborough Town Councillor, supported by many who wanted to retain but improve the existing buildings, I shall be voting against the planning application in its present form for the following reasons which as Head of a large FE College Drama Department (Orpington) and an active participant in community theatre/drama, I am focussing on the theatre/hall facilities.

  1. To work successfully, the kind of space the Hub is hoping to provide must be flexible and it must work for different style/sizes of production, presentations. It must also be within the means of local users and provide them with an opportunity to run a bar and do some catering.
  2. It must also work as a function room, available for meetings, lectures, celebrations and rehearsals. These events need a space that is light and bright and well equipped for catering. (Groombridge Village Gall being a good example)
  3. Although I welcome the tiered, retractable seating there do seem to be a large number of other deficiencies, backstage facilities etc ably listed by other added together which fall far short of a “state of the art” theatre as promised.

CONCLUSION

The projected theatre/hall falls between two stools. It had been feared/assumed we would be “fobbed off” with a Village Hall rather than a “State of the Art Theatre”. I fear it will turn out to be neither.

While campaigning in Tunbridge Wells for signatures to “Save the RVH” I was having conversations with people from far and wide who had seen unique and original productions put on by the LAMPS and others. It made one feel proud of what Southborough was capable of. One of the reasons for this was that the cost of hiring the RVH was relatively modest but now it seems there are NO PLANS or PROJECTIONS FOR FUTURE RUNNING COSTS.

The energy with which the RVH campaign was run was condemned by some councillors as being the antics of OTT lovies. I was never a member of the LAMPS but my past experience does tell me that to alienate that energy and determination bodes ill for the future life support of the new theatre.

I had a long talk with the late Caroline Eliot recently about the problems of retaining the volunteers which Trinity Arts Centre so depends on. If the HUB is to succeed these precious human resources should be nurtured not rejected.

I shall not be able to vote in favour of the planning application unless modifications can be made at this stage to address these shortcomings.

Dinah Lampitt, St Mary’s Terrace, Battle, East Sussex  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 28 Sep 2016

For many years I lived in Tunbridge Wells and during that time formed an affinity with the dear old Royal Vic.  It is with the deepest regret that I view the possibility of this magnificent building, gifted to the nation by Sir David Salomons, being torn down and a ghastly looking edifice being erected in its place.

I have seen so many good shows in the Victoria Hall and have indeed directed shows there myself. I regard the building as a classic Victorian theatre and one which – with a small sum of money being spent upon it, far less than the Hub would cost! – could be restored to what it is – an excellent venue that could thrive and be part of the community of not only Southborough but Tunbridge Wells also.

Keith Bennett, Bedford Terrace, Tunbridge Wells (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 28 Sep 2016

I write to object to the plans to decimate and disfigure this historic amenity (given to the people of the area by Mr Salomons).  Only in Tunbridge Wells could the local council be in such a hurry to replace this fabulous building with such brutality instead of attempting to preserve its architectural integrity for posterity.

John Manthorpe, Uckfield  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 28 Sep 2016

I am writing in support of the preservation of the existing Royal Victoria Hall in Southborough. It is a historic part of Southborough and its community life and should be cherished. It has played, and can continue to play, an important role in the wellbeing of the town and its residents.

Paul Isaacs, Managing Director, Skyfleet Limited,  Unit 3, High House Business Park, Kenardington, Kent TN26 2LF (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 28 Sep 2016

I have performed at this beautiful theatre many times…

How it can be a good idea to flatten this historic Southborough landmark is beyond me!! The new proposed building is quite simply ugly and without personality.  I would also point out that the building that is the Royal Victoria Hall has a following and support structure which Southborough will simply lose if the new proposals go ahead.  Why would you chose to lose this?  To market the new proposal to this level of support (if it was at all possible) would cost Southborough an absolute fortune !!

Thank you for listening. Please please PLEASE listen to the public!

Mat Waugh, Stephens Road, Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 28 Sep 2016

My connection to the site is as a resident of Tunbridge Wells, and user of the existing RVH facilities (audience at performances, parent of child performing.)
In short, the proposal seems to have been developed with no regard to historical context, little thought for integration and the current needs that it will not meet, and precious little regard to aesthetics either.

RVH is a building of historical importance. But the reasons it was needed 100 years ago for civic entertainment haven’t gone away, they’ve just been augmented. The current proposal would only make sense if it provided replacement performance facilities that were significantly better than those it replaces; so much better, in fact, that the community would be ready to sacrifice the fabric and history of the existing building. This is clearly not the case.

The development of this site in isolation is nonsensical, since it duplicates other facilities that will then leave big questions over the other sites. They should be resolved in a comprehensive plan that is shared and understood by us all, including those in RTW that travel through what is already a congested area.

Finally, the design looks as if it has been lifted and shifted from suburban London. It is entirely out of keeping with the surroundings, the ‘square’ at its centre is entirely unconvincing, and it looks cheap and flimsy already. I dread to think how it will age.

Mrs Mandy Strong,  Culverden Down, Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 28 Sep 2016

I have not entered into the Save The Royal Victoria Hall campaign before, other than to sign the petition not to close it, but as it seems that is ever more likely I thought I would add my thoughts to why this building should be saved . It is a useful small scale theatre for shows and entertainment , my own 3 x children were in Ballet shows here each year for approx 10 years with the Conibear School of Dancing , Peter & Pam were strong supporters of the RVH. It seems a great shame that future children wont get that stage experience and the feeling of performing if the Hall goes. We also went to many pantomimes over the years as they always aimed them more for children than adults and again why should future generations be denied that ?

