Views 2016

This collection of comments sent to the Tunbridge Wells planning authority in September 2016 serves as a snapshot of a wide range of opinions of people connected with Southborough.

As of 1.00pm on Sat 24th Sept 2016, these were all the comments in full submitted to the planning authority.  Warning, this page is very long!

Comments reference planning application 16/06081/HYBRID

Up to this point, there were 103 objections and 23 people supporting the planning application. That is 82 % of comments opposing the current scheme for the Southborough Hub.

Those views submitted in the following weeks are reproduced on this separate page:

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

 

Mr Richard Blackwell, Romney Marsh  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Sat 24 Sep 2016

Submission by former Councillor and Mayor of Southborough.
I write to strongly object to the planning proposals for the so called “Southborough Hub”. I lived in Southborough for over 40 years, marrying and raising my family in the town. I first worked locally over 53 years ago, so feel I know the town and its inhabitants well.

I was first elected to the then Southborough Urban District Council in 1972. I served for over 31 years representing West Ward on the Town Council. I also served on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. I consider myself quite experienced in planning matters.

The Royal Victoria Hall is a much loved building in the town, a focal point and over its life has seen some remarkable events. The first events were attended by its benefactor Sir David Salomon. The Hall has seen some exciting public and political meetings. Many elections were closely run as elections in Southborough are always keenly contested – surely a sign of a healthy democracy.

It was an honour to serve two terms as Town Mayor. They fell during the towns centenary in 1994. The salute was taken outside the RVH on the day of our celebrations – the same spot that previous civic leaders had saluted the homecoming veterans from two world wars. Concerts, shows, drama festivals, exhibitions, the annual flower show and the much loved pantomimes were all enjoyed by many residents and visitors for decades.

Next year, 2017, Southborough will be celebrating 25 years of Twinning with Lambersart, its French twin town. An inaugural meeting was held on a memorable evening in the RVH, when the townspeople of Southborough voted YES to twinning.
During its lifetime the RVH has seen many things. Historic pictures show the local town fire brigade practicing with their ladders against the walls of the RVH in its yard. Elementary school girls learned cookery skills in the basement. It also served as an air raid shelter during the second world war.

Sadly during the ill fated modernisation of the 1970s many of the original exterior features which gave the Hall its character were lost. Until 2015, when the RVH closed its doors, the annual Southborough Goodwill Carol Concert had taken place for 48 consecutive years. It was started by the late Ron King JP, also a long standing Southborough Councillor. This event raised thousands of pounds for the elderly of Southborough each Christmas time. At his request I took over from Ron when he became infirm and I was proud to follow in his footsteps.

I, together with others, negotiated the purchase and transfer of the former Ridgewaye school playing fields, some 15 acres in all to the STC. Our intention was to retain, for the town, these valuable open spaces – not for the space to be covered by 69 houses.
When the STC acquired the land it started to put forward proposals for a new town centre/market square. In pursuit of these aims the leaders of all three political parties on the Town Council, along with their Clerk, met the political leaders of TWBC. We stressed that all members of STC were of one mind in our way forward. Open Town Meetings were held, and I as leader of STC made this promise to the townspeople – that the plans whatever they were must conform to three principles.

Planning – there must be a planning gain in whatever happens so that it enhances the town scene of Southborough (note – no mention of the demolition of the RVH, rather that we would enhance its facilities).
Finance – the proposals must be financially sound. The only income STC has is from its Community Charges, levied on householders (note – STC no longer receives any benefit from business rates or grants from HM Government). The free use of office and meeting rooms enjoyed by the STC would no longer be available in the new hub. They would have to pay.
Acceptability – the plans for the new town centre/hub must be politically acceptable to the population of the town as a whole. I always envisaged that with a scheme of this size after an exhibition, meetings and discussion of costs, the plan would be put to a ballot of the residents.

All parties represented on the STC agreed to these proposals. I feel however that we have drifted some way from the unanimity to a situation where one party in conjunction with its “fellow travellers”, on the KCC and TWBC, who it seems are determined to rail road these planning proposals through the planning process using their in built majorities. This is not good for democracy, good governance or a town centre worthy of Southborough.

In successfully buying the land for the STC I never envisaged that the legacy would be the imposition of a “large plastic lunch box”, dropped in the middle of our town. Sir David Salomon must be turning in his grave at the thought of what might happen if these plans are passed. Many towns would be proud to have such an inheritance as Southborough has – the first Municipal theatre in the country. Let us save this inheritance and reject these plans.

 

Miss Rhiannon Grundy, Victoria Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Sat 24 Sep 2016

This historic theatre cannot be demolished and simply replaced. The plans for this Hub which include a community simply is not a good enough compromise. The reasoning for closing the Hall in the first place had no real substance behind it. These plans shouldn’t go ahead until plans for a proper theatre and/or reopening of the Royal Victoria Hall is completed.

 

Ms Jane D ury,  Crendon Park, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Sat 24 Sep 2016

I object to the proposed development and planning for the Hub in its current form.
The proposed Hub building is totally inappropriate for the Southborough High Street.
This box, with polycarbonate cladding, does not fit in with our street scene. This is a wasted opportunity to enhance Southborough and add footfall to our High Street. Southborough Town Council should have worked with the Community to provide a wonderful new facility, that was good to look at. The proposed Hub is not. Then – where is the State of the Art Theatre that Southborough Town Council kept promising?

I am concerned at the proposed building of houses on the Ridgewaye Fields. I note that the number of units keeps increasing. The mix – with high rise – is totally inappropriate and an over development for the area. This is a much needed area of public open green space and should be preserved.

I am concerned at the impact of this planned development on Southborough and the concentration and increase in traffic. Already I struggle to get to work with the large volume of cars queued on Yew Tree Road. The new traffic light system has not improved the situation. Then getting back home at night – there are still long queues through Southborough. All of this stationary traffic harms the air quality.

Finally, I am concerned at the lack of visibility of a Business Case to support the plans. How much is it all going to cost, what are the projected revenues and what the ongoing lifetime costs are. It has all been mis-handled by Southborough Town Council with too much secrecy.

 

Ms Lucy Jarrett, Belfield Road, Pembury  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

As an ex-resident of Southborough during the mid 1990s, it was a place with a thriving community with events and pubs on every main street, on the common and down most side streets too and several well served Village/Church Halls (multipurpose halls/venues) a Library, Drs Surgery, Bank, shops filling, London Road and the streets off and a beautiful theatre that was constantly buzzing with many things going on, whether it be a show on a weekly run, a children’s dance display, rehearsals, exercise classes, private functions or comedy nights. There was seldom a night when the London Road and The Royal Victoria Hall wasn’t packed with people. It appears that since this time community venues, pubs and half of London Road, has systematically been closing down. I do not oppose change but this redevelopment plan is fundamentally flawed and I object to this application.

The new houses – There is insufficient parking to manage the amount of houses (69) proposed for building. There are insufficient link roads to manage the traffic to carry this extra traffic out to destinations – Southborough is already a stationary ‘no go’ area. Adding to this will add to the pollution and transportation issues for the whole area.
Schools – Where will the children from these new schools go? Again transport away from Southborough will cause major issues at ‘school run’ times.
The Hub – Soulless building with laminate cladding, totally out of keeping with Southborough’s Victorian heritage. Should the library, Dr Surgery and Theatre/multipurpose hall all get up and running, parking issues must surely ensue particularly with the extra 69 houses being built – limited parking facilities.

Multipurpose hall will be exactly as it sounds – no stage – no consultation with the Theatres Trust or anyone it would appear – no fixed seating – no flys – no tower – no purpose built dressing rooms – no way of getting scenery in – no area for orchestra/musicians – Therefore no big company productions and no Profit for the Hub. How can the council propose such a hub without a Business plan. Please publish without delay for public viewing.

Southborough is in the enviable position of having its own purpose built theatre. A beautiful building with lashings of atmosphere and the ingrained memories that the people of Southborough have associated their community spirit with for the last century. It has provided a wealth of history with generations of the same family being involved in some way or other in the very brickwork, and although it may not possess the most glamorous of façades after it’s more recent facelift, internally the rich red velvet drapes, beautifully carved wooden stair banisters, the projection room, all the working pieces of what make her a working theatre and all that is required to attract theatre companies to come and perform and hire this building are still present.

A proscenium arch (very rare, only a few left in theatres of this type) the fly tower (allowing scenery to be ‘flown’ up into the dizzy height above the cast on the stage) wing, and many other features such as the orchestra pit, not to be present in the hub, and the Victorian balcony.

As a performer, the stage is a perfect performing space to reach your audience and make eye contact both in the balcony and in the stalls, and to come down into the audience and mingle. It is neither too vast, nor too small, but simply a wonderfully sized working theatre with those beautiful red velvet curtains that transport you back to the days of music hall and whisk your audience into the place out of their ordinary day for a short period of time.

It is no wonder that audiences whether young or old leave The Royal Victoria Hall transported into a different place. It is not just the show or event they have attended that they have enjoyed, but the whole experience, the atmospheric feel of the theatre and being engaged by the people up on the stage…. The night out in their local community.

There has been a tradition of local art exhibitions, fayres, school speech days, dance festivals, operatic and dramatic societies, music events, private functions and not forgetting The famous Pantomime running for 35 years at the Royal Victoria Hall and all affordable to the people, much more so than in the town centre of Tunbridge Wells.

With the right management and a business plan in place, The Royal Victoria Hall does not have to be what has been described as a drain on the council budgets and the taxpayers of Southborough and High Brooms, but could still be run as a charitable trust with a assistance of a volunteer group and the backing of the community. There must still be some room for further negotiation. Contemplate what is being deprived of the future generations of not only Southborough, but all those people far and wide who come to use the Royal Victoria Hall, as this is not just a local venue.

In the 1960’s and 70’s The RVH was a regular touring band hall and reinvented itself on the festival scene for the likes of The who and countless big names in comedy and entertainment throughout the 70’s and 80’s which was richly enjoyed by the community continuing to show just how versatile a theatre can be if correctly managed by people who understand how the theatre and bookings operate, The Royal Victoria hall was very well supported.

In recent years it appeared increasingly more difficult for the people who wanted to book it to find available dates even when it was empty and there were no clashes. The Royal Victoria Hall is part of our heritage, our history and our future. Dreams have been realized within its walls for countless children and adults for well over 100 years.

We all have it’s best interests at heart and care deeply about the future of this gem, about its immense history and it’s future within the community as a community venue. How terribly sad that a building with such an important local heritage, the first municipal theatre of England be demolished in place of a plastic multipurpose hub – This space will not serve the people well.

 

Mrs Mary Banks-Murayama, Prospect Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I see no justification for demolishing a historic,much loved and well used theatre when it is clear that a majority of local residents would like to see the RVH renovated. It’s current state of disrepair is the result of years of mismanagement which could be addressed. The hub development will entirely change the character of the town and is going to result in more empty and neglected buildings (library, current medical centre), increased traffic and congestion. Consultations on the designs were held at very limited times when working people couldn’t easily attend.

 

Cllr Jason Reeves, Prospect Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

This application needs to be considered in the context of the whole town. The development will enable several other developments that will expand the town far beyond this application, the library and doctors site are two examples. This application should be part of a larger local plan that incorporates the whole town, considers the impact on all local services, transport, housing and schools, as part of a wider regeneration of the centre of Southborough. Without this context and consideration, I cannot support the development.

Such a large development will place additional stress on our local schools. It is not clear from the application how local schooling provision will be supported. This application and other developments that will follow as a result of this application would need at least an additional class at one (or possibly both) of the local schools, there is no funding or provision for this.

It is not clear, how the development will support local housing needs within the existing community and will very likely support mainly new people coming into the area for good schools and transport links to London. The number of housing units has increased dramatically from the original proposal. To fully support the housing proposal I would like to see a specific provision for local people.

I have concerns about the local context of the building. I appreciate that the existing Hall is not listed, but it does have important local heritage and cultural value, as it has been part of the community for over 100 years. I think that retaining some link to this history would benefit future generations who live in the town and would also create support across the local community especially those with links to the existing Hall.

I welcome the new employment opportunities that a large new community facility will bring, it is not clear how these employees will be organised and funded. This is important as if the facility is run purely as a commercial venture, then I would expect that community use would be priced out of use. (For example look at local commercial hall or Theatre hire) The Hall/Theatre will need to appeal to people across the borough (and indeed Kent) to be viable, the proposal does not include any proposals to increase this appeal, and generate footfall into the town. I would further like the proposals to include why this development would make it unique across the borough/Kent to attract people to come here.

I fully support the inclusion of a new Doctors surgery, even though I appreciate that this will increase traffic and require a supportive parking solution. While the new surgery meets the planning requirements for such a facility, I would like to see a larger facility with the ability to not only support the residents but offer significantly increase provision and services and take a lead for health provision in the borough. (Perhaps a centre of excellence)

I would rather not lose any green space, but accept that this enables the development. As this is a compromise, where the primary impact is to the sports people that use the Ridgewaye, I think a condition of this development should be to make other council land available for sports and this should be part of a broader strategy that makes other land available for sports/football. This could be achieved, for example, by challenging the council to use some of the funds from the enabling development to resolve longstanding issues on other council land, which make that land unusable.

To conclude, in order for me to support this application, I would like to see a Southborough wide plan that considers this application in the context of the whole town, specific details on the provision of additional school capacity, specific details of how this application balances the housing needs of the community against people moving into the area and challenging the council to provide substitute green space for sport that go some way to make up for the green space that is lost to enable the development.

 

Mrs E Harris Address, Sandhurst Park, Royal Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I am writing to express my objection to the demolition of the Royal Victoria Hall. I have such history and happy memories of this Hall, having performed in it myself, watching friends and my children perform in many youth productions.

It is an historical jewel, albeit now in some disrepair, but the stage auditorium and stage are beautiful and represent the era. I was under the impression that the character of the original building was to be preserved in some way; that a theatre element was to be retained. A modern box lends little ambiance to performance.

 

Ms Dominique Clothier, Pennington Road, Southborough  (Objects)

Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I object strongly to this proposal as it clearly contravenes Planning Policy document EN1 which requires buildings to “respect” the context of the site. Southborough is overwhelmingly a town of Victorian houses. This proposed ultra modern ugly building made of low quality materials will accelerate the decline of the town. For people to want to stay in Southborough rather than visit neighbouring towns, we need a high quality place to enjoy. It should have gardens and playgrounds for small children. All that is proposed here is a paved area next to the A26.

What attracts me to a town are historical sites, not bog standard modern boxes.

I believe it would be a mistake to take away any playing fields as these are badly needed for children and adults, especially when obesity is becoming such a problem.

 

Mr Andrew Perkins, New England Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I am deeply disappointed with the plans that have been submitted. No consideration has been given to the established use of the grounds, which is home to a thriving football club that is at the heart of the community. 2 pitches, used for the junior players, will be lost and a third pitch will be severely compromised. No alternative solution has been suggested or offered to compensate for this loss of land and this will severely impact on the clubs ability to continue to offer football facilities across the entire age range for children between 6 and 18.

Notwithstanding this, the area is also used by a considerable number of local residents for recreation and exercise and once again no consideration has been given to their needs and requirements. For what would remain of the public grounds access and the ability to park in the area would be significantly reduced forcing local residents to seeking alternative options. While the development and upgrading of Southborough is an important step it should be undertaken with consideration to the existing facilities and usage of the area. If land has to be lost appropriate and reasonable alternatives should be made available to the community to compensate for any loss.

 

Mrs Jacky Leman, Gedges Hill, Matfield, Tonbridge  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I feel that this design is totally out of character for Southborough and will do nothing to enhance the high street. The theatre planned is not a state of the art theatre as back stage provision, dressing rooms, and access for stage backdrops and props is totally inadequate. It is just really a big village hall and not a replacement for the historic Victoria Hall at all. When a petition signed by so many people asking for the Victoria Hall to be kept and incorporated into the plans is totally ignored, how can it be democratic. I lived in Southborough for 20 years and feel you are not designing a sympathetic building.

 

Mrs Kathleen Perkins, New England Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I am concerned about the loss of football pitches on the site, and the fact that there are no plans to compensate the local community for this in any way. The pitches are so well used throughout the year, and of such value to both local and visiting football players, that it is irresponsible not to address the impact this loss will have, particularly on young players, who surely should be encouraged to participate in sport, rather than discouraged due to lack of pitches. There is no acknowledgement of the loss, or discussion as to what other facilities can be offered to the local community in their place.

 

Mr Dominic Offord, Carville Avenue, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

The Royal Victoria Halls is not only a piece of British cultural history. To me it’s also a place where I have seen my eldest child perform in her first ever ballet performance, it’s where I’ve seen my children laugh at the pantomime every year and also cry when they found out that they would never perform or laugh there again, as their local council had decided to bulldoze the building place that they class as belonging to them.

Whilst hardly anyone living in Southborough disputes the need for the hub, there is a significant number of people that do dispute the bulldozing of this historical building that has brought so much pleasure to the citizens of Southborough.

We are also not convinced that the plans for a new theatre have been created by anyone that has actually worked in a theatre and this is just STC paying lip service to people that they contemptuously dismiss as a ‘bunch of luvvies’.

Yes we the people of Southborough need the hub, but we also need the RVH as a focal point for the community. If run correctly the RVH could and should have been a revenue bringer to STC; However going by everything that I have seen and heard about the hub and the so called theatre, I have serious concerns that the citizens of Southborough will be left with a loss leading building that looks incredibly out of touch with the rest of the town and that will also not be supported by the community

 

Mrs Lucy Ireland, Edward Street, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

Please consider the heritage of the Royal Victoria Hall. Including it in Hub Plans surely should be a priority. It is the last heritage building on our section of London Road.

If well run and sympathetically refurbished restored, the RVH could become the jewel in Southborough’s crown.

 

Miss Eloise Martin, Western Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I have decided to oppose the proposed plans for the hub for several reasons.

My Grandad is a former Mayor of Southborough and it was him and his fellow councillors that secured the purchase of the Ridgewaye playing fields for the people of Southborough to enjoy for the future and prevent development taking place. I’m not happy at all that this present council now want to undermine their efforts and sell it of for housing.

And all to fund a hideous Hub…we have a beautiful historic theatre with very little wrong with it. Renovate the existing theatre and library and you won’t need to build on our precious green spaces and further clog up our roads with more congestion and pollution.

I loved our library when I was little, the best I’ve ever used. The new one won’t compare. With no separate children’s library = no cosy corners to sit and read or enjoy story time.

I love to learn about the history of Southborough. My road and surrounding ones were once busy with corner shops (now houses or flats) there were halls, hotels and churches which are now gone. I urge you not to get rid of the RVH as well. I for one want to see it remaining for the rest of my life.

Eloise aged 13

 

Mr Leigh Chatfield, Fernhurst Crescent, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

The playing fields are an important resource and if we build over the football pitches they will be gone forever to the detriment of future generations. I object to the proposal due to the loss of the football pitches which are an asset to the community that should be protected not destroyed.

 

Mr Hugo Webber, Pennington Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

It seems completely pointless to destroy a perfectly usable building on the pretence that the costs of maintenance are too high. I think it is better to preserve the original Royal Victoria Hall for future generations. Councillors forget that while many of the town’s older residents may be bored of the Hall, many young people such as myself (aged 16) will have no chance to enjoy this historic building before it is demolished.

This application erodes the atmosphere of Southborough by this juxtaposition of cheap looking buildings against the enduring core of the town, which is a process that has already started. This proposal is another building that contravenes policy EN1 with an external appearance that doesn’t “respect the context of the site”.

It seems reckless to cause such an upheaval and to reconfigure the public services of Southborough when the council has alienated the volunteers who they expect to run these facilities. I am also concerned by the secrecy surrounding the business plan; I don’t see how the councillors can expect the public to take such enormous risk without any hard evidence.

Most importantly, I think it is irresponsible to destroy playing fields and to create more housing which will put further strain on public services in Southborough especially the already overstretched A26.

I think that this application is illogical, reckless and completely irresponsible.

 

Mr Alan Collins, North Farm Road, High Brooms  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

As a resident of High Brooms for 30+years,i would just like to say that I look forward to seeing the construction of the Hub and all the new amenities that will be provided for the populous of South borough and High Brooms, for to long south borough high Street has deteriorated in its appearance and hopefully the hub will prompt the regeneration of the business facades and help to increase footfall for our shopkeepers and I feel that our councilors,in particular councilor Peter Oakford and councilor Glenn Lester should be applauded for the time and effort that they have put into this project which will provide improved,modern facilities

Mrs Mary Richards, Hillcrest Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I think it is totally unacceptable to lose the green space.

Mrs Judy Cave, Bedford Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I object to the demolition of this historic building as there has been little to give confidence in the proposed so called hub. I object on grounds that Southborough will be losing a building that was given as a gift to the town and that it has not been sufficiently cared for and maned by the Southborough Town Council. I object to the anticipated increase in pollution , additional congestion from traffic, disruption from the planned housing on the Ridgewaye site. The town will lose a valuable community asset and gain an inferior massively expensive modern monstrosity rather than a theatre . The people of Southborough do not need or want another building to replace one that the council have shown they cannot manage.

 

Mr Douglas Richards, Hillcrest, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I totally object to the loss of green space.

 

Mr Andy Hennah,  Yew Tree Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

The building is really not in keeping with Southborough’s existing architecture – it looks like a space-aged monstrosity has landed in our town. The project is not being sympathetic to the town’s needs, favouring fancy council offices over a space for the community.

I do not see any careful consideration to the increase in traffic. A single entrance to the expanded car park on Yew Tree Road will increase the volume of traffic on an already jammed junction. Ambulance access to the medical centre is likely to be affected.

There will be significantly less greenery after the build than before. Southborough suffers from a lack of trees and greenery as it is. Lack of greenery would also detrimentally affect the pollution in the area.

I am concerned that the Town’s amenities and infrastructure will not be able to support the number of new houses/dwellings in the project. Not enough thought seems to have been given to extra school places, more traffic, more parking etc.
For this project to succeed I feel the context in which it is being built should be carefully considered. I get the impression that this is not the case.

 

Mr Will Northcote, Speldhurst Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

Along with the vast majority of Southborough residents I am relieved that what has long been a carbuncle in the centre of our town is at long last being regenerated.
However, the proposed plans fall a long way short of being fit for purpose and regrettably I have to oppose them being taken forward in their current state. I object for several reasons:

1. Football pitches and pavilion

Having been involved with the club for over 12 years through my two sons I have seen it expand and become a central part of the community. It should be borne in mind that the hub will not add anything to the town that is not already provided by TWRFC as the current clubhouse and changing rooms, developed and funded by the club/parents, will be lost with the demolition of the old school. That said, the replacement clubhouse will be a wonderful facility for the 600 or so young children who use the Ridgewaye every week. However, the club will continue to grow exponentially and whilst the present design with four changing rooms is adequate it will soon (probably on the opening day) be insufficient for the number of players using it and does not allow for expansion.

The pavilion has been moved from its original location within the hub to a standalone area in order to provide the proposed number of dwellings and the relocated doctors’ surgery. Furthermore, the STC maintenance building has been incorporated into the pavillon. Consequently over 15% of the playing fields and much needed trees, scrubland has been lost. This necessitates the removal of two 7 aside pitches, which are not being replaced elsewhere, and the significant sections of two 11 aside pitches. The design prevents the redrawing of the pitch layouts to retain both 11 aside pitches and hence one will be lost. The pitches are overused as it is. The club already has to pay for additional pitches on Skinners playing fields (incurring the wrath of adjoining residents) and loss of up to three pitches will not only add further overuse but exacerbate problems going forward as the club and number of boys and girls playing continues to grow.

The hub proposals cannot be allowed to proceed as whilst they disadvantage local children.

What’s more, the proposals do not accommodate the needs of the Southborough men’s team as they will be unable to use the same facilities as young children, especially young girls. Therefore, additional council funding will be required to build further facilities.

2. Housing density/loss of ‘green space’

When the Ridgewaye School closed, Southborough Town Council took out a loan to purchase the site and safeguard the town’s green space from over development. It is well documented that the town’s provision of green/playing fields is well below required levels. In their current state the proposals undermine the principles.

Nobody can deny there is a desperate need for housing in the town. However, having initially included 25 or so dwellings, the number was increased to 50 and now sits at 69.

Although the relocation of the library is included in the plan the subsequent redevelopment of the area and the resultant 10-12 dwellings (as per the TWBC strategy) is not. Meaning the number of additional dwellings generated by the hub is at least 80. Similarly, whilst the surgery relocation is included in the proposal, the redevelopment and housing is not. This could add approaching 20 dwellings, if not more if flats are built, bringing the true hub housing figure up to 110.

There are numerous brown field sites across the town which are in need of regeneration and would offer a far more appropriate opportunity than developing such densely packed housing on much needed recreational and green space.

The TWBC strategy identifies the Speldhurst Road allotments for redevelopment. Given the demands on TWBC it is likely that this will happen within a similar timescale to the hub and will add a minimum of a further 40 dwelling bringing the number of new dwellings in the town to over 150.

All of this development should be taken into account when assessing the hub proposal and not the limited projection advanced by the project team. Indeed, it could well be argued that by simply selling and redeveloping the Speldhurst Road site STC could raise sufficient funds to regenerate the town centre without needing to build on valuable green playing fields.

3. Parking

Based on the proposal it would appear that there are 62 parking spaces allocated to 69 dwellings so there is already a shortfall. Although some households may not be car owners it is probable that a significant number will actually have two cars, making the allocation woefully inadequate.