The building itself is part of Southborough and it should be made available for the local people to use and local groups etc be able to perform there for years to come. Please don’t knock it down so that we have another flattened area like the old cinema causing a blot on the landscape for years.

Melanie Morris, Modest Corner, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 28 Sep 2016 (edited)

What is wrong with keeping our heritage? I am NOT a luvvy theatrical person, just a resident that wants to keep what’s good about Southborough and not destroy it – our library is fine – if it’s not broke and all that…Bring back the iron railings that used to adorn the RVH – be proud of our heritage – spend the money on cherishing what we have – Southborough will be a blot on the landscape of Kent and an embarassment to us all if the hub gets developed…Develop new council offices and keep within the confides of what makes Southborough great – red brick !  Trusting that intelligence will prevail.

Mrs Jane Carden, Breedon Avenue, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 27 Sep 2016

To demolish such an historic building would be a travesty. The Royal Victoria Hall is such an iconic landmark within Southborough with years of local history tied up in it. It’s also a cultural focal point to be proud of. Southborough is so much more than a row of shops or through-road to Tunbridge Wells, but if you obliterate a part of this area’s history, I fear that Southborough moves one step closer to being just that.

Pauline Alexander, Victoria Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 27 Sep 2016

I am writing to object to the Planning proposal for the Southborough Hub. There are so many reasons why this proposed development should not go ahead:
Not least the demolition of the Royal Victoria Hall, which the STC purposely closed, allowed to deteriorate which was against the wishes of the residents. I value the RVH, and have attended so many pantomimes with my grandchildren, and the wonderful LAMPS shows over the years. It is a proper theatre with its old-fashioned look, and I view it as a Local Heritage asset.

I’ve just noticed there is no pit for an orchestra/musicians in the new theatre/hall. And clearly this is more of a hall than a theatre. We were promised a “state of the art theatre” by Peter Oakford.    And that is not in the proposed plans.

I am concerned that having been told by the Project Leader that advice from theatre groups had been taken about the new hall/theatre that the Theatre Trust are now worried that the project has gone to the Planning stage without knowing what will make it a viable venue.    The Theatre Trust is concerned that the planned “library” will be big enough to double up as a foyer when 350 people attend the Theatre. If there will be 350 people milling around in the “library” at times, I totally object to this happening as the very essence of a library becomes negated.

This library design is totally inappropriate. It is a footway and people go to the library to peacefully make selections, use computers confidentially, and to sit and study; and for children to have a separate space.    None of these will be available in the new design.

The architects and planners have tried to put too much into one space.

We have been told there is no business plan at this stage for the Theatre and then we have been told there is a business plan but residents have not been allowed to see it.  Considering it is residents who will be footing the bill via their taxes this is disgraceful arrogance on the part of the planners and the Project team.

There has been a lofty attitude from the STC from the start, who have treated this project as if it their own and not listened to the residents who will, in the end, be living with it and paying for it.    There was/is a strong support from volunteers and activists to maintain the running of the RVH, and I attended several Council meetings where they were ignored and disregarded.  This project has been riddled with secrecy (still no business plan to view).

And finally, the proposed look of the building itself, polycarbonate!    Where and how could that possibly fit in with Southborough?    It doesn’t.

I object to this proposal and would suggest that a viable alternative to include the RVH be made with open consultation with residents. And without the arrogance and secrecy of the STC, with comments from Peter Oakford at the Council meeting that “he doesn’t care what it looks like”. (This was omitted from the Council minutes, but reported in the Courier by the journalist in attendance as was I!)

We residents do care although feeling disillusioned at the continual battle with those who have been elected to represent us but then don’t.

Tasmin Brownbridge, Business Change Manager, Vale Road  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 27 Sep 2016

Please don’t allow this to happen – it was one of the first music venues I ever went to as a teenager living in Southborough.  I also attended the drama groups in the summer there.  Allowing it to become a development site on one of the busiest roads in Europe is a disaster waiting to happen.  Please reconsider.

Mrs Gina Franks, Barden Road, Speldhurst (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 27 Sep 2016

My opposition to the application is for the following reasons:

  1. Proposed Building is unsympathetic to the Suurounding Area. London Raod, Southborough is predominantly Victorian in architecture, including the existing council offices and Royal Victoria Hall. The area does not have to be preserved in aspic, but any new building needs to be sympathetic to its environment. The proposed
    new building is completely out of character with the rest of Southborough.
  2.  Our Cultural Heritage Should Be Celebrated Not Demolished.
    I have been a regular user of the Royal Victoria Hall for the last 17 years, both as a performer and audience member. The Royal Victoria Hall, the first municipal theatre to be built in the UK under the Local Government Act (1894), is an absolute gem as a community asset, that many other councils would be glad to have. It has allowed to become run down over the last few years, but still has the bones of a fine small theatre that has been used by a myriad of community groups including pantomime, dance schools, local musical theatre, schools and youth theatre. It needs money spent on it, but a revised plan that could incorporate a refurbished Royal Victoria Hall rather than demolishing it would provide the community with an infinitely superior facility to the one currently being proposed.
  3. Proposed Community Hall/Theatre Is Not Fit For Purpose
    It is unclear how the community hall can be used as normal by groups during the day when a theatrical production is in situ as there will be sets, staging, props in the hall.
    The proposed theatre is not fit for purpose for the following reasons:
    i) The back stage element is woefully inadequate. – There is insufficient space for separate dressing rooms for men, women, boys and girls & insufficient provision for toilets
    – There are no wings either side of the stage
    – It appears the stage area can only be accessed from one side without having to go outside
    – There is no tower for scenery storage or flying changes – There is inadequate storage for scenery, props etc
    ii) There is no stage or orchestra pit. – This will cause sight line problems for audience members where an orchestra or band
    is used
    iii) The balconies do not face the stage area – The audience will have to sit sideways on in order to see the stage.
    iv) There is no theatre lobby or bar – It is impractical for the audience to enter and leave the theatre via the library, particularly during a matinee. – It is usual for theatres to have a bar!
  4.  Lack of Detailed Planning
    There appears to have been little engagement and consultation with local user and community groups. There is a danger that the proposed building will not deliver the requirements of its potential users.
    There is no detailed business plan. It beggars belief that a project of this size has not prepared a detailed business plan to identify its future users, revenues and expenditure.
    I hope the above planning application is rejected and that revised plans, ideally incorporating a refurbished Royal Victoria Hall, can be drawn up.