If councillors actually lived in the town they would be aware of the traffic/parking chaos on Saturday and Sunday mornings when the children are playing football. The number of proposed parking places provided is wholly inadequate given the number current and predicted number of footballers and will be impacted as a result of residents having to use ‘football’ spaces for their second cars. Furthermore, those proposed run right up to the pitches which is impractical and will result in injury to players and damage to cars. It should also be remembered that around twenty cars park inside the school on weekends and there is no such dedicated parking for the pavilion.

Whilst provision is made within the Yew Tree Road car park this will be offset by the loss current level of parking transferred from the St. Andrews surgery. If, as proposed, the surgery grows to the size anticipated patient parking demands will place further pressure on the limited parking.

The hub proposal also does not taken account of the dozen or so places that have been lost due to the Lloyds bank closure or the ten or more places lost down the side of the Royal Victoria Hall.

Users of the allotments also require parking. My own experience suggests this can be upwards of a dozen people on a weekend. Again this is not built into any provision.

Once again, if they actually lived in the surrounding area councillors would realise that the although the imposition of parking charges may have created a relatively ’empty’ Yew Tree Road car park it has been at the expense of congested side roads such as Hillcrest, the Ridgewaye, Speldhurst Road and Charles Street with visitors/commuters simply decamping to avoid charges. With insufficient parking provided, this problem will be further compounded as traffic levels dramatically increase with visitors to the hub.

4. Traffic congestion/pollution levels

The A26 is one of the most polluted roads in the county.

The new junction layout at Yew Tree Road/Speldhurst Road junctions appears to have little benefit. Creating a ‘destination’ centre such as the hub access via Yew Tree Road will further add to the this congestion and pollution, particularly as parking provision is so inadequate.

Removal of trees on the Ridgewaye and around the library will further impact on air quality. The architects may claim these will be replaced but the location of any trees will be further away from the A26 and have no environmental benefit in terms of air quality.

The traffic assessment was delayed until after these were completed. If has now been carried out it will have been done so during school holiday period and as such is invalid.

5. Architectural design and ‘town square’ location

It is evident that the architects have failed to appreciate the historical context of the location which is a governmental requirement of all local authority development. Indeed, Pick Everard and certain councillors have arrogantly stated that our town has no traditional local architecture or style. Southborough and High Brooms is in fact famous for its red bricks which can been seen throughout many historical areas of the town and Tunbridge Wells. However, no attempt has been made to incorporate what should be a fundamental design requirement. Similarly, the locale features numerous Victorian stucco villas, High Brooms red brick semis and Georgian wooden cottages and buildings. All of which reflect the town’s rich historic architecture that Pick Everard claim is none existent! Whilst nobody would wish to see a pastiche of these styles one would expect some acknowledgement of them.

If one has to accept that RVH will not be retained then I do actually favour a modern approach. However, the proposed design is clearly a reworking of an ‘off the shelf’ design for a bulk standard school or other such public building in which Pick Everard specialise. Whilst acknowledging that architectural appreciation is subjective, the proposed design represents the worst of poor modern architecture and is a dreadful outcome – neither a nod to the past nor an innovative modern building.

The scale of the hall is unnecessary and out of keeping with its surroundings. The pallet of materials is not functional. Polycarbonate is an unsustainable material which has been chosen as a low cost option (the suggestion of its choice for being striking etc. is facetious) and not fit for purpose so close to such a polluted traffic route; within months it will be covered in soot and dirt requiring expensive maintenance and regular replacement.

A perfect illustration of the architects’ inability to understand the community’s requirements and the impact of traffic on the area is their decision to locate the proposed ‘town square’ beside the main road, which as I have already mentioned, is one of the most polluted roads in Kent. There is no way that anyone will want to socialise there, nor should they for health reasons!

Such a disjointed relationship between the hub buildings fails to create a suitable and workable space that can function as a ‘square’. In effect it is merely a large and empty area of paving with no particular use or features. There is no central focal point around which to base anything. In its current form the design neither shields the ‘square’ from road noise and pollution nor creates a welcoming association with and onto the playing fields; it is neither one thing nor the other!

The latest plans include additional retail space. Given the shops along the High Street already struggle to remain in business there is no demand for further retail space, especially one which will be isolated from all the other retailers. One can only deduce that it has been added to ‘fill the space’, once again illustrating the architects lack of understanding and imagination.

Of particular concern is the fact that it will create a large dark area for youths to congregate at night encouraging misbehaviour and worse.

The old Lloyds building and former Bat & Ball both sit in a dominant position relative to the hub. No account of these has been taken within the development and both will have significant affect. Now it is empty why was its use as a replacement surgery not considered? Similarly why has no thought been given to acquiring the land and incorporating it within the hub? As a listed building the Bat & Ball/ Water Margin is of historic importance to the town, especially if as Pick Everard claim the town has limited or no buildings of particular architectural style. It is an ideal building in which to locate a town museum and thought should be given to including such a proposal within the plans.

6. Library

The Southborough Library is one of the most highly used in Kent and whilst I would prefer the present building to be refurbished, if this is not to be then the inclusion of a new building in the hub is to be welcomed. However, the resultant design is an unworkable compromise that has been altered and amended several times to overcome other problem and hence is unsuitable for user needs.

A key feature of the library has always been the separate quiet children’s area which is used for various activities. One of its major USP’s has been ignored and removed.

In effect the library is now nothing more than a linking point for several corridors leading to other functions such as the theatre etc. During matinee performances or summer fairs etc. it will lose its ability to function as a library with 300 people also using it as a drink foyer or overflow area to chat. KCC’s Library Strategic Business Development Manager has acknowledge that it will be noisy. This cannot be simply dismissed as an operational matter to be overcome by whoever ends up running the theatre.

KCC also seem to anticipate the café becoming busy as a community café; I’m sure Café Bliss will be delighted to hear that their role in the community is no longer needed and they can happily close down as a result of unnecessary local competition!

7. Theatre functionality and business plan

Like the 11,000 people whose signed the petition but were ignored I would preferred to see the retention of the country’s first municipal theatre. Whist I could dispute the conclusions of the supposed consultation, this is an argument for another day. By facilitating the demolition the Royal Victoria Hall the hub development necessitates the building of a working theatre that can carry on the one hundred plus years of theatrical family performances that are a famous part of Southborough’s history. It must also provide a facility that can adequately accommodate audiences of 300-350 to sit alongside but not compete with Trinity and the Assembly Hall.

In dismissing the desires of the community to keep RVH the Project Team promised a ‘state of the art theatre’ which would be a proud replacement for a much loved and treasured community asset. If this is the benchmark by which the proposed performance space/hall (it cannot be described in any way as a theatre!) is to be judged, then the team has fallen a long way short of achieving their objective.

The Council Leader is on record at the Town Meeting as saying that he does not care ‘what it looks like’ and is only concerned with managing the town’s council tax payers’ moneys. Unfortunately, the proposal proves the first part of this statement to be sadly correct with a total disregard for the appearance and functionality of the proposed theatre whilst at the same time failing to provide any financial modelling or planning to indicate how Southborough taxpayers’ money will be spent, managed or recouped via a project costing £30m. The proposals meet neither the desires of the community nor the Council Leader!

It is a legal requirement for to notify the Theatres Trust of the development, especially given that RVH is number 11 on the Theatre Trust at risk register. Throughout the project the team has repeatedly stated that they and the architects were conferring with theatre experts. A senior Councillor publicly stated that the Theatres Trust had been consulted, kept up to date with and had the proposed design. The Theatres Trust has now indicated that they have not been contacted and found out about the proposals themselves. Either the Project Manager and architects has been incompetent and should be removed from the project immediately or the said Councillor deliberately misled residents and should have their conduct investigated and resign as a TWBC was for similar misconduct.

Several more knowledgeable respondents will have outlined in detail why the proposed theatre designs are not fit for purpose and should be rejected. There are numerous shortcomings including:

– No dedicated wheelchair viewing and Inadequate wheelchair access to toilets, meeting areas, upper level seating areas
– No dedicated foyer/box office area or management
– Incursion onto the library space generating congestion and noise
– No large door/vehicle access for scenery installation/delivery to the stage
– No orchestra pit
– No raised stage
– No fly facility to raise and remove scenery
– No separate changing rooms for children/adults and male/female
– Kitchen cannot be used during performances
– No dedicated bar in the foyer area or facility for a temporary bar on upper levels
– Unnecessary second viewing tier which will have a questionable view of the stage
– No confirmation that 350 can be accommodated with acceptable sightlines
– No natural light – roof lights three levels up will not provide adequate light or a welcoming environment

From an ‘outsiders’ viewpoint it would appear that the project team have not only failed to engage with the local theatre community and RVH user but have sought to deliberately antagonise and demonise them to meet their own political objectives. As a result the performance space proposed does not meet any of the needs of users and on this basis should be rejected.

Furthermore, by adopting such an aggressive and confrontational approach the very people who would be ideally placed to manage and run the theatre as a trust, as had been suggested by the project team until very recently, have been alienated. The suggestion that has just been made to the press that the theatre can be run remotely by extending the duties of a manager at the Assembly Hall is little different to when it was handled by the STC Town Clerk which led to the inadequate management of RVH.

Of just as much concern is the lack of a business plan and financial forecast detailing how the theatre will be managed, funded and operated. In response to a recent press enquiry it was stated that has now been done. However, I understand that Councillors have subsequently been informed that it is not complete and will not be for some time. This confirms the Theatres Trust worries that the project team has sought planning permission “without having had a picture of what will make it a viable venue”. They state:
“We are concerned the project is proceeding without a decision on who and how the theatre component will be operated, nor a clear understanding of what facilities the theatre and hall users actually need.”
There can be no way in which the proposals can be approved without any financial understanding of how the theatre will be financially resourced and operated.

In conclusion I would request that the proposals be rejected in their present condition and the project team required to resubmit them once all concerns have been addressed.

My reasons for this being:
– Unacceptable loss of football pitches disadvantaging children
– Unacceptable numbers of densely packed housing
– Insufficient parking provision
– Unacceptable traffic congestion and pollution levels
– Unacceptable aesthetic and functional design
– Unworkable library design
– Theatre design does not meet user needs
– No business plan or financial forecast for theatre.

 

Mr Benjamin Lester, Chestnut Avenue, Southborough  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I fully support the creation of this new central hub. As a 20 year old who has lived in Southborough all my life, I have seen the gradual decline of the high street, which is a great shame. With the introduction of online shopping, Southborough high street will soon dwindle from the centre of our small town’s businesses to nothing more than accommodation. In my opinion this project will help revitalise the high street and will bring new interest to Southborough. I admit it is saddening that the Royal victoria hall will be demolished, but all good things must come to an end and in its current state, I feel this is it’s only fate or otherwise becoming a deep money pit. Southborough needs something new and modern, somewhere people can socialise, have a coffee and also provide much needed space for our local medical centre.

I don’t understand how so many can object to new medical facilities when increased waiting times for appointements will only get worse with our current facilities. This is what Southborough needs if it is to be among those towns with an appealing high street in 10 years time. An objection to this project would be a damaging mark to our commmnity and it’s wellbeing. This redevelopment could not come soon enough.

 

Mr John Cole, St Catherines Grove, Manston, Ramsgate  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

Royal Victoria Hall Theatre should be kept with a mind to the towns rich architectural tradition. Advice from theatre experts and potential users of the hall have been ignored. 60 dwellings on part of the Ridgewaye playing fields behind the current Royal Victoria Hall ignores the need for open spaces for people’s well being.

 

Mr Richard Millett, Stocks Close, Hildenborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

Having spent my entire life living in and around the Tunbridge Wells area, I am in the process of of relocating from Hildenborough to Southborough – in order to be closer to local schools. Having lately been informed of the recent decision to build the Hub, and having attended the recent open day in the local Library to understand more about the proposals; I now question my decision…

For over 40 yrs I have travelled along The A26 and for all that time cannot remember a time when the traffic wasn’t atrocious in this area. I was therefore horrified to learn of the proposals to add a further 69 properties to the centre of town, plus a rumoured number more on the site of the existing library (once relocated). At the local library, the representatives who had carried out the environmental traffic surveys gave me no confidence, and in fact comically suggested that the existing traffic issues had already been resolved, and the additional housing and centralised proposals (the Hub) would not significantly impact the current situation! Lucky for him he lives in Maidstone!

As for the measly 42 spaces they’ve created for Medical, Theatre and Library use…..No doubt all residents on the already over crowded Springfield, Western Rd, Yew Tree Rd’s will be highly amused from the parking overspill from those wanting to use these services.

So to aesthetics, a multi story translucent polycarbonate clad office! Really?!? Honestly, it doesn’t take a well known BBC architect to figure out this sort of design would be more fitting in downtown Sheffield, than in Southborough centre with its amassed Victorian properties and the beautiful Royal Victoria Hall! Let’s knock that down too I hear Tunbridge Wells council cry! Obviously a petition with 10,000+ plus signatures must have been a hallucination or dream – are you listening to your electorate? I feel another BREXIT moment coming…let’s call it TWEXIT this time!

As if this wasn’t enough, I understand they’re taking the Ridgeway playing fields away to accommodate the new housing…..This will mean a further erosion to the local community in Southborough and more opportunity for child obesity to erupt!

And if all that has left you confused, then here’s my summary:

To summarise.
YES I OBJECT TO THE CURRENT PLANS
Yes Southborough is in dire need of regeneration but not at any cost
We need an imaginative architect who can deliver a plan to develop the town centre to blend contemporary with heritage.
Residents need to see a business plan.
The number of houses being built needs to be dramatically reduced
We need a council that will listen

Mrs Saffron Prentis, Prospect Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

The Royal Victoria Hall is a significantly important building and should be restored to its former glory. Our council seem intent on ripping the heritage, heart and community out of Southborough.

 

Mrs Sarah Lester, Chestnut Avenue, Southborough  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I have lived in southborough all of my life and have never seen the high street in such a bad state, so welcome this project to revitalise the town.

 

Mr Ian Barker, Hillcrest, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I object totally to the proposed demolition of the RVH which is a building of great historical interest to many, not just the people of Southborough.  Do you know what a great man Salomons was, who was the benefactor of this first Municipal Theatre ?  How can you even consider destroying it ?  And for what, a monstrosity of a building that is neither use nor ornament.

The whole of Southborough is bordering on a slum.  Such a shame, when you enter Southborough in either direction from the A26 along the grandiose tree lined road way…you expect so much, only to be confronted by the whole side of Southborough from Tesco through to the Almshouses being derelict apart from Papa Johns.  To combat this you wish to build a monstrosity of a building to include more empty shops, totally gridlock the area with all the traffic, build 70 houses on our green space and not protect the remainder of the fields.

Air pollution ? What of it.  My road will suffer as the rat run. I object strongly to this development from every angle. You need to be preserving the heritage of the Weavers, Bat and Ball and the RVH and not turning the place into little London just to satisfy the ego of a few Councillors most of whom don’t even live in the area.  At no time have we ever been asked what WE want our Council Tax spent on.

You have merely asked us to make a choice on part demolition or total demolition of a historically important building,  everything else we haven’t had a say in.  We cannot afford the loss of green space and we cannot cope with traffic. You already have 3 four bedroom townhouses currently being built in the Ridgewaye and two more bungalows. Add these to 69 more dwellings.  Where is all the traffic going to go ? Who is going to fund this useless building that is far from the state of the art theatre promised by Greg Clarke and Peter Oakford ?  Object object object.

 

Mr Andrew Swann, Grove Hill Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I am writing this evening to object to the ‘rejuvenation’ proposals for the Royal Victoria Hall site both as a former resident of Southborough (I lived there for 8 years from 2006 – 2014) and as Chairman of LAMPS – one of the longest standing organisations to perform at the theatre.

We moved to the venue in 1955 and it has been our home ever since. It was a place to entertain people, to engage in our hobby, and to make new friends. It’s a wonderful venue, both in terms of its social history, location and its size. I speak on behalf of a huge number of people that have performed there as part of LAMPS, who would not have met one another and had such fabulous memories of such a wonderful venue.

I’m sad that it has been poorly maintained and managed in recent years – and I feel this will only continue no matter how the site is ‘regenerated’ – unless a proper group of people is set up to run and generate business for a venue. Spaces don’t sell themselves – and the RVH as we know it, was left to rot.

Sadly, to LAMPS’ detriment, we have found it incredibly difficult to find an alternative venue that can offer the flexibility, facilities and cost in the area, to the point that we have no been able to find a suitable venue for the last two years – our society has gone ‘dark’ as a direct result of the closure of this historically important venue.

I must write that I cannot really describe how strongly I disagree with the destruction of the RVH – I feel it is short sighted and selfish of you all to rob your society of such a unique place, and I thoroughly hope that when you foolishly push through this course of action, that one day you will look back and regret every decision you make here today.

Sadly it will be too late then, as we now stare down the barrel of a pen striking the order to demolish our culture heritage.

 

Mrs Holly Rowden, Hillcrest, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I object to this application because I do not feel Southborough needs this amount of development. The destruction of an old, historic building to build this ugly monstrosity should not happen.

However, I feel most strongly about the loss of the Ridgewaye Fields. Yes, we will be gaining a brand new sports pavilion, but at the expense of a substantial part of the playing fields?! This makes no sense. The people who back onto the fields will have their views ruined by the building of lots of houses, crammed into the space to make as much money as possible, regardless of what the local people think.

I urge the council to rethink these plans and listen to what the local people want, the people who are actually affected by this development.
Thank you.

 

Mrs Rebecca Offord, Carville Avenue, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I strongly object to the demolition of the royal Victoria Hall in this application.
The theatre, as was the wish of Salomons, has been at the centre of the community since it’s inception. A place where local groups have used the site constantly. It has introduced many of the local people to their first experience of live theatre, music and the Arts. It unites the people today in their passion for a much beloved building.

Economically with the correct management, this could be a very lucrative arts and community venture. It could house all manner of arts, music and theatre both locally and with visiting companies. It could be used for conferences and coffee shop/bistro etc.. ( much needed) and used for meetings, as well as educational opportunities for those wishing to pursue a career in the arts. The success of the brilliant Southborough Pantomimes alone are an indication of it’s potential.

In the past the efforts of the local community to take over the running of the space have been rejected, and many very viable and exciting proposals, by local theatre and arts professionals, have been submitted and rejected by the local council. It could be a space to continue to bring Southborough together, improve the local economy through jobs, and making the area a destination rather then a through road to Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge. It is something we should be cherishing and lauding not destroying.

It is a working theatre which will attract outside companies.. a rehashed village Hall without the correct facilities will never work as a fully working theatre space and will therefore be less economically viable then the Theatre as it stands.

 

Mrs Sophie Chatfield, Fernhurst Crescent, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

Do not destroy our historic Royal Victoria hall. Preserve it for future generations. Also, do not build on the football pitches. You are stealing our children’s futures.

 

Mrs Judi Best, Broadmead, Royal Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

The original building should be preserved as a Community asset. If not at least part of the original building should be included in the new proposed plan. It is both Historically of interest ,as well as an attractive building.

 

Mr Peter Williamson, Bright Ridge, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I absolutely object to the disastrous plans for the Royal Victoria Hall. An important piece of Southborough’s heritage – a facility bequeathed to the ordinary people of our community by Sir David Salomons – is to be destroyed and replaced with a prime example of banal, mindless, town planning. The RVH is perfect for events that are important to the people of Southborough (the much-acclaimed pantomimes for example, that do so much to bring the community together) rather than important to certain political figures who are so determined that their ‘vision’ should hold sway over the town.

The proposed Hub is out of character, badly-designed, unfit for purpose – only the most diminished pantomimes will be able to be performed there – and will be dated before it opens. It will be a laughable white elephant that will stand, not as a vision of Southborough’s future, but as nothing more than a monument to the selfish folly of those particular small town politicians who have run roughshod over the desires of those who actually care deeply about Southborough and its heritage. If only the same amount of creativity that went in to pushing the demolition through at all costs had gone into the design of the Hub itself. But it didn’t and we are faced with a building that is both an architectural and an ethical failure on our high street.

 

Mr Jon Alcock, Powder Mill Close, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

What has been presented in nothing more than a badly designed box. It looks like a cheap, prefabricated, 1970s motorway service station. Nothing inside of any substance has been agreed and yet there is apparently a full business plan? The idea that full details cannot be worked out until it is known who will run the venue is, frankly, laughable. What is being proposed is so far short of acceptable that the finished “theatre” will be almost completely unusable by anybody wanting to present any reasonably professional production. There is more that is missing than present, and what IS present is badly designed. Just one example: two levels of balcony seating that face the centre of the auditorium, not the stage. Ludicrous! And the very idea of 300+ people entering and leaving through the library space – what genius came up with that? The council is proposing demolishing a perfectly usable theatre in order to build a complete white elephant.

 

Mr Steve Allan, Springfield Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

The Royal Victoria Hall has been the jewel in the Southborough crown for many decades. Unfortunately mis-management by Southborough town council has allowed this jewel to fall into a state of disrepair.

We are now expected to trust this dysfunctional body of people to try and deliver in their words ” An enhanced where possible theatre” Brilliant!!!! I have no idea what their concept of enhanced is but I am pretty sure, not allowing for dressing rooms IN A THEATRE does not fit into the enhancing bracket.

NO fly tower, wing space, parking, scenery doc, wheelchair access, backstage toilets, Dressing rooms, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD this is basic.

We where told by the leader of Southborough town council Oakford that ” The town will only miss one pantomime” We are weeks away from year two without a spade any where near the ground. Who votes for these idiots.

I am a Southborough resident, like most towns we are surrounded by flexible community spaces where every type of indoor sport or meeting can be held. We do not need another community space. Unfortunately after looking at the plans I conclude that another community hall/space is what we are going to get.

Retain Southborough’s main asset and build around it.

 

Mrs Keren Dibbens-Wyatt, Stewart Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I am very concerned about how much the demolition and new housing will lose the local community from Southborough Common which is a vital piece of green space.
As a disabled library user I am worried about how far the disabled parking spaces are from the library which looks very open plan and hardly likely to be quiet! In general I do not think that there has been enough public consultation or that the library and theatre are going to be adequately housed.

 

Mrs Wil Crittenden, Doric Avenue, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I object to the above application on the following grounds:
1. The design has absolutely no relevance for a primarily Victorian town such as Southborough. It looks like a sea front kiosk, not a cultural and civic centre. It does not add to a cohesive feel for the town centre, which should be one of the first criteria considered when designing such an important building, after its functionality. There are examples in the town of new builds that have referenced their environment. Brookfields has detail of the 16th Century Weavers at its Northern end and then gradually and skilfully echoes the style of the Victorian villas in the Southern direction. The townhouses on the old Q8 site reference again the Victorian stuccoed villas along that part of London Road. It can be done. As another example from the KCC and TWBC area I’d like to mention the Cranbrook and Sissinghurst Parish Council’s new community centre, which clearly looked at the oast houses surrounding it and incorporated that in the design. It’s surely not beyond a competent architect to incorporate some of the (original) features of the Royal Victorian Hall here?

2. The content of the building may work in broad outlines, but is actually a compromise to such an extent that in reality most of it won’t work. The theatre is not fit for purpose, far from the “state of the art” facility the town was promised. I refer you to the comments made by the Theatre Trust and others on this portal. The lack of dressing rooms, particularly where children are involved (as they will be at a community theatre) is just one area of concern. The library doesn’t have separate sections for adults and children, which will impact on story time and other such activities which are a vital service not just for (very young) children, but also for their mums. One of the three retail areas, I am told by an official from TWBC at the recent consultation days, might/will be filled by a coffee shop/restaurant. In competition with the café within the building? The council offices do not provide a Council Chamber, vital for allowing the public to see democracy at work. The medical centre will have more space than in their current location (and I’m not talking about the temporary accommodation) which is good, but should have been in a separate building.

3. The outside area looks nice in the artist’s impression, but in reality plastic cladding and concrete paving are not friendly materials. This area had a thriving brickworks industry and the obvious choice would have been to use bricks as at least part of the building material. The historic and culturally and socially important Royal Victoria Hall will be demolished for this? Of course we must go forward, but we should also respect the past, as that’s where we come from.

4. Beyond the Hub itself, I feel increasing the housing stock to “up to 69” is detrimental to the area where they are planned, as it’s overdevelopment within a residential area that already suffers from traffic congestion and pollution. Yew Tree Road is already at a standstill at peak times, while the A26 in both directions is gridlocked for large parts of the day, in spite of the changes to the traffic flow. The local schools are oversubscribed and our new shiny hospital has fewer than half the beds than the two hospitals it replaced. Encouraging population growth without also improving the infrastructure is a disaster waiting to happen.

5. The loss of some green space may be inevitable, if regrettable. However, there must be ironclad guarantees, rather than promises, that the remaining Ridgeway and Yew Tree Road fields are protected from future development. They are our town centre lungs. The only way to guarantee this is to obtain Village Green status for the whole area, or some such statutory designation. This should be part of the conditions for this application.

My main objection is to the design and lack of functionally, but I am also very concerned that this project might go forward while being constructed out of vague promises and guesswork. In my opinion it’s ill-thought-out and cobbled together. A bad use of tax payers’ money and not delivering the goods.

My recommendation is for the joint councils to start again and engage an architect more in tune with this part of the world and listen to what the majority of people actually want.

 

Mr Peter Lewtas, Queens Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

The demolition of the theatre, a building of such historical and social importance is little short of cultural vandalism. Refurbishment and incorporation through design into the hub cannot be beyond the wit of our representatives. Please think again.

 

Mr Alan Round, Langton Green, Royal Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I am not a Southborough resident , although my mother-in-law lived in Park Road for 20 years and my wife and I visited her and shopped constantly in Southborough during that time. I feel therefore that I have as much knowledge of Southborough than many of its residents.

I have been a regular user of the Royal Victoria Hall since 1960 when I moved to Tunbridge Wells. I have seen numerous productions there and have been a member of a number of Societies which have used the theatre including The Kentainers, The Phoenix Players, LAMPS, The TW Revue Society and Pantomime Productions. I therefore have a great fondness for this unique venue.

The STC were granted the responsibility to maintain their duties as Stewards of this theatre after its donation to them in 1900 by Sir David Salomon, the founder, donor and builder of the first ever civic theatre in England in 1900. This responsibility was abdicated after 100 years by the Council’s failure to provide a sufficient foundation of funds to meet its obligations. They claimed it was unsafe and not fit for purpose. They claimed it would require a minimum of £50,000 to make it safe but when challenged to provide evidence they suddenly raised the minimum to £100,00 without the blink of an eye or any proof. They then took the easy way out by selling their asset in order to develop the proposed Hub with promises of another ‘state of the art’ theatre with equal or better facilities. The architects drawings of the replacement indicate they are not Theatre architects and have no experience whatsoever of theatre design. They have submitted plans of a hall with a stage which is not even comparable to any School Hall. They appear to be unaware of the ancillary requirements of any recognizable theatre which are listed further on in my objection.

I write to object to the planning application on the following grounds:
– Visual impact of the development and the proposed design does not reflect the character of the town
– The proposed development is over-bearing, and out-of-scale in terms of its appearance compared with existing development in the vicinity
– The application proposes the demolition of the Royal Victoria Hall Theatre without provision for a satisfactory replacement. The loss of the Royal Victoria Hall is not outweighed or compensated for by the gain of the new build hall. The Theatres Trust have also expressed this concern, they have not seen any plan for the future ownership, management, operation and maintenance of the ‘hub’ building and its surrounding landscape. A ‘business plan’ has not been forthcoming.
Local Planning Authorities are required to consult and seek the advice of The Theatres Trust before they issue a decision on any planning application or development involving land on which there is a theatre or which will have an impact on theatre use, as defined in the 1976 Act. It was established by The Theatres Trust Act 1976 and The Theatres Trust (Scotland) Act 1978 ‘to promote the better protection of theatres’. The 1976 Theatres Trust Act defines a theatre as ‘any building or part of a building constructed wholly or mainly for the public performance of plays’. In this context ‘plays’ has the same meaning as in the Theatres Act 1968 and this encompasses all forms of performance in a theatre, which could include drama, dance, ballet, opera, musicals, song, circus, acrobatics, physical theatre, puppetry, mime, comedy, variety, cabaret, magic, and live art.

The “The Royal Victoria Hall, was the first municipal theatre built in England under the Local Government Act 1894. It was erected to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria and in September 1899, Her Majesty granted permission to use the Royal Arms and it was officially opened on the 17th of January 1900 for holding meetings and entertainments for the benefit of the 10,000 people in the district which is contiguous to the Borough of Tunbridge Wells.”

The RVH is part of our heritage and of historical, social and cultural importance and should be recognised as a community asset. It has a wonderful history and thousands of people identify with and acknowledge its cultural and social value.

Items specifically relating to the proposed Community Hall / Theatre :-
– Concerns over how the space for a theatre foyer / box office operates during the day when other facilities are open, in operation.
– During performance times consideration needs to be given to the shared use and integration with the community rooms, café, and library.
– Separate dressing /changing rooms are required for children male/female and adults
– There is no indication of wheelchair user viewing spaces within the seating areas of the main hall and questions have been raised around step-free access to many areas of the building and basic accessibility requirements.
– The fundamental requirements of a performance space for a wide range of users is the ability to change the state of the space to support the nature of the performance. The ability to move scenery and equipment into theatre and it remain there during the course of the event / booking period which could be multiple days is essential.
– Large Vehicular access to the rear of the theatre a scene dock door for deliveries (scenery & equipment) would be required
– Limited wing space and a lack of designated dressing rooms
– Although a roof void is shown, there is no indication of there being a flying tower delivered in this new space, which was a previous capability of the RVH. The ability to fly is one of its unique characteristics and advantages over the majority of small theatres in the surrounding area, setting it apart from them.
– Access to the kitchen should be relocated as it will not be able to be used during performances.
– Foyer Bar – essential there is a bar area with provision for fridge/freezer, cold storage, sink/s.
– With the 3 levels proposed, there may need to be consideration for a 2nd bar/refreshment station (which could be portable) on the first 1st floor to serve the 1st & 2nd floor customers for theatrical performance.
– No Pit – because there is not a raised stage there is nowhere to place a band/orchestra.
– Suggest investigating the option of a “flexible moat” where seats would collapse to be stored under the floor. A void continued under the stage would enable seats to be stored under, the stage area and then the void from the front stalls could then be used as a pit.
– Concerns over sight lines from the proposed control room
– Concerns over the actual number of seats possible, as I understand that the seats in the drawings are only illustrative and the plans to determine capacity and seat retraction mechanism / storage is yet to be done.
– Concerns over the number of seats with restricted view in the side rows (slips) in the upper balcony

The greatest consideration is the operating model for the Theatre, incorporated with the other facilities in the hub and the affordability both to the hirers and the customers / audience.
Marketing, management and viability to ensure its sustainability.

The following is a quote from the Design and Access Statement: Following engagement sessions with stakeholders including theatre groups and working alongside theatre specialists, the following requirements were agreed:
– The community hall should be as flexible as possible to allow for all community activities
– The existing theatre facilities should be enhanced where possible
– A design that supports rental of the facility
As yet these objectives have not been met.

Lack of collaboration and engagement with the future users of the community spaces is probably the greatest threat to this project.

For posterity and to support the context around concerns over community engagement and the collaborative model that will be required to support the future hub, which in turn has great bearing on the effectiveness of the design and the usability and acceptance of the facility, I feel it is important to record the following :-

There has been a long history, spanning almost a century of annual traditional Pantomime productions, Musical Theatre, Light Opera, Dance, Drama, Youth Theatre and diverse music performance that supporters have been intrinsically involved with for many decades and established organisations, youth theatre and community groups are now left without a much needed performance, developmental and social facility.

LAMPS (founded 90 years ago this year) and who have been performing at the RVH since the 50’s have struggled to find another home since the closure of the RVH as have many former hirers. They are now moving to EM Forsters, Tonbridge, as is Wicked Productions for the Christmas Panto, It’s hard to believe that this will be the 2nd year that this magical part of Southborough culture will be absent after the decades of traditional pantomime which has lit up the town year after year.

On the 5th of January 2015, almost 115 years after opening, the STC closed the theatre after the final performance of the successful, sell out annual pantomime.

It was suggested, that the decision to close, which was taken in Sept 2014, had been influenced by reports of H&S issues, and necessary expensive structural repairs and the poor condition of the building.

The RVH was neither dilapidated or “not fit for purpose”.

The building, structurally sound, weather tight and obviously safe for the general public as it continued to remain open for the next 4 months, upholding existing bookings and several performances and welcoming the annual large footfall seen through panto season, hosting sold out performances in the month directly before it was closed. by the Council. The H&S issue had been resolved and the closure at the time was completely unnecessary.

STC rejected any possibility to keep the venue open until the decisions around the hub development and the project time-line were finalised.

The STC claimed that the RVH was not viable, over subsidised and a drain on the tax payers of Southborough.

The RVH is a council owned community facility which had small maintenance budget, modest annual operational costs and a revenue potential that for many years was realised. After a period, which reportedly saw “huge losses” resulting from “dwindling” bookings and major expenses (such as a necessary re-wire) it was reported in 2012 that the future of the RVH was “uncertain” and that no further monies could be spent until its destiny was decided. It would appear in fact that the income was comparable with the operational costs and that the RVH could viably have been self-funding with the right model. Not one person on the Council or among its staff was actually appointed with the responsibility of the business of running the theatre as a profitable concern.

In October 2014 I applied to have the RVH added to the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. STC refused to support my application.

I received the following response:- “This building was considered for listing in 2012., and we have also just considered and concluded a new application to list the building that was submitted in October 2014. The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport decided not to add the building to List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest in 2012. Despite the new threat to the hall, we are still not able to assess the building under national designation criteria, although it clearly has local historic interest.”

It is clear that the RVH has ‘local historic interest’ which will disappear if the proposed application is allowed to proceed. One of the Queen’s favourite architects, Ptolemy Dean, has criticised the decision not to incorporate any of the original Royal Victoria Hall theatre, which will be demolished to make way for the new community hub. “I think it a shame that the replacement scheme is so poor when something more thoughtful and careful might have been created that incorporated the existing building, which would have satisfied the council’s brief, but enabled something of the old character to survive. The town has a ‘rich architectural tradition’ which would have been enhanced by the retention of the historic building he explained, adding that the proposed design may as well be ‘anywhere’.

Since 2012 when the future of the RVH was declared “uncertain”, we have petitioned and campaigned for the renovation and sympathetic modernisation of this town heritage building, to be retained and to meet the needs of future generations.

Many of the group offer professional trades and extensive experience. We have volunteered to assist with maintenance, marketing, event management, administration, cleaning, fund raising and running a volunteer programme. In previous decades the RVH has been informally supported and maintained with the help of dedicated volunteers. Over the last 10 – 15 years, with H&S changes, a focus on liability and indemnity and a restricted administration, this practice has been curtailed.

A framework, formalised agreement/s and appropriate insurance could have been put in place to enable this. It is unfortunate that those with influence in the council did not embrace this and take the opportunity to collaborate with volunteers and leverage the enthusiasm and strong community support. This could have been Localism at its finest.

How is this relevant to a planning application you may ask? This is the key to a sustainable business model and the success of the community hub.

The existing RVH could have been refurbished and regenerated and its potential maximised, but it is unfortunate that this was not ever considered as an option and it was de-prioritised and run down.

The Theatres Trust advocate volunteers to support and sustain Theatres across the country, as you are aware the RVH is currently No 11 on their TBAR (theatres at risk register) and they have submitted their advice as required.

I think that STC have underestimated the importance of and failed to encourage and support volunteers and activists that were prepared to give their time and energy to support the RVH. This should be a community driven project for a successful outcome. Lack of collaboration and engagement with the future users of the community spaces is probably the greatest threat to this project.

Despite the overwhelming public support to retain the RVH and the desire to refurbish and improve the current Theatre, incorporating it into the ‘hub’ rather than sacrificing this unique building, we have arrived at a point where the only option, supported by so few is to demolish the RVH in order to apparently achieve the complex list of requirement that now constitute “the Hub”.

The initial proposals bearing little resemblance to the current application, now incorporating the Medical Centre, significantly more housing units and retail frontage on London Road, loss of further green space and all these additions to the original proposals has made for a confused and somewhat bewildered audience.

The process has really failed to facilitate genuine consultation, record and ratify the requirements and feedback to the contributors to ensure that their criteria is understood and that we also understand the costs, limitations and local authority constraints.

We are assured based on the results from the last questionnaire, not surprisingly responded to by very few at the last hurdle, that a majority want the proposed new build. On further analysis it is clear that there are significant reservations about the proposed designs and these conclusion statements clearly do not reflect the consensus of a very disillusioned community, but sadly these final statistics are now being used to mandate the destruction of a building of undoubted historic interest and social and cultural value and press on with a proposal which aside from the loss of the RVH, offers in its place a questionable and poor design solution with the appearance of a polycarbonate polytechnic material to create a ‘civic town square environment’. Mr Dean said “In reality, this won’t be a town square in any real sense as the buildings contained in it are too fragmented, incoherent and insufficient to enclose the space from the constant drone of passing traffic along the A26. Plastic cladding is hardly much better than UPVC weatherboard, albeit a different colour. It would be better to keep and refurbish the old building and to create a better and more meaningful public space on its southern side with some screening of the A26.”

We are all familiar with the constraints, quirks and Victorian charms of the existing Theatre, there is no doubt that some enhancements, refurbishments and accessibility improvements would have been welcomed and necessary, however to replace such a unique hall, the richness of history, the depth of love and the decades of tradition is the tallest order of all.

At public meetings and “consultations” the residents of Southborough and High Brooms were promised, by members of STC council and the project team, that the development would include a ‘state of the art’ theatre with more and better facilities than those provided by the Royal Victoria Hall.

The designs do not indicate that this promise will be achieved

The on-going management, programme of events, community interest of the venue, are as much a key to its success as the facility itself, so the lack of a Business Plan, Operating Model and staffing proposal is of major concern.

How can you possibly budget for operational costs if you have no vision of what your ‘product’ is and who your ‘customers’ are?

What services will be available and what level of community programme will be facilitated for your non-hirers? How will community activities be funded / subsidised?

What is the anticipated charging structure for hire of the hall (as a theatre, as a function room) and ancillary rooms etc. for other concurrent hires for example?

I would recommend that the application be refused with a recommendation that a viable alternative is presented and a business plan with estimated operational costs and an operating model to support the hub is shared with the public.

 

Mrs Joanna Bell, Summerhill Avenue, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

Please don’t destroy this wonderful histoic venue that is the heart of the community and where my children first performed on stage.

 

Robert Darling, St James Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

This is an historic building that under no circumstance can be lost forever due to a lack of vision and a desire for monetary gain by the council.

 

Mrs Lisa Everett, Claremont Gardens Royal Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I firmly believe the proposed plans will not provide a facility that is fit for purpose. The existing theatre should be, for a fraction of the cost, refurbished and re opened to be managed by people who have expertise and are devoted to community theatre.

 

Mr Ross McPherson, Slaney Road, Staplehurst  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I was a regular visitor of the Victoria Hall before it’s closure where I had enjoyed some first rate pantomimes. I cannot believe that this beautiful Victorian structure is going to be replaced by this ‘pop up’ pre-fabricated, soulless eyesore of a building which will sit in complete contrast to the surrounding architecture. Traffic has already become increasingly worse as I drive through to work and this addition will certainly not improve that fact, in fact it will only act as a consistent reminder of what this local community has lost.

Everyone wants to see the site regenerated and it is interesting to note on all the supportive comments to the planning application, there are rarely any that state they like the design. I urge you to reconsider this preposterous plan.

 

Mr Adam Henry, Bounds Oak Way, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

The proposal will result in the permanent loss of a significant area of green space currently used by children for sports activities (i.e. loss of two 7-side pitches & significant impact to one of the 11-side pitches).

 

Mr Mike Scott, Pennington Place, Southborough  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I fully support this application. For far too long, Southborough has needed something like this to put life back into the centre of the town. It must be better that what is currently in this location, an anloved underfunded and and underused hall, dilapidated council offices under occupied and without disabled access, a waste land site which was formerly a pub, some ancient public toilets which will be replaced in the new building, and now, although not part of the application, an empty former pub and restaurant, and a now a closed bank.

 

Mrs Lindsey Morris, Foalhurst Close, Tonbridge  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I would like to object to the demolition of the Royal Victoria Hall, on the grounds that it is the first municipal theatre in England, and is a much loved and historic local building. The plans for the replacement building do not match in any way the facilities that the RVH had, in terms of being a proper theatre with wings, dressing rooms, storage for scenery, good capacity seating, and the height for a flying tower. The town deserves a proper theatre that could be run by a group dedicated to making it a thriving hub for Southborough.

The new building plans are not in keeping with local architecture, and the plans show ugly and cheap looking cladding. This will become dirty and age very quickly.
Please retain the RVH, and build other facilities around it where necessary.

 

Miss Rebecca Bing, Priory Street, Tonbridge  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I grew up in Southborough and went to see pantomimes for many years at the Royal Victoria Hall. When I was older, I joined a local drama group and was able to perform at the theatre. It was a great venue, that was the perfect size for local groups. I can’t believe that they are willing to destroy part of Southborough’s history by tearing down the Royal Victoria Hall. Southborough will lose part of it’s heritage for an ill thought out hideous building!

 

Mrs Susie Joyce, Beaufighter Road, West Malling  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

This is very sad. A community and people like myself that have used this beautiful building for many years. It’s also very disheartening, that the council has not even listened to the public! This has been objected since the first talks. There have been so many committed individuals that have faught tirelessly to save her. She will be truly missed…and all for what!? Those that have battled, you should be proud that you have never given up the fight. I will treasure the memories I have of performing here from a tiny tot to an adult. I only hope that as she falls, she will be remembered. Please make sure you make something spectacular in your new building, a memory room, hall, gallery anything that there can be pictures and memorabilia. Where people can see what once was. The monster going up sounds vicious and cruel. But the beauty that is falling will never be forgotten.

 

Ms Adele Ebbage, Farmcombe Lane, Royal Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I write to object to the planning application on the following grounds:
– Visual impact of the development and the proposed design does not reflect the character of the town
– The proposed development is over-bearing, and out-of-scale in terms of its appearance compared with existing development in the vicinity
– The application proposes the demolition of the Royal Victoria Hall Theatre without provision for a satisfactory replacement. The loss of the Royal Victoria Hall is not outweighed or compensated for by the gain of the new build hall. The Theatres Trust have also expressed this concern, they have not seen any plan for the future ownership, management, operation and maintenance of the ‘hub’ building and its surrounding landscape. A ‘business plan’ has not been forthcoming.

Local Planning Authorities are required to consult and seek the advice of The Theatres Trust before they issue a decision on any planning application or development involving land on which there is a theatre or which will have an impact on theatre use, as defined in the 1976 Act. It was established by The Theatres Trust Act 1976 and The Theatres Trust (Scotland) Act 1978 ‘to promote the better protection of theatres’. The 1976 Theatres Trust Act defines a theatre as ‘any building or part of a building constructed wholly or mainly for the public performance of plays’. In this context ‘plays’ has the same meaning as in the Theatres Act 1968 and this encompasses all forms of performance in a theatre, which could include drama, dance, ballet, opera, musicals, song, circus, acrobatics, physical theatre, puppetry, mime, comedy, variety, cabaret, magic, and live art.

The “The Royal Victoria Hall, was the first municipal theatre built in England under the Local Government Act 1894. It was erected to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria and in September 1899, Her Majesty granted permission to use the Royal Arms and it was officially opened on the 17th of January 1900 for holding meetings and entertainments for the benefit of the 10,000 people in the district which is contiguous to the Borough of Tunbridge Wells.”

The RVH is part of our heritage and of historical, social and cultural importance and should be recognised as a community asset. It has a wonderful history and thousands of people identify with and acknowledge its cultural and social value.
Items specifically relating to the proposed Community Hall / Theatre :-
– Concerns over how the space for a theatre foyer / box office operates during the day when other facilities are open, in operation.
– During performance times consideration needs to be given to the shared use and integration with the community rooms, café, and library.
– Separate dressing /changing rooms are required for children male/female and adults
– There is no indication of wheelchair user viewing spaces within the seating areas of the main hall and questions have been raised around step-free access to many areas of the building and basic accessibility requirements.
– The fundamental requirements of a performance space for a wide range of users is the ability to change the state of the space to support the nature of the performance. The ability to move scenery and equipment into theatre and it remain there during the course of the event / booking period which could be multiple days is essential.
– Large Vehicular access to the rear of the theatre a scene dock door for deliveries (scenery & equipment) would be required
– Limited wing space and a lack of designated dressing rooms
– Although a roof void is shown, there is no indication of there being a flying tower delivered in this new space, which was a previous capability of the RVH. The ability to fly is one of its unique characteristics and advantages over the majority of small theatres in the surrounding area, setting it apart from them.
– Access to the kitchen should be relocated as it will not be able to be used during performances.
– Foyer Bar – essential there is a bar area with provision for fridge/freezer, cold storage, sink/s.
– With the 3 levels proposed, there may need to be consideration for a 2nd bar/refreshment station (which could be portable) on the first 1st floor to serve the 1st & 2nd floor customers for theatrical performance.
– No Pit – because there is not a raised stage there is nowhere to place a band/orchestra.
– Suggest investigating the option of a “flexible moat” where seats would collapse to be stored under the floor. A void continued under the stage would enable seats to be stored under, the stage area and then the void from the front stalls could then be used as a pit.
– Concerns over sight lines from the proposed control room
– Concerns over the actual number of seats possible, as I understand that the seats in the drawings are only illustrative and the plans to determine capacity and seat retraction mechanism / storage is yet to be done.
– Concerns over the number of seats with restricted view in the side rows (slips) in the upper balcony
The greatest consideration is the operating model for the Theatre, incorporated with the other facilities in the hub and the affordability both to the hirers and the customers / audience.
Marketing, management and viability to ensure its sustainability.

The following is a quote from the Design and Access Statement: Following engagement sessions with stakeholders including theatre groups and working alongside theatre specialists, the following requirements were agreed:
– The community hall should be as flexible as possible to allow for all community activities
– The existing theatre facilities should be enhanced where possible
– A design that supports rental of the facility
As yet these objectives have not been met.

Lack of collaboration and engagement with the future users of the community spaces is probably the greatest threat to this project.

For posterity and to support the context around concerns over community engagement and the collaborative model that will be required to support the future hub, which in turn has great bearing on the effectiveness of the design and the usability and acceptance of the facility, I feel it is important to record the following :-
There has been a long history, spanning almost a century of annual traditional Pantomime productions, Musical Theatre, Light Opera, Dance, Drama, Youth Theatre and diverse music performance that supporters have been intrinsically involved with for many decades and established organisations, youth theatre and community groups are now left without a much needed performance, developmental and social facility.
LAMPS founded 90 years ago this year and who have been performing at the RVH since the 50’s have struggled to find another home since the closure of the RVH as have many former hirers. They are now moving to EM Forsters Tonbridge, as is Wicked Productions for the Christmas Panto, It’s hard to believe that this will be the 2nd year that this magical part of Southborough culture will be absent after the decades of traditional pantomime which has lit up the town year after year.

On the 5th of January 2015, almost 115 years after opening, the STC closed the theatre after the final performance of the successful, sell out annual pantomime. It was suggested, that the decision to close, which was taken in Sept 2014, had been influenced by reports of H&S issues, and necessary expensive structural repairs and the poor condition of the building.

The RVH was neither dilapidated or “not fit for purpose”. The building, structurally sound, weather tight and obviously safe for the general public as it continued to remain open for the next 4 months, upholding existing bookings and several performances and welcoming the annual large footfall seen through panto season, hosting sold out performances in the month directly before it was closed. by the Council. The H&S issue had been resolved and the closure at the time was completely unnecessary.

STC rejected any possibility to keep the venue open until the decisions around the hub development and the project time-line were finalised. The STC claimed that the RVH was not viable, over subsidised and a drain on the tax payers of Southborough. The RVH is a council owned community facility which had small maintenance budget, modest annual operational costs and a revenue potential that for many years was realised. After a period, which reportedly saw “huge losses” resulting from “dwindling” bookings and major expenses (such as a necessary re-wire) it was reported in 2012 that the future of the RVH was “uncertain” and that no further monies could be spent until its destiny was decided. It would appear in fact that the income was comparable with the operational costs and that the RVH could viably have been self-funding with the right model.

Since 2012 when the future of the RVH was declared “uncertain”, we have petitioned and campaigned for the renovation and sympathetic modernisation of this town heritage building, to be retained and to meet the needs of future generations.
Many of the group offer professional trades and extensive experience. We have volunteered to assist with maintenance, marketing, event management, administration, cleaning, fund raising and running a volunteer programme. In previous decades the RVH has been informally supported and maintained with the help of dedicated volunteers. Over the last 10 – 15 years, with H&S changes, a focus on liability and indemnity and a restricted administration, this practice has been curtailed.

A framework, formalised agreement/s and appropriate insurance could have been put in place to enable this. It is unfortunate that those with influence in the council did not embrace this and take the opportunity to collaborate with volunteers and leverage the enthusiasm and strong community support. This could have been Localism at its finest.

How is this relevant to a planning application you may ask? This is the key to a sustainable business model and the success of the community hub. The existing RVH could have been refurbished and regenerated and its potential maximised, but it is unfortunate that this was not ever considered as an option and it was de-prioritised and run down.

The Theatres Trust advocate volunteers to support and sustain Theatres across the country, as you are aware the RVH is currently No 11 on their TBAR (theatres at risk register) and they have submitted their advice as required.

I think that STC have underestimated the importance of and failed to encourage and support volunteers and activists that were prepared to give their time and energy to support the RVH. This should be a community driven project for a successful outcome. Lack of collaboration and engagement with the future users of the community spaces is probably the greatest threat to this project.

My connection to the RVH started over 35 years ago with Pantomime Productions, and as for many it has continued to hold a special place in my life and for many generations in my family. A former resident of Southborough and now central TW, I have been a member of LAMPS for nearly 25 years and was the former Chair of the Friends of the RVH group formed in April 2012.

Despite the overwhelming public support to retain the RVH and the desire to refurbish and improve the current Theatre, incorporating it into the ‘hub’ rather than sacrificing this unique building, we have arrived at a point where the only option, supported by so few is to demolish the RVH in order to apparently achieve the complex list of requirement that now constitute “the Hub”.

The initial proposals bearing little resemblance to the current application, now incorporating the Medical Centre, significantly more housing units and retail frontage on London Road, loss of further green space and all these additions to the original proposals has made for a confused and somewhat bewildered audience.