Anya Heilpern, Pennington Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 26 Sep 2016

I object to the demolition of the Royal Victoria Hall and I strongly object to the design and materials proposed for the new town centre development. The proposed development is totally out of keeping with the historic character of the area. It is also incompatible with your Planning Policies in EN4, and I believe you are under a duty to reject it.

The proposal

The inappropriate Southborough Hub, with its boxy Las Vegas – style coloured and polycarbonate structures, lit up and dominated by ‘signage’, will destroy the character of Southborough Town Centre. In this prominent location between Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells, it will damage not just Southborough, but the whole Borough.

Pick Everard’s Design and Access Statement says at 9.3.4:

‘The local context fails to create an architectural vernacular for the centre of Southborough and therefore it is the aim of the Hub to establish a new vernacular’.

This statement is clearly wrong, as Southborough town centre does have a distinctive local historical character. The buildings are largely Victorian, and brick built; many are rendered, as in Tunbridge Wells. The Gallard’s Almshouses, built in 1912, and the Grade II listed building at 114 London Road adjoin the site. The character of the site is recognised in paragraph 4.54 of the Tunbridge Wells Local Plan. This specifically protects the commercial part of London Road because of features of architectural interest which contribute to the character of the local area. While there are already some unsympathetic additions to the street scene, like Tesco Express, and the centre clearly needs some renovation and attention, this does not justify the very substantial destruction of its character which is proposed by the demolition of the Royal Victoria Hall and the erection of the new Hub.

Southborough ‘s history goes back before that of Tunbridge Wells, and Southborough is an important part of Tunbridge Wells. Much of it is conservation area, and within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Coming from Tonbridge, 137 London Road sits between the Southborough Conservation area (with its landmark cricket green and St Peter’s Church designed by Decimus Burton) and the entry to the main part of Tunbridge Wells. It is notable that development on this side of Tunbridge Wells in recent years, such as the Royal Wells Park, has respected the traditional character of the area.

Relevant policies in Chapter 4 of the Tunbridge Wells Borough Local Plan (Environment)

Introduction:

It is clear from Para 4.1 that the aim of the plan is to ensure that the unique character and appearance of the Borough is maintained and enhanced for future generations. Para 4.6 says that control of external appearance is of great importance in this environmentally sensitive area and para 4.8 says that all proposals will be considered in relation to their setting. These statements set the framework against which my objection should be considered.

Policy EN1:

This requires the design of the proposal, including external appearance, roofscape materials and landscaping, to respect the context of the site. Para 4.14 stresses the need for high quality design. Para 4.15 says that a ‘landmark’ building may sometimes be taller or bulkier than existing development, but it makes no exception to the principle that building styles and materials should respect the local context.

The materials proposed for the new hub clearly do not respect the local context. In commenting on the application recently at https://southborough-news.com , the conservation architect Ptolemy Dean condemned the new design as ‘poor’ and expressed the view that ‘Plastic cladding is hardly much better than UPVC weather board’.

EN1 also says that the proposal should not result in the loss of significant buildings. In this case, it is hard to see how the demolition of the Royal Victoria Hall can be justified, as it is clearly a significant building. It opened in 1900, funded by Sir David Salomons, and was the first municipal theatre in England.

Policy EN5

This part of London Road is not itself within the Southborough conservation area, but the impact of the development will be so big and brash that it will detrimentally affect the character of the conservation area. The proposal therefore conflicts with Policy EN5, which requires proposals for development within, or affecting the character of, a conservation area to satisfy a number of criteria, including the requirement to preserve or enhance the buildings, related spaces, vegetation and activities which combine to form the character and appearance of the area.

Policy EN6:

This says that proposals for shop fronts must be in sympathy with the predominant architectural style and materials of the surrounding area. It specifically says that in certain areas, including London Road Southborough, proposals must not result in the loss of a traditional shop front or features and details of architectural or historic interest. It is difficult to see how the loss of the Victoria Hall, and the design of the new units, can be reconciled with this policy.

Policy EN8

This requires the minimum amount of lighting necessary. This aspect will need to be considered in conjunction with the rules on control of advertisements, as the proposals place a strong emphasis on ‘signage’. It hard to understand why the designers seem to regard coloured lighting and advertisements as desirable from a planning point of view.