The process has really failed to facilitate genuine consultation, record and ratify the requirements and feedback to the contributors to ensure that their criteria is understood and that we also understand the costs, limitations and local authority constraints.

We are assured based on the results from the last questionnaire, not surprisingly responded to by very few at the last hurdle, that a majority want the proposed new build. On further analysis it is clear that there are significant reservations about the proposed designs and these conclusion statements clearly do not reflect the consensus of a very disillusioned community, but sadly these final statistics are now being used to mandate the destruction of a building of undoubted historic interest and social and cultural value and press on with a proposal which aside from the loss of the RVH, offers in its place a questionable and poor design solution with the appearance of a polycarbonate polytechnic.

We are all familiar with the constraints, quirks and Victorian charms of the existing Theatre, there is no doubt that some enhancements, refurbishments and accessibility improvements would not have been welcomed and necessary, however to replace such a unique hall, the richness of history, the depth of love and the decades of tradition is the tallest order of all. That would take some carrot!

At public meetings and “consultations” the residents of Southborough and High Brooms were promised, by members of STC council and the project team, that the development would include a ‘state of the art’ theatre with more and better facilities than those provided by the Royal Victoria Hall. The designs do not indicate that this promise will be achieved.

The on-going management, programme of events, community interest of the venue, are as much a key to its success as the facility itself, so the lack of a Business Plan, Operating Model and staffing proposal is of major concern. How can you possibly budget for operational costs if you have no vision of what your ‘product’ is and who your ‘customers’ are?

What services will be available and what level of community programme will be facilitated for your non-hirers? How will community activities be funded / subsidised?
What is the anticipated charging structure for hire of the hall (as a theatre, as a function room) and ancillary rooms etc. for other concurrent hires for example?

I would recommend that the application be refused with a recommendation that a viable alternative is presented and a business plan with estimated operational costs and an operating model to support the hub is shared with the public.

 

Ms Diane Williams, Carville Avenue Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

As a resident of Southborough I am opposed to the proposed plans for the new ‘Hub’. The Ridgewaye is a huge asset to the town and myself and my family are regular users of it for sport and dog walking. The idea of having 69 new dwellings built on there along with parking for their vehicles can only mean that we are losing yet another piece of public land. I also worry that this will add to the already increasing build up of traffic along the high street, creating busier ‘rabbit runs’ in adjacent streets – my street is already used as such during busy times of the day.
Also, the design of the ‘hub’ is completely unsympathetic with the neighbouring area and will be something of an ‘eye sore’. I am not against progression or regeneration at all but I think that Southborough needs something that will stand the test of time and blend in with the existing period architecture.

 

Mr Ken Hampton, Colebrook Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

There can be no doubt the centre of Southborough needs to be revived and the facilities improved for the residents of Southborough and High Brooms. Certain sites in the town have been left in a state of dilapidation and the current centre piece of the town, the Royal Victoria Hall, has been closed due to a extended period of under funding and lack of maintenance from the Southborough Town Council. Unfortunately, however, the current plans and deals that have been made have been rushed through with a lack of serious, non-divisive, public consultation.

There are many concerns I have with the published plans for the development of the Southborough Hub, some of which are indicated below:

– The number and type of housing units has been changed drastically. Originally we were told there would be a mix of houses and flats totalling 55 units. The plans have now increased this to just flats with a total of 69 units. We have also been informed that this may not be the final number and that this number may well rise again once a developer has been appointed and they have calculated their costs.

– The extra housing will now create higher volumes of traffic around the Yew Tree Road and The Ridgeway areas, potentially increasing the pollution, congestion and parking problems.

– There would seem to be a lack of parking within the development. Currently there are approximately 22 parking spaces at the Royal Victoria Hall and council offices, 4 at the library and approx. 8 at the St Andrews Medical Centre. The plans would appear to provide significantly fewer parking spaces than the total of these. Unless this is addressed the local residents will suffer.

– The loss of the green spaces to permit this project will be detrimental to the town. Why are funds from the sale of the old library site not included in the project? Surely the necessary residential dwellings could then be spread across two sites thus reducing the density of the new homes and leave us with more of our open spaces.

– The residents of Southborough and High Brooms have been promised on several occasions a “State of the Art” theatre and community space (confirmed again in this year’s town meeting by Cllr Oakford). The plans published for planning consent do not represent this. I believe they fall along way short of providing such a space for several reasons a few of examples of which are:

i. There are insufficient rooms for dressing and changing rooms. The rooms proposed do not provide sufficient accommodation for theatrical or dance performances. It will prove impractical for these rooms to be dual function. One will hardly be able to rent out a room for weekly meetings for example if it is being used as a dressing room for a function in the theatre/hall.

ii. There is no orchestra pit. The current RVH has an orchestra pit and this is where musicians are generally seated. Furthermore, there isn’t even an area of flat floor in front of the stage where musicians could be placed in lieu of an orchestra pit. Since the pantomimes over the last 35 years or more and several of the other presentations at the RVH have had musicians, where are they going to go within the design of the new theatre/hall? This oversight will leave the building less desirable to potential theatrical hirers.

iii. There is no mention in the plans for the area above the stage (“void above stage”). This needs to be detailed as to whether there will be a grid to permit the hanging and flying of scenery and stage equipment. Without a serviceable grid and flying system the theatre/hall will again be far less desirable to potential hirers.

iv. The foyer space and the plans for it to be mixed use between the theatre/hall and library are impractical. This area needs to allow space for up to 350 audience members potentially at the same time as library users. I don’t see how the usual silence for a library can possibly be maintained and this will only lead to frustrations for the users of the building and potentially lead to disagreements between the operators of the library and the theatre/hall. Plus any restrictions that could result may well impact on potential hirers.

v. The vehicular access to the theatre/hall is inadequate to accommodate the large vehicles that deliver scenery and technical equipment.

vi. The designing and building of theatres and performance spaces is a particularly specialised area and the fact that this element of the project seems to be being done by an architect company that advertise no previous experience in this field is of concern.

vii. At no point during the past 18 months have the theatrical stakeholders or user groups been consulted as to their requirements for the proposed theatre/hall. As a result I firmly believe the current plans do not represent the requirements of the user groups and therefore this will almost certainly impact on the buildings suitability and may well limit potential hirers.

viii. The design of the auditorium and seating arrangement leaves a significant number of the seats as restricted view, a problem that we did not have with the RVH.

– There is currently no business plan in place to suggest how the new hub will be run. The complexity of the mixed use of the hub and the various councils and bodies that have an interest in the building (STC for the theatre/hall and council offices, KCC for the library and the NHS/St Andrews Medical Centre) could well provide significant complications to the operation and maintenance of the hub. With no plan in place the people of Southborough and High Brooms have been given no indication to the proposed running costs and to what extent the tax payer may be asked to subsidise the hub.

– Whilst I am aware the aesthetics of such a development are not always considered as a reason to refuse planning consent, there can be no doubt that replacing our Victorian building (the RVH) with a plastic clad structure with a short life expectancy is a tragedy to the heritage of Southborough.

Be under no illusion, the plans for the theatre/hall will leave us with a building that is far less capable than the building it will replace. Such a backward step can in no way be good for our community.

It is my belief that the current plans fall significantly short of providing the townsfolk with the quality of buildings they have been promised and will leave us with a building that is far less capable than the building it will replace (the RVH). Therefore planning consent for this project as it stands should not be granted. If this project were to continue as planned I believe it’s shortcomings would seriously impede it’s suitability for purpose and could therefore run the risk of wasting taxpayer’s money. If TWBC were to approve the plans, could it then be considered that they are complicit in the poor use of public funds?

 

Mrs Rona Dury, Crendon Park, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I object to the Southborough Hub as currently presented. I have lived in Southborough for 40 years and have to say that the proposed development does not enhance our Town. The design is totally out of character with the area and the history of Southborough. It will be an eyesore on our High Street.

The Hub as currently proposed is a wasted opportunity. A building could have been designed, that gave Southborough wonderful new facilities and enhanced our High Street; both visually and through demand. The hub as proposed fails on all counts.

There is no published Business Case or Needs Analysis. As taxpayers we do not know what the build costs are, what the income and revenue will be or what the ongoing running costs / maintenance costs will be. We are being asked to support a blank cheque for a very inadequate proposal. It has all been managed in a cloak of secrecy and amateurism.

The traffic in Southborough is already very bad and the installation of new traffic control by KCC, at a huge cost, has not improved the situation. There are still long queues of cars through Southborough in both directions and along St John’s for the return home. Yew Tree Road remains queued up at many times of the day and exiting Crendon Park, where I live, onto Yew Tree Road is a very slow process.

Building on the Ridgewaye Fields should not be allowed. This is one of the few large flat open green public spaces in the area. It should be preserved. Houses on this site can only add to the traffic chaos in Southborough and there appears to be totally inadequate parking provision for all the needs. The houses planned have kept increasing with each revision of the Hub scheme and we cannot be sure that they will not increase again when the developer submits the final plans. As a resident of Crendon Park I am very concerned at the mishmash of housing designs being proposed – it is a total over development for the area and should not includes the inappropriate multi rise units.

I am very disappointed that after so much talk by Southborough Town Council, that they were providing a “State of the Art Theatre”, to see that we are getting an empty dark box, lacking in facilities or natural light. I am also disappointed at the Library provision and believe that it is a retrograde step for that currently existing, particularly for young readers.

Overall – the scheme is a total disappointment and I urge that the plans be rejected and sent back to Southborough Town Council, who should be firmly told to deliver something that is fit for purpose and does not waste hard earned taxpayers money.

 

Dr Arthur Cottingham, Corseley Road, Groombridge  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

Although I am a resident of Groombridge I grew up in and work in Southborough, have close local attachments and visited the Royal Victoria Hall on many occasions. I went to shows and pantomimes in my youth and continued to take my children to them until they suddenly ceased a few years ago. They made me interested in theatre productions, of which I now have some considerable knowledge.

The loss of the Royal Victoria Hall building would be a historic tragedy. It boasts, yes boasts, being the first municipal theatre in the country. It should have pride of place in a town that has a long and interesting history. It’s link with the Salomon family makes it even more iconic and an intelligent and culturally aware council would make the most of this.

I have read with interest the plans to demolish the hall and replace it by a modern state of the art theatre.¿ Firstly demolition would be an act of vandalism. There is massive scope for incorporating the RVH into a new build and making it the heritage building of the next generation. Replacing it with the the polycarbonated claded building described in the application would be double desecration.

Have these planners not considered that Southborough is one of the busiest entry points into Royal Tunbridge Wells, a spa town with a keen interest in promoting itself as a beautiful place to live and work in – and to visit. Yes, tourism! There building reminds me of some of those awful out of town supermarkets, pfi buildings and the sort of ugly buildings that you get along the main roads as you travel through the suburbs into London.

I have also read the comments by the Theatres Trust. Someone hasn’t been doing their job properly¿ because looking at the plans there is absolutely no way that this would ever pass for a theatre.

Just because you have tiered seating, a couple of balconies and somewhere that is called a stage does not make a theatre. At the risk of repeating others I will emphasise the following: the balconies are next to useless and would probably be blocked out as ‘restricted view’, there is no proper stage, there is no wing space for scenery, inadequate changing facilities, no place for musicians (an orchestra pit), no storage space for the mass of theatre and other equipment, and no fixed bar.

The fixed bar is absolutely critical. Theatre groups run on a shoestring and rely on making additional money from bar sales. Anyone talking about a pop-up bar quite frankly needs their head tested. No trolley is going to be able to serve the refreshment requirements of 350 people and what about things like running water for cleaning glasses and the storage of alcoholic drinks? (I know…. glasses will all be plastic and they will hire in the bar from outside. What about sustainability and there will be no profits to the theatre group or the Hub).

There is no proper box office and doubling up the library as a foyer, cafe and entrance to the council offices seems equally crazy thinking as the pop up bar. I have also used the library in Yew Tree Road – which is one of the best local libraries I have visited. Why spoil that to make extra money for the county council from selling the property as more flats?

I will finish my comments by saying a couple more things. Travelling through Southborough into Tunbridge Wells is one of the most depressing experiences for a driver. It takes a long time and the congestion is appalling. I concur with others who say that the Hub will further add to this. It is deeply ironic that massively increasing the size of the medical centre will be at the cost of more traffic movements and more poisonous traffic fumes that will deteriorate people’s health even further.

I like football and sport and am always shamed by public authorities¿ who sell off legacy land for short term gain at the cost of the long term deprivation of facilities for future generations. This will be the consequence of this planning application.

Finally I am partially disabled and can see no evidence that this is truly going to be an accessible building. There is everything to suggest that it will provide great difficulties for people in wheel chairs. I do not believe that this has been sufficiently scrutinised by volunteer access groups.

I object to this application for the grounds stated above. The Planning Committee should tell the applicant to go away and put something together that will add to the town and the borough, not make it a constant and shameful reminder of what could have been.

 

Miss Marion Townsend, Doric Avenue, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

Sadly, I object to the planning application for the Southborough Hub. I was looking forward to welcoming this. So much was promised by Southborough Town Council. On reading all the papers they have plainly failed. I was anticipating a development that added to Southborough. The design they are offering is truly ghastly. It is out of character with our Town. What we are seeing is an artist impression; which is usually so much better than the final building. With such a dreadful start, I hate to think what the actual building is going to look like. Southborough Town Council needs to hang their heads in shame.

Our favourite Pantomime would only be gone for a year they kept telling us and we are still waiting for its return. I just can’t believe that if it comes back to bring so much joy to our families, that it will be bigger and better as they said. I could not find the state of the art theatre they kept promising. The multipurpose room will not satisfy anyone. Whilst Southborough Town Council sat on their hands and let our beloved Royal Victoria Hall fall into disrepair and they couldn’t even give their own Council Offices a coat of paint. They have let Southborough down.

I am just so sad with what we are to get and we haven’t even been told how much this is all going to cost and how much our council tax will have to go up each year to pay for it all.

Where is all the traffic going to go? I sit for ages on the bus now trying to get about. It’s so much worse since the new traffic lights where put in.

I might welcome the new medical centre – all our Councillors seem to. Please; who is paying for this? Aren’t GPs all private businesses these days?

I also think it’s sad to start building on the Ridgewaye Fields. I love to see all the young children playing games there. How will they manage in the future? Then, all these houses, more traffic and more delays. Where is this going to stop. Southborough Town Council will not be happy until they have built over it all.

 

Mrs Shelly Goldring, Granville Road, Sevenoaks  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I am objecting to the development on a number of grounds, scale of the hub, design not in keeping, loss of green field space, increased traffic congestion, insufficient parking and increased pollution, no detailed plan on the long term viability to demonstrate that it is economically viable and sustainable , not to mention the 69 dwellings!

 

Ms Liz Hatherell, Charles Street, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

The new building is a very poor example of modern design, hideously ugly, and out of keeping with the historic nature of Southborough – a town that is older than Tunbridge Wells and boasts many old, beautiful, characterful buildings. Yes, there are some ugly buildings in the area, but this is a chance for the council to ameliorate previous planning horrors and celebrate Southborough’s brick-making heritage, not scar the area with unsympathetic plastic boxes.

The loss of the Royal Victoria Hall would be a huge mistake. Although disfigured externally by previous councils (where did the ornate ironwork go?), the RVH has a beautiful interior, well made, well designed, and fit for purpose. It was a successful theatre until it was forced to close, and would have become more so if the council had made it easier for people to hire it, allowed better advertising, and if it had been run on a commercial basis. There appears to have been a deliberate policy to allow the theatre to become run-down, with no real maintenance work carried out over the last ten years, and the council not fulfilling its duty to the local community and its assets. The inability of the council to put together a cohesive claim for lottery funds speaks volumes. The RVH has stood for over a hundred years and is generally sound. We have no idea of the proposed lifespan of the new building – plastic surely needs replacing regularly as it degrades and discolours – but are the the funds in place to maintain it?

The original idea was that the theatre was bequeathed to the local community, and the destruction of this without a comprehensive plan to replace it with something comparable, if not better, is, if not criminal, certainly against the spirit of the original gift.

I am also concerned about the increase of traffic the extra housing will generate. Yew Tree Road and London Road are already busy enough without increasing traffic volume by building so many new homes – I note that the number of these units seems to have increased markedly since the original plans were shown. The loss of so much green space is also a shame, especially as there is a lot of wasted space fronting the building that will probably be underused as it is right on London Road with its traffic noise and pollution.

Please do not allow these plans to be passed in their current state.

 

Mrs Norah Traquair, Silverdale Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I do not object to the general plans, but the aesthetics do not appear to have taken the surroundings into account.

I do object to the fact that it is not in keeping with the local area.

 

Mrs Leonie BARKER, Hillcrest, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I would like to object on several points to the proposed Hub development. Not least to the demolition of the ROYAL Victoria Hall Theatre, for which, there appears to be no viable, affordable, sustainable replacement, or an operating model that can support it in the future. Despite collecting in the region of 10,000 signatures to support retention of this historically important building, the decision has been railroaded through without proper consultation to demolish it. Despite repeated requests to Southborough Town Council at no time have any comparable costings been provided to support demolition against refurbishment.

This whole development has been shrouded in secrecy and now, despite wondrous claims of a ‘State of the Art Theatre’ to replace one of the last remaining jewels in the Southborough Crown, we are looking at plans for a build that isn’t even viable as a Village Hall, let alone as a fully functional theatre.

Firstly the Royal Victoria Hall is of great historical importance and should be retained. I myself wrote to HRH The Prince of Wales reference the proposed demolition some time ago ( bearing in mind the ROYAL connections all of which are well documented ) and he referred me to the Princes Regeneration Trust, all details of which were given to the Southborough Town Council, but which were not explored. They also did not pursue the Heritage Lottery Funding application made towards restoration of this magnificent and still fully functional theatre.

The RVH has served the people of Southborough for generations. It has served not only as a Theatre (no one needs to be reminded of the infamous Christmas Panto’s ) but also in my memory ( having been born in Southborough in 1955 ) as a Village Hall, Community Hall, a place where bands played and dances were held. A place where the locals held their Wedding Receptions. A place for the local Allotment shows, Craft Fairs, Christmas Fairs, a place where the Council held meetings and Consultations, a place where the Salvation Army held concerts, and a place where people came to from all over the County. There is no reason that this could not still happen, but the sad truth is the RVH has been deliberately mismanaged and under maintained.

Despite viable offers to the Council for it to be Community Managed and a viable plan presented, it was still shut up and closed, and it’s demise has heralded the demise of other establishments, like the Weavers and the Water Margin, both listed buildings, and who benefitted from the Patronage of the RVH productions. The existing RVH if refurbished / restored would be an amazing frontispiece for any HUB development and is fit for all purposes.

The proposed replacement is not even viable as a Community Hall. The promise of a ‘state of the art theatre’ has morphed into a windowless box with two thin balconies and retractable seating. Despite what has been said in the documentation there has been little or no consultation with theatre experts or user groups. The Theatres Trust has made clear that as a theatre it is inadequate. Theatre experts and users have offered their time and expertise to ensure that it is fit for purpose but their offers have been refused.

There is no stage, no storage space, and inadequate changing facilities (particularly those that are statutory for children), no box office, and no drinks bar. A bar is essential to make money to fund this development and to provide a focus for customers during intermissions. The Majority of people in favour of the New build are under the impression they will have a marvellous Community Hall, but how many will use it when they realise it has no windows, no natural light and insufficient kitchen space ?

The RVH could and SHOULD be restored to be the frontispiece for any future HUB development. The Council SHOULD be made to converse with the Theatres Trust and pursue grants available to them to retain it.

The clear focus of this HUB is to access our last little green lungs of Southborough and to build on our playing fields which are nice and flat and easily accessed rather than build on other brownfield sites that are available. Whilst it is clear we need a new Medical Centre due to the increasing population, it is also clear that the way in which it is being incorporated in to the HUB is not fit for purpose. Not least due to the extra traffic this will entail in an already congested area and the additional air pollution this will create in an area that is already one of the worst in the Region.

Our Library is one of the busiest and best in Kent, largely due to it’s location of peace and tranquility. Moving it into the HUB corridors will surely have an adverse effect. There is not room for pushchairs or buggies or mobility aids and insufficient ‘quiet’ areas. Should the Theatre ever be able to find anyone to use it, where will the Library Users go when the corridors are full of Theatre goers ?

The green fields which are used every day by the people of Southborough, are now to be used for housing. Originally 25 now almost 70 units. This is an apalling waste of green fields and the taking of this space leaves Southborough lacking green space, currently used regularly by footballers, dog walkers, Community events and Village Fetes.

The local roads cannot support the extra traffic all congregating in the one area, which is already permanently snarled up and polluted despite the introduction of supposed ‘smart’ traffic lights. It is still impossible to exit Yew Tree Road and we still sit in traffic jams from the Hand and Sceptre through to St Johns Road. Inevitably Hill Crest ,where I live, will be used as the ‘Rat Run’.

We have already had instances of this, which have culminated in a vehicle being driven through the front garden wall of number 25 Hillcrest, when traffic was diverted here during the recent Gas Mains works. Also, since the introduction of parking meters in the Yew Tree Road Car park, at weekends we are blocked completely with cars attending the Football Tournaments ( which we suffer as it is pleasing to see the fields used for purpose )

It saddens me that some of the Southborough Councillors who have expressed comments to support this Plan describe the green fields as mainly weeds. Despite being over 18 months into a £30m development project I understand that there are no costings, no business plan an no plan as to how the Hub will be run. This building will need to be subsidised but there are no best/worst case scenarios and I as a resident would like to know the impact on my Council Tax.

Lastly in no way can this monstrous design enhance Southborough ( which admittedly looks like a slum at present ) It does not blend in with anything and the idea of additional retails units in a High Street that is already full of empty shops is nonsensical. We already have a Community Cafe. Where are the Council Chambers to be ? The list is endless. This plan is ill thought out and has not been properly presented for Consultation to the Community. The original questionnaires did not give provision for people to elect to keep the RVH so most people didn’t bother to complete or return them. I beg you to reject this application and certainly block the demolition of the RVH.

 

Mrs Katrina Clucas, Hillcrest, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I object to the proposal due to the visual impact of the development. The proposed development is out of character in terms of its appearance compared with existing buildings in the vicinity.

 

Mr David Podbury, East Cliff Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I am objecting to the development on a number of grounds, scale of the hub, design not in keeping, loss of green field space, increased traffic congestion, insufficient parking and increased pollution, no detailed plan on the long term viability to demonstrate that it is economically viable and sustainable.

 

Mrs Diana C Blackwell, Sycamore Gdns, Dymchurch, Romney Marsh  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

As a retired employee of Southborough library I am objecting to several aspects of the hub plan, including moving the library from its present site.

The current library, which won a civic award when it was built, has served the town well and still does. The arrangement of a separate children’s and adult library is beneficial to all and avoids the problem of a corridor like area as is shown in the proposed hub plan.

The situation of the present library among an area of green is ideal and has always proved successful and popular with its users, be they elderly or young. I sometimes use Tenterden library and find that the allocation of books and the arrangement of the shelving is inferior to that of its former more traditional one. I try to avoid it.

Southborough library building has been neglected for many years. The paint was flaking in my days there and as a still regular visitor to Southborough I see that the roof now has an overgrown lawn on it! Why not restore it to an attractive, well maintained and efficient state? I am also concerned that if the Library moves in to the hub yet more housing is proposed for this area.

The A26 is already over congested and over polluted – not good for the inhabitants of Southborough.

The Royal Victoria Hall was once an attractive building. Surely it must be possible in this day and age to adapt it to modern needs and incorporate it in a sympathetic way to the needs of the current population. The proposed use of polycarbonate will result in an eyesore! The area has been an eyesore for long enough, please don’t create another one!

Playing fields, much needed and used by the town, are to be sacrificed to the building of sixty nine houses – more traffic more pollution, in a town already bursting at the seams. We used to say that the playing fields were “The Green Heart of Southborough”. Let’s keep them that way.

 

Miss Sarah Jones, Springfield Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I voted for the part retention of the Royal Victoria Hall, due to the local historic nature of the building. I have seen many shows over the years, which have included several generations of families who have enjoyed performing in this wonderful building. Ask anyone who has performed as a child in this building and they will recall their first performance being a life changing experience. I object to the demolition and new build of the hub on the grounds that many people will be excluded if the plans in their current state are approved.

Working as a professional Access Consultant for one of the most respected Engineering firms in the world, I see many poorly written Access Statements. These are usually written by inexperienced Architects who don’t understand the importance of them, and are shocked when they are rejected by Local Authorities. In my opinion, the access section of this Design and Access Statement is one of them.

The complexity of the Hub should have detailed descriptions regarding what can be seen on the drawings, as well as what the Access Strategy is for Inclusive Design elements as the design progresses. Good access statements contain a commentary of how the building is approached, accessed and moved through as well as explanations of inclusive design elements. When designing new buildings the Access Statement should leave the reader in no doubt that every effort has been made to include as many people as possible. I can see no evidence of this in the Access Statement submitted, the text is of a generic nature that could’ve been applied to any other site.

The drawings offer no comfort either, I have concerns throughout the scheme. Areas of note are as follows:
– incorrect percentage of blue badge parking bays
– sizes of corridors and lobbies to the main hall
– no indication of wheelchair user viewing spaces within the seating areas of the main hall
– no step-free access or wheelchair accessible toilets to the flexible community rooms on first floor level
– no step-free access to the seating area on the first or second balcony, unless there are drawing errors
– no step-free access to the control room on control level, unless there is a drawing error
– privacy concerns regarding the wheelchair accessible toilet in the library
– no indication of either cubicles for ambulant disabled people or enlarged cubicles where required

I’d be very concerned that as these basic accessibility requirements have been missed any more complex ones will be totally overlooked as the proposals progress.

The diversity of user groups hiring the hall will be severely compromised with the proposed plans, reducing the potential rental of the space. Children would not be able to perform on the stage if they were required to change costumes, as there are no dressing rooms, and no means to separate children from adults and males from females. This would prevent large shows and/or companies with large casts, schools and panto companies (that include children) from performing. Any performers requiring the use of separate sex toilets due to their faith, would need a management procedure put into place to ensure their needs are met.

The fundamental requirements of a performance space for a wide range of users is the ability to change scenery, move said scenery into the theatre and store within a scene doc. In the plans there is no scene doc and no apparent ability to move scenery into the area. There is no indication of there being a flying tower in this new space, which was a previous capability of the RVH. This will also prevent the use of this space by large performance companies or anyone wanting to wow the audience with great scenery and cloths.

The following is a quote from the Design and Access Statement:
Following engagement sessions with stakeholders including theatre groups and working alongside theatre specialists, the following requirements were agreed:

-The community hall should be as flexible as possible to allow for all community activities

-The existing theatre facilities should be enhanced where possible

– A design that supports rental of the facility

You will see from the points I have outlined above, that none of these objectives have been met. The greatest tragedy would be that youngsters would not have the opportunity to experience theatre the way they should.

I urge you not to approve these plans in their current state.

 

Ms Nikita Oakford, Pennington Road, Southborough  (Supports)

Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

There is no doubt that this is an extremely positive development for Southborough and something we should be celebrating as a community.

Our lovely town will benefit from an abundance of new services which we are crying out for. The medical centre will be vastly improved, offering additional services which we are in need of. The young footballers will have new and improved facilities to enjoy, as will all the residents interested in drama/theatre and dancing. We will have a new home for our library and a community hall which will bring us all together.

Let’s celebrate our future Community Hub and not begrudge Southborough of this wonderful, new and exciting development! I am in full support of this and see that it will be at the heart of our community!

 

Councillor Nicholas Blackwell, Pinewood Gardens, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I am currently a councillor on Southborough Town Council and previously served as the Town Mayor for Southborough during the period when the Hub project was tentatively first agreed, initially in partnership TWBC and working with Allies and Morrison. Much of planning in this first iteration offered workable solutions due a difficult and contentious site with a sound understanding of the context and the history of the local area.

Unfortunately, I have been dismayed at the direction the project has taken since the involvement of KCC, the establishment of the Project Board and the quality of the subsequent designs provided by Pick Everard. Despite claims offered in the Planning Statement only cosmetic changes have been made to the plans through the ‘consultation’ periods although we have watched with alarm as the housing allocation has steadily increased and has now exceeded the 50-60 units designated within the Local Plan.

I believe the decision to demolish the Royal Victoria Hall, if taken will be one that future generation will struggle to comprehend.

The Royal Victoria Hall, alongside our places of worship, provides Southborough with one of the key buildings that gives the town it’s distinct identity. It is a significant historical asset to the town. It has hosted rock concerts, Town’s Women’s Guild meetings, Am Dram, pantomimes, flower and produce Shows, Trade Union meetings and school Christmas concerts. It has an emotional pull and resonance that extends across generations.

It is untrue that it is dilapidated and not fit for purpose. It is certainly in need of some TLC, but as a member of the Finance and General Purposes Committee I know that all Health and Safety issues have been resolved. The building is structurally sound, weather tight and rewired within the last few years.

The venue was hosting sold out performances in the month before it was closed by the Council.

Whilst a previous council administration in their misguided desire to modernise the building resulted in the frontage being altered – inside the interior is little changed. This is not a cheap Victorian hall. This is a high quality design, built by skilled artisans and incorporating many of the features that are in the listed science theatre at Salomon’s Estate. Indeed the restored Science Theatre gives a clear indication of the RVH’s true potential.

Pick Everard in the application make the arrogant assumption that there is no local style of architecture which the developer need to consider and that they can therefore impose what they describe as “the new vernacular”. This off-the-peg generic design could be any public sector PFI build of the last decade. It’s showy glow- in-the-dark polycarbonate façade and groovy sun visor porch doesn’t disguise what is a very basic design. There has never been detailed design brief or understanding of how the building will operate and it seems unsure of how it will function.

Southborough has a rich and varied architectural history and within a short distance of London Road site offers a 16th century Weavers public house, Victorian stucco semis, Georgian timber framed cottages and handsome redbrick terraces. EN1 stipulates that any development should relate to the context of the site. The proposed design patently fails to do so.

I do want Southborough to become a Poundberrry style toytown. I am not in favour of pastiche; a modern design should be able to sit sympathetically alongside the historic; there are countless example of this. The vernacular building material of Southborough is High Brooms brick. It ages well and it copes with the grime and pollution of the A26. Polycarbonate cladding does not. It is not a sustainable material, degrading quickly and more suited to temporary urban builds.

Pick Everard have rehashed their preferred variation of a doughnut between ‘two activity containers’ which seems to be their default low cost solution (see their underwhelming Gainsborough Library in Suffolk for more of the same) for local authorities.

There is no business plan that has been shared with residents or councillors. We have no idea of the cost of the project or how much more revenue will need to be generated from the enabling resident development before the black box theatre/village hall can be properly equipped for productions. The promised state of the theatre is, of course, nothing of the sort. It is a windowless box – devoid of natural light, it’s audience forced to jostle through the shared space of the library foyer during intervals and queue at the bar on wheels.

KCC Libraries have stated that the concept of quiet libraries, separate spaces for children and qualified staff are outmoded, however these are the qualities that users of our existing library value and cherish. It is why Southborough Library has some of the highest borrowing figures in the West Kent area. Look to the impoverished selection that Tenterden library now offers to see what we might get in the future.

Much has made of the consultation and public engagement. In reality the turnout has been minuscule and even then majority concerns, such as the external appearance have been ignored. The eleven thousand signatures to retain the RVH were ignored.

At the Extra Ordinary Meeting of Southborough Town Council on the 18th July, councillors agreed the development based solely on site plans without having access to any of the Design and Access statements, Traffic Studies or supporting documentation. This was not an informed decision and scrutiny of the full planning application was not possible.

At the same meeting much was made of St Andrew’s GP surgery apparently impending eviction from their current premises. Councillors were told by the STC Project Board member that the surgery would be homeless and that Councillors should “hang their heads in shame” if they dared to challenge the plans for their new home in the Hub. Conveniently less than a month later the GP surgery has signed a new lease and will now be returning to their former premises.

Traffic remains the number one blight for residents in the town. The recent changes to the Yew Tree Junction have made no noticeable difference to the congestion as anyone who travels through Southborough knows. The supersized surgery believes it could expand to 15,000 patients over time. This is far in excess of Southborough’s population and would draw in extra traffic from the adjoining towns.

There appears to be no serious attempt to properly mitigate against the increased pollution in an area already designated for Air Quality Management. The public realm space that fronts the polluted A26 only serves to underline the architects lack of understanding of the site.

The parking allocations fail to take into account the commuter cars that now park in Crendon Park and Yew Tree Road since charging was introduced in the Yew Tree Road Car Park. The free parking that was previously available in Lloyds Bank is now unavailable and users of the Royal Victoria Hall would park in the yard at the rear. This is also not included.

In Conclusion

The site cannot cope with the traffic demands that will be placed on it with the scale of the current proposed development.

The loss of the Royal Victoria Hall is not outweighed by the gain of the new build hall. The new Hub is not a sufficiently high quality within a gateway position of prominence in the Borough.

The build palette and it’s lack of relation to the context and history of the site make for an awkward and jarring imposition.

The public spaces are unrealistic, front the congested A26 and ignore the best aspect over the Ridgewaye fields.

The significant reduction in public accessible green space in an area that is already under resourced for recreation is unacceptable. Playing fields will be lost and the Sports Pavilion will only be for the benefit one group.

I would urge that this planning application is rejected.

 

Mr Mark Airey, Le Temple Road, Paddock Wood  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 23 Sep 2016

I object to the planning application for the following reasons.

I speak as someone introduced to the RVH by my wife who was born at her parents home in Southborough, for my son who aged 9 had attended every pantomime year of his life till the closure, and my mother in law, who has attended events at the Royal Victoria Hall since being evacuated to Southborough during the war.

The Royal Victoria Hall’s place in national history as the first municipal theatre is well documented. The local connection to Salomons, and constructed by the former Mayor of Southborough again are well documented. The planning application proposes to demolish this history forever, when there is the clear opportunity to correct and repair the damage done by previous generations. Royal Victoria Hall, has a chance to be refurbished and become the jewel in the crown of Southborough.

My wife has booked theatre trips for groups of 15 people across the Borough, people are prepared to travel distances for such an historic venue. The Royal Victoria Hall opportunity is not insular to Southborough, it’s captive audience is clearly for miles around.

Evidentially, my independent petition garnering the signatures of over 5,000 online people has proof of support in all locals areas, but also. No politician has been able to provide any evidence of remotely such support despite claims to the contrary.

Almost 10,000 signatures were obtained, with 37% living within Southborough and High Brooms. Of the just over 5,000 online signatories, 46% lived within 8.9 miles, there is a considerable local support, yet the documentation refers to simply Southborough and High Brooms when proven support and revenue is available within a short distance to provide a financially stable repair of the Royal Victoria Hall.

For the record 1.4%, only 70 respondents were from abroad, so the local support is verified. Even then, notes from responding showed they were former residents and retained affection. There is an opportunity for charitable fundraising to obtain bursaries from former resident and users that has not been explored.

Similarly, the option of a Charitable Trust operating a repaired Royal Victoria Hall and Hub has not been explored. There are numerous examples in Leisure destinations where he VAT savings of operating such a Trust turn previously loss making venues to profit. None of this has been explored and so the application is deficient in its submission and should be rejected.

Put simply, there is no mandate anywhere within the application process to destroy the Royal Victoria Hall, and a solution that retains the historic theatre is the ideal.

There is another contention, the number of houses submitted that people were consulted on and the increase subsequently. It should be investigated before a decision as to whether people would support some more housing to secure the Royal Victoria Hall.

There is negligible opposition to the moving the Doctors surgery and library to new premises, indeed majority of support but there is no need to destroy forever the Hall in order to do this. The façade can be repaired and renewed to it’s former glory, but if knocked down it is lost forever.

The cost differential appears to be relatively small so why knock the Hall down?
It cannot be for aesthetic reasons, as the proposed Hub jar appallingly with the local area including conservation areas. This alone should be reason to object. There is simply too much of a vanity statement and I hope that as Planners you reject the proposals.

 

Mr Tom Sullivan, 20 South View Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells   TN4 9BX (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

Although it pains me greatly I have to oppose the desperately needed redevelopment of the area in its current form;
My concern is the loss of recreation ground for junior football with no plan in place to replace it. I do not see how any development can justify stopping children from taking part in sport which is exactly what is happening. Also the area to be lost to the development is one of the few areas currently useable at the moment due to damage caused by the fair over the summer. The local football clubs is something Southborough should be very proud of and support. You have over 500 local boys, girls, men and women of all ages playing on your fields getting fit and enjoying themselves playing sport. If you included proud parents, grandparents and other family members who watch week in week out it is an area used by probably well over 1,000 local people. To reward this the current plan is to make available to the club a smaller club house attached to a works department and with less space for football pitches. The fields should be protected for everyone to enjoy not developed.

 

Mrs Eryl Rayner, Bishops Down Park Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

11,000 signatures were taken to the Southborough Council to hopefully persuade them to vote in favour of keeping the Royal Victoria Hall. They dismissed this and said they weren’t worth the paper they were written on. They have, over a good few years, completely mismanaged the theatre and then put the blame on no-one wanting to hire it and that was why it was costing so much to keep going. This was completely untrue as there are many tales of people asking to hire it out but being given very odd reasons why it couldn’t be! This will happen with the new Community Hall if it is managed in the same way.

I say Community Hall because according to the new design it certainly is not the ‘state of the art’ theatre that was promised. It won’t be hired by the old regulars who used the Vic Hall, no chance, simply because it will not be fit for purpose. Design wise, in a theatre you require dressing rooms for men, women and children. You also require toilets (more than the one disabled toilet back stage in the design). You also require wings – that is space at each side of the stage – not just the one side as in this design.

The balcony seating, seriously?? To enable the audience to see the stage they would have to sit looking at right angles.. These are just a few things. You compare this design to the Royal Victoria Hall Theatre – no comparison.

These old Victorian Theatres were beautifully designed. Yes I admit, the old building needs an update, but the basics are there. We, as a family, have performed on that stage for many years. Our children started there and have gone on to be professionals in the theatre. There has to be a lot of sense in designing a ‘hub’ which incorporates the Vic Hall. It just needs a lot of tlc which it hasn’t had for many years. It would be cheaper to modernise, adapt and improve the RVH and incorporate it into the Hub.

Another rather weird, odd, incompetent bit of design is putting a cafe in a library (or have I read the design incorrectly) Aren’t libraries supposed to be quiet places generally. Also a theatre needs a lounge/foyer area where an audience can sit and have a drink (no bar) This obviously doubles up as a cafe at other times.

In conclusion I suggest that the application be refused, and redesigned by someone who knows what a theatre is.

 

Mr Simon Miller, Powder Mill Lane, Southborough  (Neutral)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

While I fully support the need to modernise and regenerate our high street and create a more vibrant social community hub, I am extremely saddened to hear that this will impact the local playing fields.

I understand this will the loss of at least two children’s football pitches that are currently fully utilised during the season with increasing demand from year on year increased participation.

It would be good to understand if there are any actions the council can take to minimise or avoid this impact or support the club and the community in other ways.

 

Mr David Rayner, Bishops Down Park Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

The proposals in this Hybrid application are somewhat different to those presented for the public consultations earlier this year, which is a surprise. The original 50-60 dwellings became 55, but now there are 69. Is this because the costs have risen ? The public don’t know of course because no financial appraisals or business plans have ever been published…

A retail space has been added to the front of the Hall building, without any consultation. As a retired architect I am astonished by the lack of quality in the proposed plans which have been formulated over a very long period at huge cost ! The location plan no longer shows the same footprint shown on the latest plans, and why on earth are 3 superseded drawings included in the application ?

This may be a ‘preliminary’ planning application but how can the Planners or the public consider these proposals seriously without any external finishes described. I understand from criticisms made by Ptolemy Dean that the architects intend to use polycarbonate sheets – seriously ? I also see the original concept of the gold saucer above the main entrance is still there. Seemingly the designers began with a preconceived concept and just continue to elaborate on it, rather than rethinking this fairly unattractive idea ! In my opinion the overall design is completely at odds with the architecture of the area and certainly will not blend in with the neighbourhood.

However my main comments relate to the community hall which as designed is not fit for purpose. STC repeatedly promised a “state of the art” theatre, and we have yet to see this. That section of the Hub is so poorly designed but I see that other submissions have already been made by Tony Egan, Brian Hampton and the Theatres Trust, to name but three. The main points made relate to the poor functionality of the ‘theatre’, due to the lack of wing space, lack of dressing rooms, lack of toilets for performers, and the dreadful access for equipment and materials to the backstage area.

I also wonder whether audiences will appreciate the dreadful balcony seating arrangements (most seats with obstructed views), or the lack of circulation space and no bar. Are the Councils seriously intending that audiences will gather in the library and corridors, perhaps having coffee (if open) in lieu of a beer ? Have the Councils prepared any plan for the future operation and management of the buildings ? We have certainly not seen one…

As a longstanding member of LAMPS, one of the Vic Hall’s repeat hirers, I know we and the Friends of the RVH have repeatedly offered assistance to STC and their architects, but we have not been invited to contribute. If the Hall is built as shown, STC will reap what they sow because they will struggle to find hirers and, if they manage it as pitifully as before, I fear the ‘theatre’ will prove to be a very expensive white elephant.

As I live in Tunbridge Wells, and have never used the existing medical centre or library, I feel unqualified to comment on the need to incorporate these in the Hub. However I would question the wisdom of linking the library with a coffee shop as I (and most people) prefer a quiet area in which to read and study.

As STC have spent the last several years deliberately letting the historic Vic Hall deteriorate such that they could cynically close it ‘for structural reasons’ a day after the end of 3 weeks of pantomime, and then build an edifice to themselves on the ruins, they are clearly incapable of managing this Hub and I trust that unrelated qualified managers will be appointed. The fact that the Hall and Council offices look such a mess is testament to STC’s wish to see both gone, and it does appear that redevelopment is needed.

However, why not retain the RVH, modernise it at much less cost than a new-build (despite what STC claim), and incorporate it into a more sympathetically designed Hub, hopefully with a much better choice of name ?

It is so very sad that this, the first ever community theatre is not being given a new lease of life for future generations. All my family have performed on that stage on many occasions, and huge numbers of people have been entertained there. What a very tragic loss ! David Salomon must be turning in his grave !

Therefore I propose that this application be refused.

Hopefully it can be resubmitted with new plans and more details, ideally prepared by designers who know what they are doing (!), together with a fully costed business plan, and ultimately incorporating a modernised RVH and the wishes of the local residents.

 

Mr Matthew Glenville, Crendon Park, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

My family and I are residents in Crendon Park. While we agree with the aim of the project (to revitalise the town) we believe that the implementation proposed can no longer be supported by us because of the following considerations:

Traffic and Safety

There will be dramatically increased traffic as a result of the hub and the increase in residential units (69 are currently proposed vs. the earlier numbers of 30). The traffic on Yew Tree Road is already very bad. While we are told that it does not meet official thresholds to be classified as a problem area, practical experience shows that a reasonable person would consider it to be problem. In the morning it takes about 15 minutes to drive our children to school in Tunbridge Wells (turning left out of Crendon park, rather than using the main road). In the afternoon, at about 3.30, it regularly takes 45 minutes to get back home from school, with 30 of those minutes spent on Yew Tree Road in a queue that starts from the traffic lights. Increased traffic from the development will add to this and reduce the safety of Yew Tree Road and any driveways and adjoining roads.

Noise, Smells and Disturbance

Currently our garden backs onto grass and the Ridgeway fields are one house along. The plans call for the Yew Tree Road car park to be extended directly behind our house and with commercial units and service bays placed next to our neighbour’s house. The Yew Tree Road car park is currently relatively quiet, but this can be expected to change with the use of the hub and also the residential development and commercial units.

This will lead to significantly increased noise, smells and pollution directly behind our house and also in very close proximity. Having a service bay for the commercial units is also likely to lead to increased disturbance at unsociable times of the day, evenings and weekends. It is also more than likely that rubbish, including cigarettes, beer cans, etc. will be thrown over the fence from the car park into our garden and that of our neighbours. Since many on the street (including us) have young children, this would be extremely upsetting and unsafe.

Overlooking another property and loss of privacy

As mentioned, our garden currently backs on to grass and is not overlooked from the back. The plans call for an apartment block with commercial units that would overlook our garden from the rear (block 4) and other apartment blocks that would overlook our garden and driveway from the side and front (block 3). This would be a concerning lack of privacy for us and our neighbours, and as mentioned, many of us on the street have young children.

Parking provision

Parking is already in short supply on Crendon Park and Yew Tree Road. The extension of the Yew Tree Road car park does not materially increase the number of parking spaces and certain does not add enough parking to accommodate the planned services of the Hub. This means that users of these services will seek parking elsewhere, the closest roads being Yew Tree Road and Crendon Park. This will make it even more difficult for residents to park and will also decrease the safety and traffic flow of Yew Tree Road, which, as mentioned previously, is already a traffic problem.

 

Rachel Wilson, Pennington Road, Southborough  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

As Priest in Charge at St Thomas, I think this development has the potential to both support the regeneration of the area and improve community cohesion. For those for whom travel is difficult, the hub development will improve access to essential services as well as providing opportunities for greater social contact, both of which are, in my view, to be welcomed. It also has potential as a focal point amd catalyst for the development of local social projects and initiatives, all of which could benefit the local area and its residents, especially those who are currently isolated or marginalised.

Nevertheless, in any implementation of the plans, due and proper regard need to be given to the clearly expressed concerns of local residents, ensuring that it is “in keeping” and sensitive to existing surroundings; it would be a great pity if the huge potential for social cohesion which this project has were entirely undermined by poor or insensitive implementation.

 

Ms Diana Blackwell, Pinewood Gardens, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

I object to the plans in its current format for the following reasons:

THE DESIGN:

Firstly, in the final Hub Consultation feedback, 58% of respondents had concerns about the design and felt it was too modern. The Project Board and the architects have not adapted the design to resolve these concerns.

The design is not in keeping with the street scene. The only building it has some relation to is Hythe Close, which anyone would agree is the architectural low point of the high street, so why add to it?

Jonathon White has said the ‘planners did not want a pastiche’, well neither do we, but equally we do not want a building that looks as though it was been teleported in. The design of the Cranbrook and Sissinghurst Parish Council’s Community Centre shows it is possible to create a modern facility that is sympathetic to local buildings.

It has been said that Southborough has ‘no vernacular architecture’ when it is clear the majority of the High Street is Victorian, with the centre being the Victorian council offices and theatre. I appreciate many of shops lining the high street have altered and unattractive frontages inserted but this is not a reason to discount the heritage and potential that our High Street has to be attractive and well maintained.

This should not be an aesthetic race to the bottom. Just because some of the buildings on London Road have not been well maintained and have lost some elements of character does not mean that we have to essentially ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’.

The towns that attract the most envy locally are towns with high levels of preserved heritage, such as Tenterten and Cranbrook. Southborough can be as attractive, but needs vision and better management by the local, borough and county councils.

Even renowned architect, Ptolomy Dean has stated it is a poor design. We deserve to have a community centre we our proud of and that the MAJORITY of residents approve of. Dean has stated “I think it is a shame that the replacement scheme is so poor when something more thoughtful and careful might have been created that incorporated the existing building, which would have still satisfied the council’s brief, but enabled something of the old character to survive.”

The old fire station parallel to the council offices is again very attractive and could hold indoor craft/food market and would work well in a scaled back design that is more appropriate to the town.

THE RVH:

STC ignored a petition of 11,000 signatures to save the RVH. But it did listen to the 1.94% of the population that opted to demolish it.

The RVH is a gift to Southborough from David Salomon and was partly funded by SUDC. It is the first municipal theatre. It is a heritage asset to our town, it may not be listed due to the later alterations to the front of the building but it would be impossible to argue that it could not be a non-designated heritage asset, which is defined as ” buildings, monuments, sites, places, areas or landscapes identified as having a degree of significance meriting consideration in planning decisions but which are not formally designated heritage assets’. (http://planningguidance.communities.gov.uk/blog/guidance/conserving-and-enhancing-the-historic-environment/what-are-non-designated-heritage-assets-and-how-important-are-they/ )

The RVH should be kept as part of the regeneration of the centre of Southborough. The later frontage should be removed and the building’s and architectural heritage restored.

The leader of the Project Board, Cllr Lester, clearly stated on many occasions (also repeated on the Planning Portal by Cllr Jamil) that a ‘state of the art theatre’ would be built in its place. Whilst Jonathan White has said nothing of the sort, insisting that ‘there is a list of nice-to-haves’. The people of Southborough have been clearly mislead by Cllr Lester and others who consistently told residents it would be worth giving up our Victorian theatre for something that would never materialise.

11,000 people want to keep this theatre. It has a wonderful history and many, many people have fond memories of their time spent there. Aside from attending pantomines, annual town meetings, carol concerts, Towns Womens’ Guild meetings, my husband-to-be (who was Mayor of Southborough at the time) and I practiced our wedding dance in there the day before the ceremony.

LACK OF BUSINESS PLANS/PROJECTIONS:

Residents will be paying for this development in their taxes. They have a right to see and scrutinise financial figures, budgets, forecasts and plans. None of this has been shared despite it being requested repeatedly by many residents. Jonathon White has said there has been one all along in the Courier (22.09.16), why is it then nobody has seen it?

The whole process has not been transparent. I have attended Full Council Meetings regularly to see that crucial documents (such as minutes, business plans/projections and designs showing how the Hub design has been adapted to respond to concerns) are not available and repeatedly been ‘almost ready’, then for them to never appear.

OTHER CONCERNS:

Too much housing – this should be scaled back to protect more of our green spaces and not add to the dire traffic congestion Southborough is infamous for.

Too much hard landscaping – massive empty space with little interest or greenery.

The potentially unworkable relationship between the cafe,;who it is run by and how it would be used when the theatre is in use? The ‘theatre’ has no bar and a kitchen that is inconveniently located upstairs. If the cafe is closed when the theatre is being used then the audience has nowhere to go for refreshments and no profits can be made to support the running of the theatre.

CONCLUSION:

Southborough has waited long enough for revitalisation, but waiting a little bit longer to get a ‘more careful and thoughtful’ design that is actually attractive and sympathetic to surrounding buildings is worth the wait.

Retain and restore the RVH. Produce a design for the site that mixes and and new.

Work with the heritage of the town, not against it. Use red brick, it links to our heritage as brick makers, scale back some elements if it means we could spend more on better quality materials. It will be more cost effective in the long run and it will appease the concerns of residents who dislike the proposed plastic coasted building.