I appreciate the frustration that many people feel with the delays in regenerating Southborough town centre. However, I believe that Tunbridge Wells Borough Council owes a duty to the residents of its Borough, to the public generally and to future generations, to block a development that will do irrevocable and dramatic damage.

I am copying my comments to the Conservation Officer. I assume he will be considering the effect of the development on the setting of the listed building, and also the impact on the conservation area nearby.

 

Ms Coral Martin, Dower House Crescent, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 26 Sep 2016

Whilst I am in favour of the redevelopment of the area in general as it is rather run- down, I am against the loss of any football pitches. Around a year ago I was canvassed by my local conservative Southborough council representative and I was told that no football pitches would be lost in the redevelopment. However in these latest plans, at least 2 7-a-side pitches will be lost and an 11-a-side pitch will be severely compromised. I note that Sport England have strongly objected to these proposals based on this and other concerns.

Both my sons play football at the Ridgewaye site and have done for six years and I hope will do so for a further six years. With obesity amongst young people a major concern these days, the provision of sporting facilities is of prime importance. Also, giving young people an outlet for their time and energy is very important to prevent them expending it in less desirable ways. I also question whether the plans should be reviewed in the light of the recent closure of the Lloyds bank branch in Southborough, as it may be appropriate to incorporate the site into the plans.

 

Merlyn Neve, Elm Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 26 Sep 2016 (letter)

I object to demolishing the Royal Victoria Hall.  It could be refurbished and modernised. I object to any new build that is going to be out of keeping with Southborough architecture. I object to selling off playing fields…I object to more houses, more traffic, more congestion and more traffic fumes.  I object to my council tax being used on a project that doesn’t keep me informed or tell me how much is going to be spent now or in the future.

Cllr Bob Backhouse (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Mon 26 Sep 2016

I am a town councillor for Southborough.  I lived in Southborough from 2002 to 2008. I visit Southborough at least once a week. I have seen the London road main centre deteriorate over many years.  The present Town Hall is an absolute disgrace and an embarrassment to Southborough; it fails on every level especially access to people with disabilities.  The “romance” about “the lovely old theatre” fails to acknowledge it is, also, not fit for Twenty-First Century purposes.

The proposed HUB provides a much needed focus for essential civic purposes in one place plus the medical centre with the library.  It is an imaginative facility which residents, when we are long since gone, will enjoy. The flexible theatre/public space will be a boon. The new housing is much needed and the retail units will help new business starts; older shops in London Road have the onerous problem of old flats above them which are financial burden.

Despite the rumour mongers and the prognosticators of doom this hUB project is vital to the betterment of Southborough.

Suzanne Terrasse, Chestnut Avenue, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 26 Sep 2016

I object to the plans on the grounds that a valuable building which is worthy of preservation and redevelopment on the grounds of its historic importance, will be demolished in order to make way for a modern development. I also object on the grounds that we will lose some of our playing fields which are such an important community space.

Finally, Southborough is the poorer for having no properly run and adapted theatre. A community hub should support the arts in all forms and to demolish a functional theatre to build a community centre is ludicrous.

 

Mr Scott Towner, Manor Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 26 Sep 2016

Would be better to utilise the kit that we have in place. The Victoria Hall should stay and be used correctly should be a preservation order of some description due to the fact it was gifted to Southborough. The loss of the playing fields would also be a great shame and to add the extra traffic. Could we not fill the properties in the high street before trying to fill an expensive new building with more charity shops.. Possibly an extra takeaway…. With Solomon Estate getting busier and Tunbridge Wells relentless traffic has anyone taken the time to think that people will stay away just like we try to stay away from the industrial estate.

Eleanor O’Shea, Modest Corner, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 26 Sep 2016

I am a young person who has lived all my life in Bidborough and now Modest Corner. I love where I live. I love the feeling of community, the pride we take in our areas of outstanding natural beauty and the conservation of the many beautiful and historical buildings we are very lucky and privileged to have.

I understand the need for change, modernisation and why one would want to remove everything on the site to provide a clean slate and enable continuity in the new buildings. However, I strongly object to the removal of buildings of historic interest. The building was stunning when it was first built (picture attached) that it is a huge shame that over time the building has been unsympathetically altered. It still has an attractive facade, and is loved by locals and is a building of interest to tourists as the first municipal theatre in England. I’d rather we restored it to its original splendour by reintroducing the brickwork, and iron railings and cast iron porch.

Annette Stevens, St George’s Mews, Tonbridge  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 26 Sep 2016

Please do not knock down the lovely little theatre. I have been going there since around 2 years old which is 44 years. I have never missed the yearly pantomime and saw the last two easter pantomimes put on there. My Nephews and Niece put on their danceshows there in the 90’s while dancing with Miss Pam. So you can see that there are a lot of memories for me in that building which cannot be transferred to a new cold modern building. There is a lot of love in that building from many years of families and it would be very sad to see it pulled down,so Please, please, please don’t.

 

RJ Fitz-Gerald, The Ridgewaye, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 26 Sep 2016

I have lived in Southborough on and off for 25 years and returned here some 20 years ago to facilitate my daughters schooling. Since that time that town has slowly deteriorated into what we see before us today. There has long been a need to put together a plan that will improve the town for everyone ( not just the few ) and whilst we have such a plan in place its is not one as a long term resident and small Local business owner ( Bobs Bike Shed ) I feel I can support.

Although the plan makes much of the consultation that has taken place in the town responses have been poor and none of the councils involved have done anything to win hearts and minds of the residents who are intended to be the long term beneficiaries of the project. This is a multi-million pound development, but public awareness is lamentable.
On the basis of the limited and ambiguous results of a number of consultations Southborough Town Council decided to demolish the first municipal theatre in the country – a much loved but abysmally managed theatre. It’s presence on the High Street only reminds us of our Victorian heritage that has been allowed to fall into dereliction.

The new build that you are considering in its place is totally inappropriate in style and concept for a town with Southborough’s history. For the thousands travelling daily into the Borough the first they see of the building is its back which the architects believe will be available for ‘signage’ – maybe one that is neon and flashing ‘welcome to Tunbridge Wells’.

Around the town many houses shops and office buildings have been built from High Brooms brickyard red brick, a signature feature of Southborough. This Hub building is going to be clad in ‘a lightweight translucent polycarbonate material’ that TV architect Ptolemy Dean said is ‘hardly much better than UPVC weather board, albeit a different
colour’.

This sort of design is not only jarring compared to Southborough and probably the rest of Tunbridge Wells it is also cheap, nasty and impractical. It stains, and will pick up the pollution from the nearby main road, and also needs regular and expensive maintenance to make it look anyway presentable. Its shelf life is also short and it will need regular replacing.

The Hub itself incorporates a multi-purpose hall, a library and a medical centre. I have no particular issue with the medical centre. Re the hall as a theatre the Theatre Trust have complained that they have not been properly consulted and it is not fit for purpose. For other activities it will be difficult to rent out because it has NO NATURAL LIGHT.

Library users have not been specifically consulted. It is difficult to understand how it will function when you have to get through it to get to the medical centre, the council offices, the hall, and when part of it will operate as a café. Assuming that there are successful shows in the theatre then there could be 100s of distracting people in the library at any time.

Parking and transport issues ( a fundamental key element in an already congested Town) have also not been thought through properly. There is no real net increase of parking spaces for the Hub than there was for the old Royal Victoria Hall. And yet we have new parking requirements for medical centre patients and library users. To meet these demands there will inevitably be parking overspill in nearby roads and these will have a huge impact on local residents.

The increase in daily traffic movements in and out of the car park and the Ridgewaye into Yew Tree Road will make the problems that we see at present even worse. At peak working times, when the medical centre is being used, and when there are functions on in the hall, congestion will be almost permanent. No amount of ‘intelligent’ traffic lights will alter this.

Finally residents were given the impression that an initial estimate of 50 to 60 housing units being built on part of the playing fields that we have been trying to preserve for decades. The plan now proposes 69 house and flat builds to pay for the Hub project. Here again we see inadequate parking and a further strain on services – like schools – that just can’t be met.

This is an application that has no business plan, no real idea of likely financial implications/subsidy to local council tax payers, will impact through lack of parking provision, congestion and pollution and has really not engaged in any meaningful way with local people. I despair and it really makes me think long and hard about whether I want to continue growing my business here in Southborough.

Amelia Bell-Richards, Waterloo Road, Tonbridge (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 26 Sep 2016

I went to school in Southborough and some of my family still live there. I visit them regularly and work in Tunbridge Wells. I went to several pantos in the Royal Victoria Hall and loved them. I would not want to see this hall demolished. I certainly would not want to see it replaced by a building that reminds me of the worst types of modern off the peg shop or office buildings that I saw when I was at college in London. It does not go with the town. I love going to Salomons and this building should continue to be linked to the history of the Salomons family in some way.

I also used to play on the Ridgewaye playing fields and would not like to see any of this precious area be lost to building. Parks and playing fields need to be kept not sold off. Finally my auntie has a health condition that is made worse by traffic pollution. Where she lives in Southborough she is going to be hit by extra fumes from all sides. Doesn’t the borough council have a responsibility to promote good health in the town? This will make it worse. I oppose this planning application unless there are some major changes that will improve Southborough, not make worse the lives of people who live there.

 

Brian & Anya Wood, Bounds Oak Way, Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 26 Sep 2016 (edited)

The proposals are totally out of keeping with the historic character of Southborough and are also incompatible with the Planning Policies in EN4.

The plans are inappropriate in design, proposed materials and signage and will have a detrimental effect on the character of Southborough Town.

The precedent set by allowing such inappropriate building to be constructed could allow other damaging changes to be made in Southborough and the wider area in future.

 

Anna Jones, Pennington Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 26 Sep 2016

I am writing to object to the current plans to demolish the Royal Victoria Hall, replace it with a new hub building and the building of new houses on the Ridgeway

While there is clearly a need to regenerate the town centre, I strongly believe that maintaining the existing RVH is a far better approach than spending a lot of money on building a new structure that is completely at odds with the surrounding architecture.

Surely refurbishing an existing space is much more environmentally sound and cost effective than the current proposal? It has been a community resource for many years and should continue to be so. An imaginative architect would be able to design the other facilities around the RVH allowing it to remain at the heart of the community.

I also object to plan to build more houses on the Ridgeway. This will be detrimental to the well-being of local residents: It will cause more air pollution and longer traffic jams and potentially cause long term health issues for local people. It will also reduce the ‘green space’ area for footballers, walkers and other users.

 

Max Figgett,  Lime Hill Road, Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 26 Sep 2016

I grew up in the town, am a regular visitor and have parents who still live there.