Actually listen to what people want. Do not allow this application and design to be approved knowing only 1.94% of Southborough residents have no concerns about it.

If this design is approved it will be an embarrassment to our town, there for those to sit in the in the grid-locked traffic and ask themselves ‘How did that get through planning?!’.

 

Mr Andy Thomson, Cleveland, Royal Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

I am opposed to the development as we need to retain our open spaces and playing fields for young people. This development would almost certainly deny children the chance to participate in sporting activities. A new pavilion does not compensate for that.

 

Mrs Sharon Oakford, Pennington Road, Southborough  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

The Hub development will be a great asset to Southborough and will make a great meeting place for both the local community and visitors .
The proposed new hall for local activities will be welcomed by all ages ,a new Doctors Surgery is very much needed for our growing town .

 

Mr Robert Podbury, Royal Chase, Royal Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

Clearly, I am objecting to the development on a number of grounds, scale of the hub, design not in keeping, loss of green field space, increased traffic congestion, insufficient parking and increased pollution, no detailed plan on the long term viability to demonstrate that it is economically viable and sustainable, not to mention the 69 dwellings!

 

Cllr Graham Munn,  Holden Park Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

Graham Munn Tunbridge Wells Borough Councillor Southborough Town Councillor

The London Road Southborough (A26)is part of an Air Quality Management Area with very high levels of pollution due to the high volume of traffic and congestion. The creation of a Hub has always been seen as having a potential to increase that traffic and consequently to increase congestion, pollution and parking problems. The present application proposes a medical centre which was not part of an earlier concept of the Hub which located the sports pavilion within the main area of land designated for development ( Policy AL/SO2) and not on a separate parcel of land (EN22) as now shown.

At the Extra Ordinary Meeting of Southborough Town Council on July 18th 2016 a partner from the St Andrews Medical Centre attended and spoke in support of the need for a medical centre within the Hub stressing that St Andrews had recently been served notice on their lease and had to move imminently. That meeting later agreed to the submission of the present application. The planning statement states that St Andrews is “without any long term security” however it has now moved to adjacent premises in Pinewood Gardens and it is widely understood that this will be for a three month period followed by return to the original purpose built premises this year with the possibility of a five year lease.

While the proposed medical centre offers a larger building and will clearly serve an important public purpose, the inclusion of it in the Hub scheme has come at the cost of the giving up of more green open space on which to build the relocated pavilion and to the need to build more housing to finance the Hub than was originally envisaged ie from 50/60 in Policy AL/SO2 to the current 69.

The transport assessment from the applicant shows no fatal accidents in the area highlighted by their study. However an elderly pedestrian was killed within the period covered on the London Road close to Tesco stores some yards north of the area covered.
The transport assessment (para6.3.3) refers to work done at the two major junctions with the London Road, namely Yew Tree Road and Speldhurst Road which it infers would help the congestion and pollution. The work, now completed, involved resurfacing stretches of the three roads, altering a stretch of pavement and pedestrian islands, moving one crossing and installing an intelligent lights system. It remains to be seen whether those changes have had much effect. Moreover the signal system is very unresponsive to pedestrian button requests which can involve waiting for over two minutes, which is no encouragement to pedestrians of any age to wait safely and leaves doubts about its design.

The parking study ignores the former Lloyds Bank building, which closed in July and had capacity for at least a 12 cars in its car park which is now locked shut but had been open constantly before that. The supply of parking capacity has therefore reduced since the study.

The parking study also does not feature the cul-de-sac, Crendon Park, in its parking zones, but that street and its verges has been used as a substitute for the Yew Tree Road car park by drivers who wish to avoid paying parking charges, likewise stretches of Yew Tree Road. If there is inadequate parking provided within the Hub scheme these roads and others will soak up the residue of vehicles adding to illegal parking and obstruction.

The proposed housing on the Hub site and on the vacated sites of the library and the original St Andrews surgery together could add almost 90 homes rather than the original figure of 50 contained in Policy AL/SO2. Their vehicle movements will add to the two bottleneck junctions plus the one at the junction of The Ridgewaye with Yew Tree Road which is used by footballers at weekends and will be used by many new householders within the Hub.

Policy AL/SO2 states that “an air quality assessment and appropriate mitigation measures shall be incorporated into the development” but the domino effect of one site producing three sites will exacerbate the harm done not mitigate it by the creation of more traffic and the giving up of green space which otherwise absorbs some pollutants.

Policy AL/SO2 also says that the development “shall conserve and enhance areas of landscape importance” but there is one such (EN22)area with various trees and scrub within the section of land given over to the projected pavilion.

The polycarbonate cladding proposed for parts of the Hub exterior is likely to tarnish and look shoddy over time and would prove costly to rejuvenate. This “new vernacular” as proclaimed in the planning statement could become an old eyesore and no improvement on the currently neglected face of Southborough. Better materials should be used for a building destined for decades of prominence.

Local users of the now closed RVH theatre which thousands signed a petition to save and the users of the library both fear that the two proposed buildings will not work satisfactorily for them because, for example, the new hall will have no natural light thus being costly to run and the library will be a passageway to other facilities not a calm place for users.

There are bats in the vicinity of the former school buildings and measures should be taken to minimise any stress to them if the buildings are to be demolished.

The loss for all time of this area of green public open space and the replacement of the two Victorian buildings with a modern Hub of dubious attractiveness and utility, with an excess of housebuilding on the site due to the inclusion of the medical centre, albeit with 35% affordable housing, the freeing up of two more sites for building and the overall effect on traffic, parking and pollution, amounts to insufficient benefits to outweigh the harms caused to Southborough over the short and long term and on this basis I object to this application.

 

Ms Dianne Hill, Colebrook Road Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

I am a Borough and Town Councillor who has lived in the area for many years. I was elected in May to the Borough for my second term after a campaign where I stated my opposition to the demolition of the Royal Victoria Hall and highlighted complaints about the big decisions on the Hub being made in secret, with minimal consultation or engagement with local residents. My campaign saw me elected with 52% of the vote with a majority of 466 over my nearest rival. This achievement showed the depth of anger felt by people in Southborough and High Brooms about the way that they have been treated by the council and the project team that has made decisions with very little input from people living in the town.

I still believe that sympathetic modernisation and enlargement of the RVH would be the cheaper option for town centre and could still provide the basis for an exciting development. It is not too late to respond positively to the thousands of residents who signed a petition to save the RVH, and to use the energy of over 100 who volunteered to do work needed and to run it.

The contrast is the planning application that will lead to the demolition of a well loved, first municipal theatre in the country built by the people over a hundred years ago with High Brooms bricks and replaced with an architecturally ugly and not fit for purpose theatre and hall with no natural light. It will also see the closure of an already excellent and well used library in favour of a new one in the Hub which is in the middle of 4 walk ways, and serves also as a noisy theatre foyer and café.

Over the years I have seen various plans come forward for the Centre of our Town. When the Ridgeway School was closed Southborough Town Council took out a loan to buy the fields for the people of Southborough and High Brooms, realising with an ever growing community in a very built up area the need for green space was very important. This was to protect the land for the future. We are now in a position where what began as 25 houses, then between 50 and 60, is now 69 dwellings to be built on a significant part of our well-used green space. I believe this is over development and it will have a detrimental effect on the lives of the people who live in the area.

To fund the development of the town centre I fully accept that there will need to be to be some building of houses but I would like this to be a much lower figure. Better still, sell off the old Speldhurst Road allotment site, build houses there and reduce the figure still more. Use the money from the allotment sale to fund improvements to the town centre rather than using the playing fields.

Parking is a big problem in Southborough and will be exacerbated with this application. It does not seem adequate for the various types of user. On the plans I see 62 parking spaces for the 69 dwellings. It is quite obvious that some of the 42 public parking spaces will be used by the new dwellings. There are 122 allotment plots around the playing fields, 73 of these are to the east directly next to the Ridgeway fields but no mention throughout these plans of allotments. There can be 10-12 cars parked for the allotments around the field and next to the old school buildings on many occasions but these have not been included here for any parking. We all know the difficulty on football match days of trying to park now but there will be less parking which will push cars into other nearby roads.

As a councillor, an allotment holder and a resident I am extremely concerned about lack of car parking spaces and also the additional traffic movements caused by residents, football teams, playing field users and allotment holders going in and out through the Ridgeway onto Yew Tree Road, adding to the already substantial traffic from the Ridgeway, Bondfield Close, Hillcrest, Brian Crescent, and Brokes Way.

Many of us are concerned about the lack of provision of parking for the Hub itself. The Yew Tree Road car park might be extended by 21 spaces but there will be a loss of 22 car parking spaces from the sides of the RVH, so there will be a net loss of 1. Clearly planners have not thought this through. They are anticipating a busy hall, library and medical centre but are basically offering the same parking provision as we have at present. During busy times the neighbouring roads of Crendon Park, and Yew Tree Rd and the side streets opposite the Hub will become even more congested than they are already.

The traffic that will be generated here within 150 metres along Yew Tree Road to the Ridgeway will add to the misery of all who live in this area, and will be much worse when the library is demolished and the 9-10 residential units built on the already busy junction. The new traffic lights system at Yew Tree Road has had little if any effect on the movement of traffic. I do acknowledge that there are benefits to including the Medical Centre as part of the development but with its massive expansion my concern is that more patients and service users will considerably add to the already congested roads and add to the biggest health risk in the area – air pollution.

The listing in the application of bus services to and from Southborough implies that people will go by public transport to the Hub. This may well be the hope, but I would suggest that this idea is put forward by people who do not use public transport. Buses are expensive and the services are declining. During the day the journey time to Southborough can be lengthy because of congestion, in the evenings and on Sundays the service is skeleton if not non-existent, and there is no bus link between High Brooms and Southborough.

I must mention the design of the building in the application. Our historic red bricked building is to be replaced with a box structure covered in polycarbonate cladding looking out of place in our High Street quickly becoming, shabby, polluted and dirty. Surely we cannot allow this to happen on the busiest gateway routes to Tunbridge Wells – a Royal Spa Town!

Finally I find it deeply ironic that decision makers who take pride in their business acumen have not produced a financial forecast – which is an elementary requirement of project planning. In this time of austerity when we are all being asked to pay more for less, is this £30m project to go ahead without the taxpayers of Southborough and High Brooms knowing what it will cost them?

This plan does not enhance Southborough it could be in any town anywhere. I object to the application and ask the Planning Committee to suggest that the applicants go away and devise a plan that is more sympathetic to Southborough, that continues to protect its green spaces, that mitigates the transport parking and health risks, and that carries the support of its residents.

 

Ms Claire Martin, Western Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

As a resident of Southborough I have been watching with interest the emerging plans for the regeneration of this town. This is my second time living in Southborough having left to start work elsewhere and then returning with my family. It’s very sad to see the neglect the town has suffered in the interim period.

Southborough is predominantly a Victorian town with some beautiful architecture. I believe our councils have a duty and responsibility to care for the heritage we have inherited and to look after it for our future generations.

Unfortunately the proposed plans for the Hub fill me with frustration, dread and sadness that some of what is so good about Southborough will be torn down and gone forever.

The Royal Victoria Hall. A gift to the people of Southborough, the first municipal theatre and built of attractive red brick local to High Brooms. As I am led to believe is structurally sound and in recent years has been rewired. Why then cannot it be renovated. I suggest the unattractive altered frontage is restored and the Hub built around it.

Pick Everard architects vision of the Hub is not in keeping with the surrounding area, very unimaginative and in my opinion a false economy. The polycarbonate cladding will soon look tired and dirty.

I am not convinced the theatre/community hall is fit for purpose, the very groups we need to use it to make it viable are telling us of inadequate changing rooms and a lack of an orchestra pit. No natural light is ridiculous if we want the hall to be used and running costs kept down.

Southborough library, popular with locals, parents and children has been neglected and left to look so run down people think the only alternative is to pull it down. Do these people realise that in its place could be more housing adding to further traffic problems?
The library and fire station were once an attractive part of Southborough, I believe it even acquired a civic award? Why not spend some money on returning it to its former glory?

The Ridgewaye playing fields are undoubtedly very much loved and used, essential to a town the size of Southborough for our youth to exercise and for all to enjoy green space. The proposed 69 dwellings are just too much for a town this size to cope with. Where will the extra school spaces needed come from and how will the A26 and Yew Tree road cope with all these extra cars?

The Water Margin is currently derelict. It is my opinion it should be restored and opened once again as a pub. There are no bars or public houses at this end of town and it could be a fantastic venue for pre and post theatre drinks.

It worries me immensely that all this could potentially go through, land sold, houses built, a new theatre etc and there is no business plan to hand to see how this is going to support itself. Why?

To summarise.
Yes Southborough is in dire need of regeneration but not at any cost.
We need an imaginative architect who can deliver a plan to develop our town centre to blend contemporary with heritage.
Residents need to see a business plan.
The number of houses being built needs to be dramatically reduced
We have all the tools in Southborough we just need a council that will listen and use them… We have a theatre which is already the envy of other towns, which is why the pantomimes were always so popular.

 

Mr Alastair Collie, London Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

As a Southborough resident I feel I must pass on my reservations on the latest plans for the Southborough Hub.

My favoured choice was to retain the heritage of Southborough and incorporate a refurbished Royal Victoria Hall into the new hub scheme. Now that a total rebuild seems to be the only option put forward it is important that the building serves the community well. In terms of the cosmetics I, like many others, do not favour the modern design or materials and experts have expressed their concern at the cheap cladding exterior. Due to the amount of pollutants and grime from the busy London Road I only hope that the chosen materials will retain their ‘clean’ look.

Having been involved with theatre for over 40 years there are many flaws in the new design for the hall/ theatre which I believe will reduce the income potential and it is certainly not the ‘state of the art’ theatre that local tax payers were promised. It is apparent that theatrical experts and local stakeholder groups were not consulted and, if they were, their suggestions have been ignored or dismissed.

National experts have also expressed their concerns over design elements of the hub and I feel some of these fundamental errors should be addressed prior to any formal planning application being put forward. I therefore feel the current application should be refused pending further consultation.

The design of a new hub was a great opportunity to create a building which reflected on Southborough’s past whilst improving facilities for local residents and wider afield. I do believe in a number of important areas it has been found wanting in it’s current form.

 

Miss Carys Hatcher, Crendon Park, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

I oppose to the proposal for the Southborough Hub for the following reasons

1. loss of green open space in an area of high density housing – there is very little green open space available for residents to readily access – we cannot allow destruction of our fields when it is evident that there are other sites across the town which are in need of redevelopment and will not require the destruction of green space

2. congestion and pollution – Southborough is frequently grid-locked – the new junction has done little to improve traffic congestion -the plan does not provide adequate parking and will generate more traffic onto our congested roads, resulting in increased pollution (lets not forget that the pollution in Southborough & High Brooms has one of the poorest records in the Borough) and drive more cars to park onto side streets, which were not designed to accommodate the volume of residents cars which currently exist

3. The scale, design and number of dwellings is excessive and is not in keeping with the local area – it is over-development and will become an eye-sore in the centre of our town – 69 duplexes and apartments, packed tightly together, creating additional noise, a condensed and stressful living environment as well as overlooking houses which are situated on the boundary. This is nothing like the commitment made from local councillors or the plans and images presented at the RVH hall

4. The scale and design of the Hub itself is very disappointing – Councillors promised state of the art theatre, a jewel in the crown of Southborough, however what we have is a large box, which appears to have given little consideration to its local environment and its fit

5. There is no plan for how the hub will be financed in the longer term and little evidence of how it will be sustained in the future. Please do not saddle the local community with an eye sore and increased taxes

6.The design is lacking in environmental features and does not demonstrate any commitment to be a sustainable and damage limiting, environmental building for the future

In summary , I do not consider that these current plans for the Southborough Hub will have a positive impact on the local community & ask you to reject them

 

Mr Alain Lewis, Holden Park Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

Until May I was a Tunbridge Wells Borough Councillor for Southborough and High Brooms I have as well been a Councillor on Southborough Town Council.

I have always supported the need for the current council buildings to be developed. I believe though that development should not happen at just for the sake of it. There needs to be wins for the people and the town.

We need to retain the Royal Victoria Hall that would offer the town centre development a theatre fit for purpose that maintains the historic of the town. It has been used and enjoyed by generations of residents and has been closed for too long for no good reason. The building needs to be modernised so that it can be used for future generations. This would be a cheaper option than the one specified in the planning application. The proposed theatre is not fit for purpose and will not meet the needs of theatre groups and users who have already started to go elsewhere, for instance LAMPS are using Tonbridge School.

This plan as proposed does not fit with Southborough or to the architecture of the Borough. I believe that if this was proposed for the centre of Tunbridge Wells, it would be dismissed out of hand.

We need to think again for the cultural diversity of the town and the borough and we need to maintain the rich architectural offer of the borough.

I therefore think that this application should be refused.

 

Councillor Mrs Leah Markwell, Carville Avenue Southborough  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

As a Councillor AND resident of Southborough I fully support this application. Southborough has been in need of a facelift for a considerable time and the Hub will supply this, along with providing a much needed medical centre and a new library. I feel that the loss of a piece of land, which is predominantly weeds, is a small price to pay when set against the benefits to the community.

The time has come for the residents of Southborough and High Brooms to be able to look to the future and enjoy the facilities that the Hub will bring. Just to clarify, the improved medical centre will be able to cater for the increasing population of Southborough and High Brooms…tick. Football players will still have plenty of pitches and a brand new pavilion…tick. Theatre lovers will have a place to enjoy local productions…tick. A brand new library…tick. Finally, the rejuvenation of the eyesore slap bang in the middle of Southborough, surely can only been seen a positive.

Yes, I walk my dog on the Ridgewaye fields, yes, my son plays football there, yes, I use the medical centre and the library and yes, I have performed on the stage of the Royal Victoria Hall, as has my daughter, and yes, I still fully support this planning application.

 

Mrs Emily Shoard, Bowen Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

I cannot see how the new facilities provide a working theatre, to replace the much loved old one.

 

Tunbridge Wells Constituency Labour Party Len Fagg Hall 71A St Johns Road Royal Tunbridge Wells Kent TN4 9TT (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

Tunbridge Wells Constituency Labour Party (TWCLP) objects to this planning application unless there are some significant changes.

TWCLP represents over 800 members living across the constituency. We want our heritage borough to be an attractive and healthy place to live in; to provide houses, jobs and prosperity; to support and encourage good education, sport and cultural diversity; to protect green spaces; and to act on the problems of traffic, parking and traffic pollution; and to encourage citizen engagement in decision making.

Southborough – a town of over 12,000 people, with a proud and distinctive history – has been treated like the poor relation to Tunbridge Wells for many years. For the last couple of decades town centre has been allowed to fall into decline. The historic Royal Victoria Hall (the first municipal theatre in the country) has been mismanaged and a cultural asset to the Borough and its surrounds has been driven to the point of closure and impending demolition.

Over 11,000 people signed a petition to preserve the Hall and droves of volunteers offered their services to work on it, modernise, and keep it going in a voluntary capacity, like Trinity Arts Theatre, so that it could continue to provide the mix of well-loved productions, pantos, and other entertainments so loved by people who travelled from across the county to enjoy them.

This option was dismissed by decision makers who, with a ruthless determination, set themselves on the course of demolishing the Hall and replacing it by the worst type of modern building with little beauty or architectural value, a limited shelf life, and not fit for purpose. This would be paid for by selling of valuable land assets for high density housing and the loss of playing fields used in the season by hundreds of footballers every week.

We believe that the decisions that have been taken were misconceived and done with a dubious minimal tick box consultation and no real engagement of the community. The result is a planning application which, if successful, will blight the look of one of the main entry points into the Borough, will reduce its rich cultural diversity, take away green spaces in a town already under provided, and will significantly add to the traffic congestion, parking problems and air pollution problems already experienced in Tunbridge Wells.

For a £30m transformation project that should have excited and enthused people in Southborough and made them feel confident of their future this is looking like an embarrassing failure. Many people feel that they are being ‘done to’ rather than ‘part of’ and that decisions have been made by a small group who meet in secret and have made no attempt to share and get people involved in developing plans. The result is apathy at best or sullen antagonism at worst.

We endorse the more detailed critique of the plans and suggestions given by Southborough and High Brooms Labour Party whose members, councillors and the residents they represent will be directly hit by the impact of the development. Our preference is for a part retain, part modernise option with a construction that is less brash and brutal that retains our heritage, blends with and improves the look of Southborough town centre and invites people to appreciate and enjoy our borough. The promise was for ‘a state of the art theatre’. Let’s have one! – but endorsed by the Theatres Trust.

We cannot complete our comments without saying that under no circumstances should this planning application proceed without the councils concerned producing a full business justification and an early estimation of what the annual charge will be to Southborough and High Brooms residents. Given financial constraints on local government and on families this is pretty elementary but despite numerous requests have been refused. We wonder if this is lack of skill in the project team, ineptitude, wilfulness, or just a reflection of the attitude that has prevailed throughout this project that actually the views and the opinions of local people who will pay for this don’t matter.

We would also argue that as more houses are needed that the council should get on and develop their redundant allotment site in Speldhurst Road. Maybe this would help to free up funds for the necessary town centre improvements and reduce the need for taking away playing fields.

 

Brian Hampton, Norstead Gardens, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

The proposals submitted with the application differ significantly from those to which the residents of Southborough and High Brooms were invited to comment during the public consultation December 2015 / January 2016.

Retail space has been added to the ‘hub’ building. Southborough consistently has vacant retail premises. Why do we need more ? The residential content of the project has been changed. The consulted proposals were for a total of 55 dwellings with mixed large and small houses and some apartments. The application is for 69 dwellings (an increase of 25%) all apartments. There is no evidence in the application to show that these changes have the approval of local residents and tax payers.

The very short public consultation in July 2016 specifically excluded comments about anything except the internal layout and finishes to the ‘hub’ building and is, therefore, irrelevant to these changes to the proposals. So far as I can see, the application does not give any information about the materials and finishes to the external (or internal) surfaces of the ‘hub’ building. Without this information how can residents, or planners, assess the appearance and impact of the proposal ?

Most of the comments submitted by residents to the public consultation December 2105/January 2016 expressed concerns and reservations. Inadequate car parking, numbers and location, and traffic congestion were regular topics of concern. The application details do not alleviate these concerns. The increase in the number of residential dwellings can only add to the concerns already expressed.

Concerns were also expressed about the service access to the rear of the hub building and to the pavilion/groundsmens depot. The application shows access through the Hythe Close garage area. It is inevitable that this will cause disagreements between users of the hub and residents of Hythe Close and their landlords. Also the access to the rear of the theatre is inadequate for the large commercial vehicles required to make deliveries to and collections from the theatre stage.

I, and others, have commented extensively to councillors and the project manager about the proposals for the theatre/community hall. We have expressed our reservations about the suitability of the proposed design for either theatrical use or for some of the potential uses as a community hall.

At public meetings and consultations the residents of Southborough and High Brooms were promised, by councillors and project managers, that the development would include a ‘state of the art’ theatre with more and better facilities than those provided by the Royal Victoria Hall. The designs shown in the application are incapable of fulfilling this promise.
We were assured by a senior councillor that the designs had been submitted to, and approved by, the Theatres Trust. It is now apparent that this assurance was unfounded.

The comments you have now received from the Theatres Trust echo many of the points which I, and others, have brought to the attention of councillors and the project manager since April2014. The designs continue to ignore these concerns.

I, and other residents, have expressed concern that we have not seen any plan for the future ownership, management, operation and maintenance of the ‘hub’ building and its surrounding landscape. The Theatres Trust now also raise this issue. The application does not give any information on this topic. It appears that the proposal is to obtain planning consent, construct the building and then work out how to use and finance its operation. This is unacceptable. A ‘business plan’ should be available for public comment, detailing how local public finances will be affected, before any construction.

I support the rejuvenation of this area of Southborough. Our council officers and staff work in wholly unsatisfactory conditions. Our theatre is closed and our public buildings appear derelict. The pavilion is inadequate and in disrepair. Neighbouring sites and premises are derelict and overgrown.

In my opinion the present plans and application do not sufficiently satisfy the promises made to the community. With regret, I suggest that the application be refused with a recommendation that it be resubmitted with plans and details which address the concerns of residents and fulfil the promises made to them.

 

Mr David Marshall, Clockhouse, Royal Tunbridge Wells  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

I have been a patient of St. Andrew’s Medical Centre for over 30 years and have witnessed at first hand the huge increase in patient numbers, quadrupling in that time to over 8,000 patients, with a further 2,000 predicted by the end of the decade. The existing facilities are in desperate need of improvement and with an ageing population, additional services are required.

The current premises are now wholly inadequate to accommodate the patients in Southborough and their justified needs.

The HUB is the perfect solution and is supported by thousands of our patients.

As a representative member of the medical centre’s Patient Participation Group, and on behalf of our patients, I strongly urge our Council to uphold the current planning application.

 

Councillor Peter Oakford, Pennington Road, Southborough  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

This is a very positive development for Southborough which I whole heartily support. It builds life into the town and creates of new vibrant focal point for all residents. The fabulous integrated design which brings so many of the services under one roof will lead to an active town centre which is something sadly lacking within Southborough. The inclusion of a new improved medical centre is critical as with the demise of the existing facility without this development Southborough and High Brooms residents will need to travel to Tunbridge Wells or Tonbridge to see a GP. The entire town benefits from this development including the 500 children and young people that play football on the Ridgewaye as the project includes a new and enhanced pavilion for the football club.