As a history graduate and someone who takes a keen interest in the heritage of the local area, I can’t believe that Southborough Council is planning to demolish the Royal Victoria Hall, built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Moreover, it was the first municipal theatre in the country, a fact that should be celebrated.

The building has been allowed to decay, which is, frankly, a disgrace. With some well- placed investment, you could both restore the grand facade to its former glory and add a sympathetic building beside it – not a generic, lazy “Hub”. It could even become a tourist attraction. This has been done all over the country by councils that want to preserve and add to their history.

The design of the new building is clumsy, with its polycarbonate-cladded and box-like structure making it look cheap. Furthermore, it will almost certainly weather badly and need a lot of maintenance. In five years, all you’ll have is an expensive, empty eyesore.

My younger brother plays football on the Ridgewaye every weekend. Instead of providing desperately needed sporting infrastructure, this plan will rob football pitches from children and replace them with cramped houses and a lungful of car pollution. So much for the town’s much-vaunted Olympic legacy!

The plans for the library are simply bizarre: close down the busy, award-winning existing library and slap a new one in the centre of a theatre foyer, next to council offices, a medical centre and a cafe. Most people want quiet when they go to a library. This one will be full of distractions (if, indeed, anyone goes to the Hub at all) and is only being moved so that the Council can make a quick buck by selling off the old library to build new flats. Let’s be honest, it will not be an improvement and service users know this.

I urge you to please turn this application down and get the councils to start again and do something that will add value to Southborough. Let’s make people proud to live in the town again.

 

Susan Trusler, Old Gardens Close, Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 26 Sep 2016

I strongly object to the proposed plans for development of the Southborough hub on a number of grounds.

Firstly, the proposed building is ugly and out of keeping with the architectural style of the local area and shows no sympathy for the historic nature of the site.

Secondly, the proposed use of the space appears muddled and unclear. Where is the promised replacement theatre? A theatre is not just a sports hall with a few chairs wheeled out on performance days; it requires attention to the acoustics, the sight lines, the lighting, the performance space itself, dressing room facilities, I don’t see any of this in the proposal.

Southborough will be the poorer if it loses forever the theatre at the heart of the town. I have attended many events at the Royal Victoria Hall over the years, most notably the annual pantomime (by far the best I’ve been to), concerts and dance shows. On every occasion, I was impressed by the fact that Southborough had a proper theatre with a rich history, what a shame to demolish this lovely building to replace it with something so out of keeping with its surroundings and so unclear in its purpose.

I also strongly object to the loss of playing field space should the proposed plans be accepted. We are always being urged to be more active and to encourage young people to do more sport but this proposal would considerably reduce the playing field space available. Go along to the Ridgeway fields at the weekend and see how many children are up there playing football. Where do those games and training sessions go? They certainly won’t fit in the multi purpose Hall.

I can see no clear benefit to these proposals, which, I believe would deprive the town of two important facilities. Although I live in Tunbridge Wells, I have a strong connection with Southborough. My children were both at nursery in the town and my daughter subsequently attended Southborough School of dance from age 5 until she left for university last year so I have been a regular visitor to the town for the last 20 years . The Royal Victoria Hall was a special venue for our dance shows and is sadly missed. My son has also played many football matches on the Ridgeway fields and I hope will be able to continue to do so.

Chris Steward, Yew Tree Rd, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 26 Sep 2016 (edited)

I am writing to lodge my strongest objection to the current plans for the Southborough hub. I am a great lover of modern architecture but the proposed replacement with its overbearing aspect and polycarbonate cladding shows an apparent lack of imagination and regard for the scale and appearance of every other building in the area. Its appearance is more suited to an airport terminal or distribution centre.

Letitia Bell-Richards (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 26 Sep 2016

I am an ex resident of Southborough with local contacts who travels through the town regularly to get to Tunbridge Wells.

I have seen the plans for the Hub and was dismayed to hear that this playing application proposes that the much loved and historic Royal Victoria Hall is to be demolished. I have attended public meetings and various entertainments, including the pantos and the carol concerts and really liked this quirky and iconic Victorian building. I object to a building of such historic heritage value being torn down to make way for a new building that just does not fit with the town of Southborough.

As I travel through Southborough I am struck by the initial beauty of the place across the common and then you hit the bit with Tesco and the rundown civic building and scrubland. I support major improvements to this entry point to Tunbridge Wells but they should not be done at the cost of putting up another building which has similar attributes to the box like Tesco store. They should complement the Victorian and Edwardian architecture not clash with it. Southborough should be stand alone attractive and also be an advert for and enticement for visitors to travel further to Tunbridge Wells, with its own charms.

Why not do as other towns have done and blend the old and the new. Keep the Victoria Hall and then add something new and attractive to it?

As a driver I would also argue that whatever is done to Southborough should not add to the major headaches of travelling through it on this busiest road in Kent or make Yew Tree Road significantly more difficult for drivers. I know from personal experience now the challenges of trying to get out of the Yew Tree Road car park at busy times and joining the massive queue of traffic coming up from the industrial estate. This development will add to these issues.

 

Michael & Susan Taylor, The Common, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 26 Sep 2016

The Royal Victoria Hall is part of Southborough. It belongs here. It is the town’s hub. Why should it be necessary to destroy it in order to build a new “hub” which, on the face of it, simply will not fit. Surely there must be a way to introduce new facilities without destroying this historic building.

Angela Dewar (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 26 Sep 2016

The ugly design and use of inappropriate materials is extremely distressing to those of us who care about our town centre and have any interest in art and design. In the past I have been a member of listed buildings committees and have had to assess plans for development …

Ms Dominique Clothier (Southborough Society members’ views) (This contribution registered as neutral as objection already lodged)
Comment submitted date: Sun 25 Sep 2016

This submission is to correct any impression given by a previous submission that most of the 200 members of the Southborough Society are in support of this application. The evidence suggests that most members oppose it.

I have been a member of the Southborough Society for the past 7 years.

The submission from the planning officer for the Southborough Society should be taken as purely reflecting her personal view that the Royal Victoria Hall should NOT be incorporated into this new scheme.

The actual views of 82 Society members were canvassed in Spring 2015 and showed 95 % of members either didn’t want demolition or would only support a replacement hall if it was superior to the old one (see detailed evidence below). Given the theatre experts’ views expressed on this planning site that the new hall is inferior, it seems the Southborough Society planning officer has offered an opinion opposed by 95 % of Southborough Society members.At this year’s Annual General Meeting there was no mention of any change in policy to stop arguing for the Royal Victoria Hall to be retained. There was no vote on whether to keep the Hall. And there has been no subsequent questionnaire sent out to members.

This is what was on page 8 of the Southborough Society Newsletter in Spring 2015. I have the original:

“Southborough Hub – An Update By Michael Howes

The questionnaire that was sent out with the last newsletter was to gauge the opinion of the Society’s membership so that the Executive Committee can confidently represent the views of the majority of the members.

82 completed questionnaires were returned, all of which were from Society members. 84% of these were residents of Southborough and High Brooms.

51% of respondents answered that they would prefer the existing building to be retained and renovated. 21% said they would like the main auditorium kept but incorporated into the new Hub with the possible demolition of parts of the current building.

28% said they would prefer total demolition of the existing hall and a new complex built in its place.

Of those that favoured the demolition/rebuild option, 83 % wanted the new theatre to be at least as big as the RVH and have at least the same facilities.

When asked how satisfied they were with the management and upkeep of the RVH over the last five years, 0% were very satisfied, 24% were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied,

30% were dissatisfied and 38% were very dissatisfied.

The results of this survey reinforce the Society’s stance that the existing hall should be kept when the Hub is built.”

Southborough Environmental Action Movement (Brian Dury)  Crendon Park, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Sun 25 Sep 2016

The Southborough Environmental Action Movement (SEAM) was formed in 2011 to campaign against the sale of some of the Ridgewaye Fields Southborough to facilitate a new Tesco Supermarket in Southborough. The organisation was originally created as a Facebook Group called “Say No To Tesco” and currently has 477 supporters, principally drawn from Southborough & High Brooms.

The objective of SEAM is to preserve the Ridgewaye Fields Southborough as a public open recreational space and it is therefore against the loss of any of this land for development. SEAM is following in the footsteps of the Save Our Southborough (SOS) campaign group that successfully fought the sale of this land by Kent County Council in 1991 to the Co-Op Group for a giant Superstore.

Over the past two years SEAM representatives have had several meetings with the KCC Project Lead for the Southborough Hub Development. Following the first of these meeting, SEAM agreed that for the greater good of Southborough & High Brooms, some compromise was required to allow the sale of some of the fields to raise funds to develop the Southborough Hub. This aligned with SEAMs wider objectives of “Promoting a regeneration of Southborough that delivers a community full of vitality, confidence and ambition.” SEAM therefore withdrew its objections to the sale of some of the field for development and has attempted throughout to “Raise Public Awareness” and “Lobby Decision Makers” to enhance the Southborough High Street and at the same time encourage footfall to benefit our local shops.

It is therefore with deep regret that SEAM must now object to this Planning Application. SEAM does not believe that the Hub Project Team or Decision Makers have listened to their concerns.

The proposed HUB does not sit conformable on the Southborough High Street; neither does it enhance our street scene. This polycarbonate box is awful. The design is amateurish and appears cheap. It is totally inappropriate at the centre of our Town.

At the same time we have reservations about the interior design, particularly the Library – located as the main thoroughfare to the Hub.

One of the main selling points of the Project Team at all discussions has been the provision of a State of the Art Theatre to replace the much loved Royal Victoria Hall. This is clearly not now being provided and instead the community is being treated to an empty box with no natural light. This will not support any of the usages promised.

We have seen no Business Case or Needs Analysis. The Community therefore does not know the build costs, predicted income, running costs or ongoing maintenance charges. Neither do we know the contribution to be made by the community to facilitate the Medical Centre.

The Hub development will concentrate traffic on to an already overcrowded roads network. The recent modifications to the Traffic Light Control System have not decreased the traffic queues as promised. Additional traffic in this vicinity can therefore only make the situation worse. Full and detailed traffic analysis needs to be published to assure the community that we are not going to grind to a complete standstill or choke on air pollution.

The number of houses being proposed for the Ridgewaye Fields increases with each revision of the Hub Plans. At 69 units – SEAM considers this to be an over development, especially with the multi rise units planned. Parking appears to be totally inadequate for the number of house units planned and for the Hub Facility. Adjacent to the housing site are a significant number of allotments. Many owners arrive by car to transport items. Their current parking will be lost and there is no replacement planned.

SEAM has been in discussion with the Chair of Sport England (Mr Nick Bitel) who advised that Sport England would be objecting to the loss of some of the field. The 2006 Local Plan states that Southborough is under provided for in recreational open space. The input from Sport England to the planning process is still awaited.