 

Mrs Sally Angell, Hythe Close, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

As someone who lives in Hythe Close I, along with my neighbours, will be directly affected by this application which I would like to register my objection to.

1) Royal Victoria Hall – this is an historic building and many people who live in the town have strong attachments to it. It has been mismanaged over the years and been allowed to deliberately run down so that there is an excuse to demolish it. It needs money spent on it, it could be modernised and it would be rejuvenated for use over the next hundred years. There are many examples all over the country where this blend of old and new has been carried out. An advantage in doing this would be that it would not involve selling off bits of the playing fields to pay for it. The money for modernisation could come from development of the Speldhurst Road allotment site, surely this would raise £1m?

2) If the council are determined to go ahead with the hub concept then it should be part retain part modernise with a separate facility for the medical centre. Under no circumstances should the current design of the building be allowed. Hythe Close is not pretty, but this ugly box structured building covered in plastic sheeting is dreadful. I want something that makes me proud to live in Southborough. This would make me ashamed and embarrassed. The scale of the development should be reduced with less houses being built and consequently less pressure on traffic, parking and congestion.

3) I don’t think enough consideration has been given to the impact on health of this plan. I suffer with a health condition that is adversely affected by traffic fumes. Southborough is one of the worst places in the borough for early deaths and I would say that that is probably because of the poison of traffic pollution. Living in Hythe Close when I open my windows I get all of the fumes from the A26. The Housing Association is going to reduce the size of the gardens to allow more parking close to our flats – more fumes. With the hub development there will be fumes blowing from the new houses and car park, and there will be the football pavilion behind with more traffic.

A key problem with this plan is that it has been devised by planners and councillors who don’t actually live near the development. It is all very well for them to say how wonderful it is. It is not in their back yard. It is literally in mine, and I object to it!

 

Mr John Clucas, Hillcrest, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

The overall appearance of the proposed development is completely out of keeping with the surrounding area. From an aesthetic point of view, it will be severely detrimental to the local area.

 

Mr Paul Newton, Fairlight Close, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Thu 22 Sep 2016

I believe Southborough needs a vibratant town hub, yet I object to the current plans as they reduce the amount of green space within the local area, the proposals mean 2 7 a side football pitches will be a lost, 1 11 a side pitch severely compromised and once work commences they will no longer be available for kids to play on.

 

Mr Jeremy Clarke, Crendon Park, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 21 Sep 2016

For far too long many parts of London Road have been in much need of improvement in terms of facilities, parking and in particular traffic flow. We have indeed been in support of developing a Southborough ‘Hub’ but would have liked to have seen the RVH restored and updated as part of the hub. As residents for more than 11 years on the North side of Crendon Park, we have seen and heard numerous proposals regarding the planned development site, though it seems the latest plans are gaining significant traction.

With each planning proposal that is published, it has become clear that the allocations for residential dwellings has become the main focus, with the number of residential units increasing dramatically since the early proposals. My main concern is the number and type of dwellings in the latest proposal – 69 dwellings, of which many if not all, are multi-level apartment blocks. This is a far cry from the homes proposed on earlier plans which were to be in keeping with existing properties, featuring long gardens and thus maintaining a degree of privacy to existing residents.

With additional dwellings comes additional demand on roads around Southborough in particular the A26 providing the major route into Tunbridge Wells. The traffic situation in Southborough is already poor and parking a very real and contentious issue. Since the Yew Tree Road car park became chargeable, Crendon Park seems to have become the natural free alternative, in what is already a very congested road. Although parking is supplied in the new development, we cannot see that there will be sufficient for both the new residents and all the visitors to the new Hub. Whilst there have apparently been improvements to the traffic controls in Southborough, we do not know of anyone who believes it has improved their ability to turn right out of our road or to turn onto or from the A26. We fear that this will only become more of a problem with the proposed large number of adjacent dwellings as well as significant additional traffic from the Hub development as a whole.

In recent times Crendon Park has developed a real community and neighbourly spirit. Our children are at the very centre of this and currently enjoy a (relatively) quiet road in which they do freely play and socialise together. We have also like so many other residents of Southborough enjoyed a good use of the Ridgeway playing fields for many regular events. Additional vehicular traffic will bring increased safety concerns to all parents and will certainly impact upon the freedom the children currently enjoy. The last thing Southborough needs is any increase in the volume of traffic!

In summary we strongly oppose the number and style of residential units proposed in such a limited development area, bringing about even more traffic and parking problems. We do believe there is a need for improvements to the area but do feel that the current proposals do not best serve the Southborough residents or businesses and will have a further detrimental effect on traffic going into and out of Tunbridge Wells.

 

Mr Dave Leech, Dunstan Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 21 Sep 2016

I object to the demolition of the historic and architecturally significant Victoria Hall. The plans for the new building are not in keeping with the local area and do not preserve the much loved, and richly historic community theatre. My family has enjoyed many wonderful evenings of music and pantomime and I believe the current building needs to be restored and preserved, not destroyed.

 

Mr Sascha Fromeyer, Crendon Park, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 21 Sep 2016

I object to the development of the hub and 69 dwellings because the area is already heavily congested.

The Ridgeway leading to the Ridgeway residential plan is proposed to have 69 dwellings. On average we can expect 1.2 cars per dwelling. We are likely to end up with 70- 80 residents cars entering and exiting the Ridgeway on top of the already existing traffic. We’ll see visitor traffic to the 69 dwellings as well. We can easily expect 200-300 extra car trips coming in and going out of the Ridgeway every day. At least half of these cars will try to go via the Yew Tree Rd crossing.

At peak and often even at off peak, traffic at the Yew Tree Rd crossing is congested. The morning traffic at the Yew Tree Rd crossing is heavily congested. The weekend traffic is even heavier with a lot of cars wanting to go towards the industrial estate and trying to get to the Ridgeway football club.

I cycle to work most days and see the mess on Yew Tree Rd and London Rd leading into Tunbridge Wells. Since the new traffic management I cannot see an improvement on traffic movement. The extra traffic which will be caused by the hub and the dwellings will make things even worse.

The suggested amount of parking space for the 69 dwellings and visitors to the hub is likely to run out quickly and people will be looking for parking space. We are likely to see overspill into Crendon Park which is already full up most days.

The Ridgeway is used as a green recreation space for the football club, dog walkers and many people looking for a moment to switch off. The proposed development is reducing the Ridgeway green area to 50% of it’s current size.
This is reason for concern.

My last objection concerns the area behind our garden at 33 Crendon Park which seems to be an undesignated space.
Undesignated spaces of this kind in densely populated areas such as the suggested 69 dwellings are likely to lead to an area for antisocial behaviour.

 

Mr Graham Ellis, Prospect Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 21 Sep 2016

I am supportive of the Hub development in principle. However the following concerns need to be addressed before I am fully in favour:
1. Ensure adequate car parking is available for visitors to the Hub and Ridgewaye fields
2. Football pavilion needs to be designed so that Southborough council maintenance building is separate or adjacent. This would enable the pavilion to be built without interference of the football pitch. The current design leads to the unnecessary loss of a 11aside football pitch.
3. An alternative is needed to compensate the many local children who use the two mini pitches which are lost with this proposal
4. A convenant is not in place to protect the recreational use of the Ridgewaye fields for future generations of residents

Address the above concerns and I am in favour

 

Mrs Tanya Shaw, St Andrews Medical Centre, St Andrews Court, Pinewood Gardens, Southborough   TN4 0LZ (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Wed 21 Sep 2016

Dear Lynda Middlemiss,

We write on behalf of St Andrew’s Medical Centre, Southborough to express very strong support for the proposed mixed use Community Hub, which includes a new medical centre. Our former practice at Pinewood Gardens had been operating over capacity for several years, and is in desperate need of improvement and expansion. The building and site are too constrained to provide premises that will allow the practice to meet future growth in patient numbers, as well to provide a more comprehensive range of services. Due to recent ongoing lease negotiations we are currently based in temporary premises at Pinewood Court, Southborough. There is therefore, significant urgency to secure the future of St Andrew’s Medical Centre within the heart of the community.

We have been looking for sometime to relocate within Southborough, the availability of suitable premises or sites is however, incredibly scarce. We are very grateful to local authority partners in working with ourselves and NHS West Kent Commissioners to support the development of a hub masterplan, which includes a building and access arrangements that would meet the future needs of existing and future residents. As set out in the planning application this includes:

– 9 consultation and examination rooms
– 4 treatment rooms
– 2 nurses rooms
– 2 private offices
– Secure storage, access and parking

The scale and design of the medical centre element of the Hub is the outcome of significant discussions which have taken place over the past three years. It is our view that the proposed medical centre will be an outstanding facility that will provide a clinical working environment that will support both staff and patients.

We have consulted with patients directly and through our patient participation group and have received overwhelming support to retain the medical centre in this area and provide an enhanced service which the proposed facility would allow. It would place the practice more centrally within the town centre and closer to the pharmacy , with access to patient parking.

The Hub development represents a very significant opportunity for Southborough to enhance the town centre and transform the delivery of key public services within the community. At this stage we would like to register our intent to speak in favour of the application when it is considered by the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council Planning Committee in due course.

Yours Sincerely

Partners of St Andrews Medical Centre

 

Mr Enrique Novella, Crendon Park, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 21 Sep 2016

I am a resident of Crendon Park and initially was in favour of the development of our high street. However, I have become increasingly concerned by the plans for this hub as time has passed.

Initally, there were proposals regarding the design and layout put in place which were, naturally, to be ‘fine tuned’. However, we are now almost at d-day and it is still not clear how the ‘theatre’ can function properly as a proper theatre, access & bar areas to name but two. From these plans, it appears highly unlikely that proper theatre productions will ever be able to take place there. This rendering the space unusable and as a result becoming a loss-making white elephant.

As a resident of Crendon Park, I will be affected more than most. I fully appreciate that the only way to finance this project is to raise monies from the sale of the Ridgeway fields to be used for residential purposes. Initially, there were a far smaller number of houses being planned. However, after each and every new proposal, the number of properties increased.

So much so that we now have a series of 3-storey flats. This will have two very major negative factors. The first being my house being looked over and the subsequent loss of privacy from our bedrooms. Secondly, and most importantly, will be the extreme increase in traffic.

As you know, changes were recently made to the junction on the London Road. This has made very little difference to traffic flow in the immediate area. Exiting right from Crendon Park into Yew Tree Road is already difficult. I dread to imagine the chaos that will ensue with the significant increase in traffic in this already overcrowded area.

Regrattably I have come to the conclusion that I simply cannot trust Southborough Town Council, Tunbridge Borough Council & Kent County Council to run this crucial project correctly. I urge you please to re-think these ill-conceived plans which simply are not fit for purpose, not now nor in the future.

 

Cllr Nasir Jamil, Blackthorn Avenue, Southborough  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Wed 21 Sep 2016

I fully support this development. Southborough residents have waited a very long time for this development. This development is extremely important for the residents as well as local businesses. This development brings a new life to the community with facilities like library, council offices a nice cafe and more over a brand new state of the art theater which will replace the existing very old theater which is not economical viable to manage. This new state of the art theater will be a multi purpose hall as well which Southborough really need that as a community hall where residents can book for their parties etc. I lived in Southborough for a long time and campaigning for this development , thanks to three councils Kent , Borough and of course Southborough working together to make it possible .
I fully support this development

 

Cllr Glenn Lester, Norstead Gardens, Southborough  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Wed 21 Sep 2016

I would like to support this application

Southborough has had at lest 20 years of stagnation and dereliction.

The A26 is a busy arterial route connecting Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells and this provides Southborough with an Identity as you pass from one large Town to another

Southborough has a large community with a fantastic feeling of community

The proposed new buildings bring together the civic and medical needs of the local community as well as new pavilion for youth football and a new Theater.

This is a once in a life time opportunity to give Southborough its own Identity with in the Bough of Tunbridge wells as well as providing a destination for the wider community to use the facility’s included.

The Theater and community hall will bring forward a real opportunity for a multi functional hall for the whole community to use not just a few shows a year as the current dilapidated hall that has really seen far better Days

New medical center replacing an existing cramped Building a wonderful opportunity for Southborough.

 

Mrs Katharine Fromeyer, Crendon Park, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 21 Sep 2016

As a local resident of Southborough and in particular Crendon Park I object to this development on several grounds.

Residential Plans

The number of dwellings has been steadily increasing and have now become apartment blocks as opposed to semi-detached houses as first suggested. This will add to Southborough’s already extremely congested roads and therefore further loss of air quality.

The plans show an area, which borders the boundaries of the houses at the end of Crendon Park, which appears to have no clearly designated use (dead space), which would soon become attractive as a “hangout”, potentially leading to litter and anti-social behaviour.

The playing fields should not be compromised because they are regularly in use for football, holiday clubs, members of the public, walking dogs and general recreational activities. These fields attract many visitors to Southborough.

The Hub

The closing of St Andrews Medical Centre was used as a very strong argument to gain councillors votes for the development. Having been served eviction notices the Medical Centre have had to find temporary (probably unsuitable) accommodation. However, it has now been suggested that the old Medical Centre building is to be refurbished. Does this mean that the “urgency” to rehouse the Medical Centre has subsided? This was clearly a very emotive argument used to persuade councillors to vote in favour of the development.

I believe very strongly that Southborough cannot accommodate a further 69 dwellings and that the Hub should be designed with this in mind, with a solid business plan based on factual financial figures.

 

Cllr Mohammed Zulhash Uddin, Crendon Park, Southborough  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Wed 21 Sep 2016

I fully support the Southborough Hub application: much needed investment will help bring life back in southborough with the following facilities mentioned in the application:
Hybrid Application – Detailed application for demolition of existing buildings and erection of new mixed use Community Hub building comprising theatre (sui generis), library (D1), cafe (A3), medical centre (D1), Town Council offices (B1a) and ancillary storage, toilets and plant rooms; A1/A2/A3 retail unit; New sports pavilion (D2) with ground maintenance store and workshop (B1c); Extension to existing Yew Tree Road public car park; Associated access, pedestrian and cycle links, parking and landscaping.

The application for housing should be sympathetic to the local area in particular Crendon Park. And the resident association’s view should be taken in to consideration for future application of 69 dwellings: Outline application with access to be considered in detail and all other matters reserved for future consideration for erection of up to 69 dwellings, ground floor A1/A2/A3 retail units and additional public car parking provision

 

Mrs Shahanara Uddin, Crendon Park, Southborough  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Wed 21 Sep 2016

I fully support the southborough hub application. This area needs the investment for regeneration and appropriate housing which should be sympathetic to the local area.

 

Mrs Marion Short, Park House Gardens, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 21 Sep 2016

Please do not sacrifice our much loved Victoria Hall and replace with a modern hall with no character or history, and which is not the state of the art theatre we were promised

 

Miss Catherine Meade, Bright Ridge, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 21 Sep 2016

This new design is completely out of keeping with our Victorian area. Domestic buildings have to be in keeping with surroundings, so public buildings should be too. Rather than flogging off the locally made, historic, red brick for which our area is known, why not utilise it in the new design?

I would like to know just how future-proof these proposed building materials will be? The red brick has stood for 100 years, and had it been responsibly maintained by our neglectful council, would have stood for another century, just as many old domestic residence in the area have. I put it to you, this design will look tired and careworn in twenty years, perhaps sooner. The community knows there is still no proper business plan for its running and management. Stop pushing these unpopular plans through for the sake of the egos of our Conservative councillors, who have absolutely no care for what the community really wants. We have been railroaded.

Better still, why not restore our beautiful, historic Victorian theatre, a gift to the people from David Salomans, where wounded WW1 soldiers were cared for 100 years ago? Why make an enemy of the majority of local residents who are proud to have visited the very first civic theatre in the country, that you wish to destroy. A theatre that everyone has visited and has fond memories for.

The RVH has personal and historic value in our community. I strongly urge a rethink, some common sense should prevail, rather than the pushy egos of our non-community-minded councillors who do not care about heritage. Once you have destroyed our memories, there will be no going back. This will be a shameful legacy for Southborough council.

 

Ian Gavin, St Andrews Park Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 21 Sep 2016

My key objection is that the planning process has not been transparent, has failed to facilitate genuine consultation and has deliberately mis-interpreted the results from those few hundred people who did provide feedback. I am willing to accept the views of the majority even if they are not my preference; but I must object to the views of a few unaccountable planners who are pushing through their plans for a brand new plastic building which is patently against the preference of us, the relatively conservative residents who have stated that we wish for a building in keeping and character with Southborough.

Improved transparency on plans
– Residents appreciate that plans are developed over time, but are concerned that the current plans especially regarding the amount of houses to be built, amount of green space to be sold and the final look and size of the hub are far from what has been indicated earlier.
– The planners will not talk about what will happen to the existing library which is one of the few relatively attractive areas along the A26. Planners should plan holistically and be transparent that the knock on effect of the hub might mean that just meters away the attractive green area and low rise library is likely to be knocked down and sold for more multi-story flats

Improved transparency on finances
– duty bearers must be more accountable on all the financial aspects. Most of the community were not necessarily that dissatisfied with the library and health centre and just wanted the theatre re-furbished because it was an eyesore and something to be done about the vacant Tesco site. There are concerns that the planners are running away with themselves with multi-million schemes which the citizens have not asked for.
– Precisely how much is the land which they are selling worth? Precisely how much will the new build cost? Provide a realistic and peer reviewed business plan and tell residents how much this will cost them in taxes to run

Failed Consultation process –
– the planners have clearly failed in their duties to consult communities having gained only 367 views from the whole of Southborough and Tunbridge Wells. This represents about 3% of the population of 4.5% of those on the electoral register. This pitiful response from a limited demographic (older people who might be passing a library in the daytime) is in itself clear evidence of a failed process

Manipulated consultation –
– despite the fact that 11,000 people signed a petition to protect the Royal Victoria Hall with more than 3,000 of those from Southborough and High Brooms the planners did not provide an option to retain the existing hall. Instead the planners gave people the choice of 1) new build (knock down the hall) or 2) part remain or 3) other. Surveys with multiple choice answers should provide the most likely answers as an option (pilot surveys based on open ended questions should be used) – otherwise they are manipulating consent
– 58% of the very few (369 respondents) said of those two options provided they preferred the look of option 1 (new build) – that is the preference of just 214 people on an unclear plan – just 8% more than half (29 people). To persistently claim these responses as a clear mandate to destroy the limited heritage of Southborough is unacceptable

Refusing to listen to the clearly stated views provided – (source Lake Market Research, all figures from the summary bar charts in section 7)
All survey results are open to interpretation – but the planners have blatantly failed to listen to the strongest and clearest messages from the respondents and have cherry picked results to support their plans. My reading of the survey results is that people have very clear concerns and are not supportive. The largest percentage responses of the survey were;
– Environment – 88% of residents are concerned about the impact on the environment (against only 5% positive) with the main objections being pollution, traffic and objections to building on the playing fields
– Public space – 61% against (43% positive) – the main objection being the loss of green space
– New housing (residential) – 58% against (with 24% for)
– Design principles – 58% had concerns over the design principles (as opposed to 38% who were positive) – residents’ concerns in order of importance were that the building was too modern, parking, traffic, pollution, should keep the RVH and the playing fields
– Proposed site layout – 65% were concerned (as opposed to 31% who were positive) and again the main concerns were roads, parking, pollution and objecting to building on the playing fields
– Sports facilities – 54% against (opposed to 39% for) with the key objection being the loss of playing fields
– Transport – “All responses given for this element were concerns. The most dominant concerns are ‘increased volume of traffic / congestion’ at 41% and ‘insufficient parking’ at 37%”
– Architecture – the picture is less clear but a small majority of 29% gave a positive (as opposed to 23% who had concerns). However, 55% of the respondents had ‘conditions’ the main one being that the Hub must be in keeping with Southborough

Before the council sell its residents land, build on their behalf and bequeath the running costs for a large piece of infrastructure it must undertake a genuine consultation of residents and be bound by their responses.

 

Southborough and High Brooms Labour Party Len Fagg Hall 71A St Johns Road Royal Tunbridge Wells TN4 9TT (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 21 Sep 2016

This response to the planning application has been put together by Southborough and High Brooms Labour Party, which has over 100 members including 2 Borough and 5 Town councillors. The views expressed are derived from those of our members and from conversations with many residents whose lives will be directly affected by the Hub and its activities.

For over twenty years this party has pushed for and been supportive of the redevelopment of the town centre. But we have said this should not be done at any cost. We have argued for the renovation and sympathetic modernisation of our town heritage building, the Royal Victoria Hall (RVH), to meet the needs of future generations. We have pushed for the maximum engagement of residents, businesses, voluntary groups and potential users in developing the shape of our town centre.

We have wanted the town centre project to generate civic pride, excitement and enthusiasm. We believe these aspirations have been thwarted by a narrowly based project team that has operated in secret and refused to listen, to take note of expert opinion, or to take on board the legitimate concerns of residents. As a result of this this approach many people in the town feel that the Hub is being imposed on them – top down – and that they have had very input into its purpose or design. It is no wonder that there has been so much apathy during previous limited consultations. Because the planning application that has so many shortcomings we feel compelled to object to it – unless there are some significant changes.

a) Design and heritage throughout the consultation many residents have said that they wanted a Hub that fitted architecturally with the town, and we would agree with this. Southborough deserves a form of architecture that blends with the existing buildings, that people are proud of, and that will become a heritage building of future generations. The design we are being offered fails on all counts. We would agree with TV architect Ptolemy Dean who co-presented the BBC2’s Restoration series and said “I think it is a shame that the replacement scheme is so poor, when something more thoughtful and careful might have been created that incorporated the existing building, which would have still satisfied the Council’s brief, but enabled something of the old character to survive. Southborough has a rich architectural tradition. The proposed design might be anywhere, and would have been enriched by the retention of the existing historic building.” The architects are proud that the building is “to be finished in a lightweight translucent polycarbonate material”. Ptolemy Dean said: “Plastic cladding is hardly much better than UPVC weather board, albeit a different colour”. We know that plastic cladding will pick up pollution from the road, go green with algae, and will carry heavy cleaning costs. The building looks like an off the peg supermarket, secondary school or factory, and is cheap and nasty. On the main thoroughfare into Tunbridge Wells our civic building should be offering a strong statement about the sort of place that we all ‘love to live in’. This is not it.

b) Theatre – the promise was a ‘state of the art theatre’. In actuality the theatre is little more than a black box with two thin balconies and retractable seating. Despite what has been said in the documentation there has been little or no consultation with theatre experts or user groups. The Theatres Trust has made clear that as a theatre it is inadequate. Theatre experts and users have offered their time and expertise to ensure that it is fit for purpose but their offers have been refused. To reiterate just a few of the points that have been made: there is one too many balconies and neither has the right sight lines for productions, there is no stage, no storage space, and inadequate changing facilities (particularly those that are statutory for children), no box office, and no drinks bar. A bar is essential to make money and to provide a focus for customers during intermissions. Residents have said they want to have their annual pantos. This theatre will not be able to deliver on this request.

c) Flexible community hall – the theatre is intended to provide a flexible space for other users but at the last time we were shown these plans we were told that it has no natural light which means that it will need to be permanently and expensively lit by electricity. There is competition in hall space in the area and most of them have natural lighting, which will be more attractive to hirers. The hall also has inadequate kitchen facilities. Most village halls in the area have kitchen facilities that can be used for parties, social get-togethers and family functions. This is really difficult if the kitchen is small and has no servery.

d) Library – the existing Southborough library is one of the busiest in Kent and is well regarded by users. We feel that they will get a worse service from the move. The library is going to be at the centre of corridors leading to the council offices, the hall and the medical centre. There doesn’t appear to be discreet space for children’s reading or for mothers to park their prams and buggies. Assuming that theatre productions are successful then at times during matinees the library could be packed with up to 350 theatre goers during intermissions. The Theatres Trust have already flagged up the issues of dual use of space for a theatre foyer. Although we don’t have a problem with shared space with a coffee bar there will also be the additional space demands required for those wanting refreshments.

e) Medical Centre – we welcome the inclusion of the medical centre as part of the Hub but it is an add on to the original plans and we would have preferred it to be a separate building. The planning application rightly points out that the number of patients is likely to grow both because of population growth and because of the widening of the services provided to the community. However the result of this will be additional traffic to, from and around the Hub site – especially from Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells. This further increases congestion and pollution referred to later and it is because of this that we question whether it is a sensible idea to expand these services in Southborough.

f) Town Council Offices – we have no issue with where the town council offices are going to be located. They will be more accessible. However, we do question whether there is adequate provision for Council meetings. There is no defined council chamber with statutory provision for public access. Again the issue of the provision of meeting rooms has been raised by the Theatres Trust. The current mixed provision clearly doesn’t meet council or theatre user needs or those of anyone else who wants to hire rooms.

g) Pavilion and Open Space – It is for the football club to say whether or not the arrangements in the application will meet their requirements. However this plan proposes a loss of green space and planning fields. Given that Southborough town is already under-provisioned for green space we feel that further loss of playing fields is unacceptable. We view it as the thin end of a wedge that could lose us more green space in the future. We argue that there should be protective covenants on the playing fields to ensure that they are not built on in future and that they have a similar status to that of the common.

h) Housing – because of the finances of the project the provision of housing is essential for the Hub’s success. As the project has progressed the proposed number of housing units has continued to rise from 25 to 50-60 and now the application refers to 69. We regard this as unnecessary over-building that should be scaled back because it will lose us more green space and result in more cars, more traffic and parking problems, and more pollution. It also adds pressure to services like schools that cannot be easily be met. As a matter of policy we think from house building on this site there should be a reserved proportion of social housing for people with local roots or living and working in Southborough.

i) Retail provision – the aspiration to have successful retail outlets operating on the Hub side of the A26 is admirable but in the current climate not realistic. Southborough has struggled for decades to retain small shops on the London Road. There is very little footfall along the road and there is little chance of this improving. The unit marked ‘retail’ to the side of the hall stands isolated and is unlikely to attract customers. The last thing we want is an empty shop frontage facing the main road acting as an advert / welcome to the town.

j) Highways, access and parking – The planning application comes with a number of studies intended to demonstrate that the Hub and new houses will have little if any impact on parking and traffic. For those of us who live in Southborough we believe this is nonsense.
The application ‘assumes a provision of 42 public parking spaces’ which will ‘deliver adequate parking provision to meet the needs of the development’. If this is the case then clearly the applicants are planning for the Hub to be underused. The public parking will need to meet the needs of those shopping in the town, and library/theatre/hall/medical centre users. It is likely parking will also be needed for some playing field users.