SEAM wanted to support the Hub Project. SEAM believes that our High Street will benefit from a QUALITY Development that enhances the Town. It is therefore with deep regret that we call for the proposal in its current form to be rejected. As they currently stand, SEAM does not believe that the sacrifice of giving up some of the Ridgewaye Fields is a price worth paying for the awful design and facilities of the Hub currently being offered. SEAM therefore calls on the plans to be sent back to Southborough Town Council.”


Mrs Olwyn Kinghorn (Southborough Society Planning Officer)  (Supports)
[NB it was later clarified that she is speaking on behalf of the committee of the Southborough Society]
Comment submitted date: Sat 24 Sep 2016

We at the Southborough Society support this Hub application. It is with regret that this application sees the demolition of a much loved Royal Victoria Hall, but this loss will be offset by this exciting new community centre. We have made the following statement to our members.

The Southborough Society has thoroughly scrutinised all stages of the consultation and planning processes for the Hub and has actively encouraged its members to submit their comments, whether positive or negative.

The Hub offers opportunities for the amenities in the town to be improved. The proposed medical centre provides a much needed solution to the problems that the current one has. The provision of this new medical centre under the same roof as the new theatre/hall, library and café plus outside space for markets, etc should create a better community feel and a focal point of the town, which it currently lacks. The current council offices are highly inadequate and are inaccessible to wheelchair users.

We have been promised state-of-the-art theatre facilities and very much hope that this promise is delivered. We also hope that the new venue is properly marketed so that it attracts a wide variety of hirers and performers.

We have had several meetings with KCC representatives and the provision of space for museum displays in the Hub is high on the Society’s wish list. Within the new cultural centre, we hope to see high quality display cabinets incorporated into the library space which are well lit and secure.

We hope that this museum space will focus purely on Southborough & High Brooms history, not have general museum exhibits which have no relevance to the area. We hope that displays could be changed on a regular basis and ideally a representative from the Society or other local organisation would act as a curator to oversee this. The Society holds a plethora of important artefacts and documents such as photographs, prints and maps, which currently do not see the light of day and could be put on display. The archeology group SHAAS also has some very interesting exhibits.

We have been asked by Jonathan White to be involved in creating a “history wall” which is a huge area and will hopefully be seen by many Hub users. This is a two-dimensional feature which we hope will tell the story of how the town developed and will cover many subjects including archeology, natural history, prehistoric, political, commercial, industrial & wartime history, architecture and details of the present day town. It could include photographs, paintings, text and even two dimensional exhibits – for example a section of the original Royal Victoria Hall ironwork.

We hope that tribute will be paid to the RVH which will sadly have to be demolished to make way for the Hub. This could be in the form of old photos and original programmes from productions at the old hall. The brass plaque commemorating the origins of the RVH – which could be seen in its lobby – should be preserved and on display in a prominent position.

The Southborough Society is a partner in a major Heritage Lottery Grant which is currently being applied for by Southborough Town Council. If successful, this will enable the Society to go ahead with ambitious plans to create an electronic archive of hundreds of old images and documents relating to the history of the area. In addition, we have sought funding to contribute to the cost of furniture for displays in the new library/museum.

We urge the committee to approve this planning application.

 

Ian Kinghorn,West Park Avenue, Southborough  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Sat 24 Sep 2016

I am writing to register my support for the above mentioned planning application to demolish existing buildings and erection of new mixed use Community Hub building comprising theatre, library, cafe, medical centre, Town Council offices and ancillary storage, toilets and plant rooms; retail unit; New sports pavilion with ground maintenance store and workshop.

I have lived in Southborough for over 40 years and having been saddened by the gradual decline of the Royal Victoria Hall (RVH), was pleased when the three councils, Kent County Council (KCC), Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC), and Southborough Town Council (STC) united under one umbrella for the benefit of the people of Southborough and High Brooms with an all- encompassing community centre which includes a theatre.

Southborough has during recent years been little more than a thorough fare to Tunbridge Wells or Tonbridge, that has lacked a heart or centre to the community and the proposed development which brings together the Theatre, Library, Doctor’s Surgery and Café all under one roof will create a real community centre, where the residents of Southborough can meet up.

This project is primarily for the benefit of the residents of Southborough and therefore the Planning Committee should when considering this application bear in mind that;- This development is a Southborough application for the benefit of Southborough and High Broom residents. – Many of those commenting on this application are from outside the Southborough or High Brooms area and their views are therefore not based on what the local community requires but rather self-serving views, solely driven by their interest of their theatre group.

– That this development is more than just for a theatre. – It is replacing the old RVH, Library, Doctor’s Surgery and STC offices. The replacement theatre should be made available for all local community activities/events, whether book or radio fairs, keep fit, Zumba classes and local disco/dances as was the case many years ago with the RVH. First and foremost this is a local community facility for use by local residents and not just for theatre groups.

The Planning Committee will be well aware, that most individuals who write/email their views are generally raising objections, whilst those who support an option will tend to remain quite. Therefore the number of objections the Planning Committee receives to this application is not a true reflection of the options of the residents of Southborough or High Brooms, and I believe that my views are more in line with the silent majority, who can’t wait for the heart to be put back into Southborough, a place where we can meet and be proud of. I urge the Planning Committee to support this application by unanimously approving this planning application and giving Southborough its heart back.

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