Often this car park is at least a quarter used already. Is the applicant really suggesting that the net impact of the Hub will be a requirement for only 30 odd extra car-parking spaces? During peak times the car park will be extremely/overly busy and we expect overspill parking on Yew Tree Road and Crendon Park and the already busy side roads of Southborough. We also question the amount of car parking provided for housing where a quick calculation would show that the planning assumptions are wrong. Most people have one, often two or more cars and they will also have visitors. Again overspill parking will move into Bondfield Close, the Ridgewaye, Hillcrest and Brian Crescent.

With regard to traffic anecdotal evidence suggests there has been very little improvement to the flow of traffic because of the installation of an intelligent traffic light system. It is still difficult to get out of the Yew Tree Road Car Park travelling right onto the A26. And at times it is similarly hard to follow the same route from Crendon Park and the Ridgewaye. This will become even worse when the Hub is built causing more traffic snarl ups at the centre of the town. With an official survey showing Southborough and High Brooms having one of the worst life expectancy rates in the borough there is no credible plan to show what will be done to mitigate the effects of increased traffic on air pollution – the silent killer.

k) Lack of financial transparency – On this ground alone this plan should not be allowed to go forward. Despite being over 18 months into a £30m development project there are no costings, no business plan and we have seen no plan how the Hub will be run. This building will need to be subsidised but there are no best/worst case scenarios showing residents what their liability could be and the future annual ‘Hub subsidy’ added to their council tax.

If, despite objections, the planning application for the Hub is considered suitable for approval we would ask the Planning Committee to consider making it conditional on the applicants:
– scaling back the project size – reduce housing/retail units, remove 1 balcony level
– improving the Hub design to make it more sympathetic to the town
– providing natural light into the hall
– taking and acting on professional/user advice on construction and fitting of the theatre
– protecting existing green spaces
– conducting and listening to a users’ survey for the library
– providing a more realistic access, parking and traffic survey involving residents
– providing a detailed business and long term sustainability case for the project.

Finally we would like to suggest that an investigation is carried out into the possibility of the listed Water Margin building becoming a heritage centre and museum for the town.

 

Mrs Lisa Ward, Forge Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 21 Sep 2016

It seems that no matter how many of us sign petitions, email, attend meetings the council choose to ignore what the majority of Southborugh residents want and continue with this scheme. This will look ridiculous in Southborough and no doubt will be underused.

As one of the signature collectors on the petition I was stunned at the love shown to the Victoria Hall Theatre and am absolutely gutted that the theatre that holds such a special place for so many of us has been run into the ground to be replaced with an unacceptable, inadequate alternative.

And loss of fields and yet more housing – this must be objectionable to everyone.

It is a shame that Councillors don’t actually live in the area and suffer due to the policies brought in. Have you any idea how those of us in side roads now suffer because of the Yew Tree Road car park no longer being free? Drives blocked, dangerously parked cars, no room for larger vehicles to get through, one way restrictions ignored etc. This will only get worse with new housing, new workers and a loss of more of the car park if the Doctor’s surgery do move there.

I very nearly did not bother to object because on my experience STC will go ahead with this regardless of any resident’s concerns, objections, ideas etc.

 

Mr Brian Dury, Crendon Park, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 21 Sep 2016

I am a fourth generation Southborough resident and have lived in the Village of Southborough all of my 67 years. I am totally opposed to the proposed Hub Development in its current form and to the planned housing on the Ridgewaye Field. The Hub as currently presented, is ill conceived and does not meet its stated objectives; it is of a poor design and totally out of character with the Southborough High Street. This is a missed opportunity to bring back vitality, confidence and ambition to Southborough. We could have had a Hub development that was truly great – but sadly vanity has got in the way of objective decision making.

The Ridgewaye Fields are a much used and valuable area of flat public open green space and should be preserved. Sadly, over the years, KCC and Southborough Town Council have viewed the Ridgewaye Fields as a source of ready cash, rather than an asset belonging to the Community for their ongoing enjoyment.

Since the 1972 re-organisation of Local Government, the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council has shown no interest in the Villages of Southborough & High Brooms. They have neglected the Town Council Office building that they inherited and failed to even ensure that it satisfied the law regarding disabled access. This approach has been an insult to the people of Southborough, which they could have avoided by giving the building back to the Town – many hold the opinion that they stole it from us, together with the surrounding land. We are now told (in these times of acute austerity) that TWBC will not make any money from the transfers taking place to facilitate the Hub – lol. This former old house and the historic Royal Victoria Hall (given to the people of Southborough by the renowned scientist and inventor Sir David Lionel Salomons) is to be unceremoniously demolished to make way for a boxy, child like design, that would be more fitting in an out of town shopping park. The Hub design is not fit for purpose for the Southborough High Street. It’s cheap and nasty polycarbonate cladding is totally out of character with our Village and we deserve better.

In presenting their Hub plans, Southborough Town Council has promised (in election manifestos, public statements and newspaper interviews) a “State of the Art Theatre” to replace the much loved and historic Royal Victoria Hall. Clearly, these pledges are being broken. I understand that the Theatre Trust has raised serious concerns about the design and worse – apparently – the Council have not even consulted them as required by statute. (They obviously need a qualified Project Manager to run this proposal for them. ) Then – even the current Mayor of Southborough – in his own personal comment on these proposals talks about “The plans include a new flexible performance venue” rather than the “State of the Art Theatre”. So – what was all that about? In reality – we are getting an empty dark box – totally devoid of any natural light! (Perhaps our Town Council is only expecting Halloween bookings – after all – they killed the popular pantomime.)

The Hub will then have a new Library to replace our current much used facility. The new Library is to be incorporated as a main thoroughfare to other parts of the building. Have users been consulted, have surveys been done? Or is this just another example of the lack of real planning that has gone into this cheap and nasty construction?

I also understand that there are also to be Council Offices – but no real facility of a Council Chamber for the public to sit and undertake their democratic right to scrutinize their Councillors – but perhaps such an omission is deliberate.

All this is being rushed through – without a detailed “Needs Analysis”, Business Plan to show build costs, projected usage, projected income or ongoing running / maintenance costs. What is our Town Council about – no idea of what they are doing or what burden they are placing on future taxpayers?

The number of houses to be built on the Ridgewaye Fields keeps steadily increasing with each Hub revision – with no guarantee that it will not increase again when the developer submits their plans. The proposed houses are a mismatch of designs, with out of place multi rise. Clearly, Southborough is just being used by the TWBC as a means of satisfying their targets. With more footfalls on the Ridgewaye Fields than many of the Tunbridge Wells parks – why not look elsewhere to build – Calverley Grounds or Dunorlan perhaps. But keep any development on the Ridgewaye Fields to an absolute minimum. The proposed houses are already robbing local groups of much required football pitches. From correspondence I have had with the Chair of Sport England (Mr N Bitel) they have serious concerns about building on this green open space and will be placing their formal objections. Clearly, the community of Southborough and future generations are being robbed by building on this recreational open space. The 2006 Local Plan states that Southborough is already deficient in such open space. How can reducing it be justified? The fields must be protected from development by a legal requirement and application of Village Green status needs serious consideration.

Then of course all this housing and concentration of facilities will focus the traffic onto the very busy A26 / Yew Tree Road. KCC have recently spent huge sums in providing new traffic control measure. This has made little or no difference to the local traffic flow. There are still huge holds up through Southborough and the customary long queues on Yew Tree Road – all damaging the air quality. I live in Crendon Park. Already at many times of the day I am unable to turn right out of the road. Long queues on Yew Tree Road (South Side) and the constant flow of traffic turning left off the A26 prevent such a manoeuvre. I am therefore forced to turn left and tack my way to Tunbridge Wells – journeys North towards Tonbridge requiring a right turn onto Yew Tree Road are often impossible without a very long wait. How many car movements are there on Yew Tree Road each day – 10,000 perhaps? It is full to capacity and needs real relief before more development is allowed.

So – urge you to turn down the current Southborough Hub Scheme and proposed Housing on Ridgewaye Fields. Send the proposals back to Southborough Town Council and tell them to deliver a great design that we can be proud of. A building that sits comfortably and elegantly in our High Street and naturally becomes a focal point – not a hated and controversial eyesore. A building that has been fully designed to meet the future needs of our community and encourages new footfall on our High Street and thus benefit our local shop. Together with protection of Our Village Green – the Ridgewaye Field.

 

Mrs Teresa Baldock, Queens Road, Crowborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 21 Sep 2016

This theatre is a piece of history and should not be demolished. There are a lot of people who are willing to support and help to fund the theatre and these people should be listened to.

 

Mrs Gwendoline Betts, Garlinge Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 21 Sep 2016

I started my married life in Southborough and many decades later have returned to live here. I went to many functions at the Royal Victoria Hall and think it is a real piece of our town’s history. There are many parts of Southborough that we can be pleased with but the centre of town has become rundown and ugly. The new building must help to restore the look of the town. From what I can see from the pictures the plans are for a modern building that is covered in plastic sheeting a bit like the ones on my old garden shed. That to me doesn’t fit with the style of most of the buildings going along the main road into Tunbridge Wells. Although I would have preferred to see the old hall modernised I don’t object to a new one provided it fits with the style of the town. I don’t think this one does so many the planners can think again and improve the design.

 

Ms Margaret Barnes, Prospect Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 20 Sep 2016

I have lived on and off in the town for most of my life and love Southborough. I think this planning application is an opportunity that has been completely wasted and I object to it. After waiting so long we have had the chance to build something special that would be loved and enjoyed by people living in the town and looked back on with fondness like the Royal Victoria Hall that has been allowed to deteriorate and die as a way of justifying pulling it down.

I know a lot of people in the town through church and other organisations and can honestly say that hardly anyone knows what is going on. When I told them that there was a planning application being put through for a new town centre most of them looked at me blankly and then were completely horrified when I showed them some of the pictures of what was going to replace our library, or theatre, and the town council offices.

The look of the building is absolutely dreadful and does not fit in any way with our town. People travel from Tonbridge and see the common and the beauty of Southborough and then will hit this hideous building called the Hub. Why would we want a plastic covered lego building in Southborough – a town famed for many years for its brickworks that produced the bricks that were the basis of so many of our houses and paths.

And then I read what the Theatres Trust say about the theatre – which quite clearly isn’t one. Even someone who has no knowledge at all about theatres understands that you have to have proper changing rooms and places to store all that theatre material. I did have a tour round the Royal Victoria Hall a few years ago and was astonished at how much theatre equipment there was as well as tables and chairs for the various functions.

I do occasionally go into the library to research things in books and on the computers and what I like about it is that it is friendly and relatively quiet. How will it be possible for youngsters and oldies like me to do their work in the library when productions are on. All those people will be coming into the library to get their ice creams and refreshment and making a lot of noise.

I can’t understand how you can have any theatre without a bar. It seems nonsensical. Someone says there will be a trolley… like they have on the trains???

Yes I can see a couple of hundred people waiting there for their drinks to be poured… and how will the glasses be washed? Or will you be suggesting that they use plastic glasses that have to be chucked away afterwards. That sounds like good recycling policy.

I am particularly sad that a great slice of our playing fields is being taken away. I remember councillor friends fighting years ago to own and keep these fields for future generations. Now the current councillors are quite happy to let the fields go and have yet more building and parking instead. I thought that councillors were supposed to be working for the benefit of the town. No one asked me or others if we wanted to let our playing fields go. Once gone, lost forever.

Finally I must talk about the car parks the traffic congestion and the air pollution. I have noticed my asthma getting worse over the years and my doctor puts it down to the massive increase in traffic travelling through Southborough – particularly all those diesel fumes. More activity in the hub, more people going to the doctors, more and more cars for more and more houses – this is going to get worse and worse.

And parking – all of the roads in Southborough are filling up with cars at night and quite often it is only possible to find a place streets away. We don’t want that happening during the day when this tiny car park you are proposing gets full and people park their cars where they can across the town.

I want to see Southborough spruced up and looking good. This doesn’t do it for me or many of my friends. Tell these people to go back to the drawing board and come back with something they want and that won’t create all these massive problems for the town. And by the way get them to tell us how much all of this is going to cost.

 

Mrs Tabitha Hennah, Yew Tree Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 20 Sep 2016

Sadly I feel unable to fully support this venture. The designs are not in any way in-keeping with anything that is in the local vicinity and I have seen many modern designs that do what the hub is trying to do, but so much better.

The Dr’s Surgery looks some distance from the Yew Tree parking and so for disabled or infirm patients I feel this is ill thought out. They could of course drive through the Yew Tree junction, further up Yew Tree and go around the back – but surely as the majority of Southborough is the other side of the Yew Tree junction this would increase the traffic, pollution and would be inconvenient.

As the Yew Tree car-park is relatively underused at the moment there have to my knowledge not been many traffic issues, however if the only entrance to the Yew Tree car-park is via the Yew Tree road and the facilities are well used then the traffic will become unbearable both up and down the road.

To mine and my neighbours knowledge there has been no improvement of traffic since the junction has been replaced and I have found no ease of traffic driving from Broadwater Down to and from Southborough daily. Kent Highways wrote to me and said that they will be doing a traffic survey of the junction but this will not be done until October – This I hope will be looked at along with a full traffic survey which was promised before permission is given to this development.

I believe that as the car-park is to be enlarged that it should have two entrances one off of London Road to help those Southborough residents living that side to avoid going through the Yew Tree junction unnecessarily, still retaining the Yew Tree Road entrance. To ensure that the car-park is not used as a cut through and to reduce pollution, the car-park should be designed to accommodate lots of trees and shrubs some of which should go across the middle allowing only pedestrians to cross through and not vehicles using the car-park as a cut through.

I wholly disagree with a library being a free for all – it is a place that’s meant to be quiet, I really can’t see the point of designing it this way.

The town square is right next to one of the busiest and polluted roads in the country – really? The buildings can be air conditioned which from what I was told from environmental health, with the building being this close to the road – it would be a requirement.

However as this is a requirement and therefore something can be done inside a building to mitigate pollution I can’t understand why the buildings are not closer to the road and then the town square could be behind, making it safer for children to play both from a pollution point of view and a running into the road one-there are no machines to clean the air outside…

The buildings that are currently there are more interesting than what is being offered and I feel they could have been easily adjusted to incorporate their style rather than knocking them down. It is far more clever to design something that blends old and new than to start from scratch with a design and dump it into a location. This design shows no consideration for the history of Southborough and Tunbridge Wells. I would rather put up with the fencing for another year and the design is right rather than rushing in just because I don’t like seeing a fence with some fallow land behind and I agree with others it’s not currently great.

My biggest concerns are:

Poor design of facilities
Building is not in keeping with the local area
No design consideration for users
No design consideration for causing increased traffic
No design consideration for the increased pollution
No design consideration for removing grass, fallow land, trees and shrubs

What I want to see:

The design take into account the safety of families, the distance the elderly and infirm need to walk to the Dr’s surgery without encouraging increased traffic.
Consideration for Football users who have to park everywhere as the car-park only has limited free time, so they do not cause traffic to flow poorly down Yew Tree Road.
I want to see a lot more bushes and trees in the design – This is a great opportunity to try and reduce pollution by allowing plants and grass to help clean our air of more pollution.
I want to see a full traffic study done – with the designs to be adapted to improve the traffic rather than making it worse.

Please don’t rush into this as the pressure is on for housing – Please make the designers get this right and be as thorough as you are with residential homes as this project has a far more reaching impact than a single house so it needs to be right!

I would like clarification of when Pick Everard carried out this traffic document? I admit I thought it was a transport document, which as I live here didn’t seem relevant as it is certainly very difficult to find the time to read all these documents!

The document discusses not assessing the London Road and Yew Tree junction as it is currently being re-furbished, however this finished in March/April – happy to be corrected and the document date is the 3rd August. I have not seen any cameras along Yew Tree Road, maybe other residents have, I have also not seen any high vis jacketed people with clip boards doing a road survey, so what method has been used to make sure that a varied and fair vision of the traffic in Southborough has been obtained? I would also hope that this was not done during any school holidays as this is a minor part of the year!

 

Mr Michael Di Palma, Hopwood Gardens, Royal Tunbridge Wells  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 20 Sep 2016

My son has been a member of Ridgewaye football club for 6 years (he is 10) and the proposed clubhouse would be a fantastic facility for the hundreds of boys and girls that play there. However to achieve this over 15% of their green playing area is being lost and that is not acceptable. Moreover if 15% is being lost now, what guarantees are in place that more green space will not be lost in the future? I therefore object to the current proposal.

 

Mr John Francis, Prospect Road, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 20 Sep 2016

While I am generally in favour of the upgrading of the town centre, I am very disappointed with the loss of children’s football pitches in Southborough.

The football pitches are used heavily at the week-ends, and at other times the grass is enjoyed by Southborough residents and others as a public open space. It is unlikely to be possible to redesign the pitch layouts to use a smaller ground plan as the pitches are already overused, and reducing pitch sizes and compressing the spaces between pitches will add to the overuse.

I would have thought that it was possible for the council to have found a plan that would ensure that the development would not disadvantage local children.

 

Ms Cheryl Hatcher, Crendon Park, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 20 Sep 2016

There is no doubt that Southborough High Street requires some investment – having sadly been left to decline significantly over a number of years, however I believe the scale and impact of the site will be to the towns detriment. The project seems to have up-scaled significantly, all adding to its projected costs and subsequently the funding required to support.

Three years ago I moved into Crendon Park and the plans then suggested a limited number of houses, with long gardens backing onto the Crendon Park gardens. The proposals then indicted that the housing would be reflect of the style of the neighbouring properties. In fact, this was something that the councillors, attending the Crendon Park Association meeting, assured residents of. Sadly this commitment appears to have been rescinded and the “indicative” plan now suggests apartments and duplex’s of up to 69 dwellings – which will now dominate the skyline, overlooks the Crendon Park gardens , invade residents privacy , increase noise levels and destroy both the playing fields and the peaceful outlook.

The increase in dwelling numbers will also have a detrimental impact on both traffic and parking -Crendon Park is regularly used as a car park for visitors to the town, impacting residents ability to park within their own street.

Aside of the impact on my own home, I am also concerned that no business plan has yet been readily shared on the Hub. In times of economical restraint, a robust and future proof business plan must be the starting point for any investment. We cannot allow the significant investment and destruction of playing fields to proceed, without a very clear, calculated and detailed plan outlining the vision and future sustainable use for the Hub. The people of Southborough will not welcome a white elephant to be developed that then weighs heavily on their purses, through increased taxes in the future.

I find it difficult to support a proposal where full details have not been determined and fixtures (eg, theatre requirements etc) are dependent on “how much money we have left”. Most people would not develop or extend their own homes without having a clear and accurate cost proposal, so how can we proceed with this significant development, without this required level of detailing and associated costs?

Originally the Project Manager, Jonathan White, confirmed that the amount of land/housing would be at the minimum levels to fund the project but clearly this is no longer the case, as the details are yet to be determined. In January 2014 the Southborough Hub report indicated that the investment required was up to 25 houses, this is now equivalent to 69 dwellings. What stops this number increasing again when someone determines that more fittings are required?

Southborough needs a clear and transparent future vision and I am fearful that the Hub is being held as the solution to all. The development of the town needs to be considered in its entirety – it is clear that should the Hub proceed, the current library site will be available for development as well as numerous other sites including the current medical centre, Pinewood court to name but a few.

Currently there is no public view of how STC are looking to the future and aligning all these developments. No plans or explanation as to how the Hub will support the required investment in the rest of the High Street and make Southborough a destination to stop and invest in, rather than drive through. Building on the limited playing field space we have, is an easy option in the short term, but once they are gone, they are gone.
Southborough plans also need to align with the Borough’s wider plan and vision.

I believe that Councillor Duke has outlined a vision for TW to include amongst other things, a new large theatre to replace the TW Assembly Hall) at the Great Hall site – how on earth will the space in Southborough Hub proposal survive, if the TW plan goes ahead?

Please put aside your politics and give proper and considered thought to how we are developing our community as a whole. This piece meal approach is destroying where we live. Work together to build a clear, vision for TW and its surrounding communities together – one team, one community.

 

Mr William MacDougall,  Edward Street, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Tue 20 Sep 2016

I object to the planning application because:

The design seems to be using materials that will degrade quickly and need replacing; the kitchen should be on the ground floor; the theatre design is faulty with regard to the orchestra area; 69 houses will generate more traffic for an already congested High Street – a pollution health hazard; there is inadequate internal storage for hub users.

 

Cllr David Elliott, Sir Davids Park, Southborough  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Tue 20 Sep 2016

I fully support this application. I have lived in Southborough for 33 years and been a Borough and Town Councillor for the Southborough North Ward since May 2007. The majority of my constituents fully support this application. I was Mayor of Tunbridge Wells for 2015/6 and am currently the Town Mayor of Southborough.

The project has been the subject of a full public consultation with exhibitions being held in Southborough library and elsewhere in the town. The most recent designs and plans were made available for residents to see and their views taken into account.

The plans include a new flexible performance venue, purpose built library, medical centre and a sports pavilion for the football clubs. Incorporating the medical centre (I am a patient at St Andrews) will provide opportunities for expansion to accommodate our growing population and enable specialised clinics to be held there saving people from having to travel to Pembury.

This is a unique opportunity to put the heart back into the community of Southborough and will greatly improve the appearance of the town centre whilst providing first class facilities for residents.

 

Mr Neil Maxfield, The Ridgewaye, Southborough  (Supports)

Comment submitted date: Mon 19 Sep 2016

I fully support the planning application but with amendments below and recommend a conditional approval be granted as there are still items to be resolved.

1. I do, however, object to the inclusion of a theatre because there has been no proof that it will be a sustainable enterprise and the viability is also questioned by the Theatres Trust. The Theatres Trust also note that there is a considerable lack of planning on the use and purpose of this facility. The Royal Victoria Hall has been closed for a considerable time now and was previously underutilised therefore the need, if there was one, has now gone. To date there has been no business plan put in place which is usually a pre requisite for a venture of this nature. There are a large number of bus services and numerous theatres within easy reach.

2. In essence, if there was no theatre many of the concerns would disappear or diminish, such as:-
– The Hub facility would truly be for the residents of Southborough
– Fewer houses required to fund the project
– Less land take
– Less parking required
– Lower pollution levels
– Less traffic congestion
– Reduction in the level of work to the existing infrastructure

Commenting on the current scheme:-
3. The façade colour and material doesn’t appear to be in-keeping with the locality but this can be resolved by the usual condition requiring approval in writing prior to development commencing.

4. Large number of bus services are available as stated in the Transport Assessment, therefore there is no need for this extent of public parking. Public parking should be kept to a minimum to encourage the use of public transport and should all be in the Yew Tree Rd car park extension if required. There would be confusion by allowing parking adjacent to the playing fields when the players, parents, spectators are intended to use the Yew Tree Rd car park (quoted at the exhibition in Jan 2016), therefore 6.1.1 para 6 is not as per the exhibition statements. This may again be addressed by a condition to the approval.

5. There is too much use of The Ridgewaye planned when the junction with Yew Tree Rd is regularly blocked with traffic backing up along Yew Tree Rd from London Rd. Traffic intending to travel east in High Brooms direction will then use Hillcrest/Brokes Way/Powdermill Lane as a ‘rat-run’. This cannot be allowed as Hillcrest and Brokes Way are effectively single track and Powdermill Lane houses St Matthew’s school.

6. Residents of Bondfield Close are prohibited from ball games within the close as they are expected to use the former school hockey pitch across The Ridgewaye. This is currently acceptable but there will be a significant danger to children with the severe increase in traffic currently proposed.

7. Traffic flow amendments. One suggestion would be:
a) Access the Hub through the Hythe Close garages and the Yew Tree Rd car park.
b) Access the new houses through Crendon Park (the red line plan shows that an access would be possible at the north end of the north-south leg which, still has a gated access into the fields obscured by a recently constructed fence).
c) ALL public parking to be in the Yew Tree Rd car park and the extension to it and have a left turn only on exit.
d) Use The Ridgewaye for access to the football pavilion and football match parking. This would separate football parking from residents’ parking.

8. The route through the proposed new properties would be better between the Crendon Park properties (ie adjacent to their northern boundary) and the new properties, and not as shown. The position of the new residential properties would need to be re-planned.
Alternatively explore one-way traffic flow through the residential part, in via Crendon Park, out through The Ridgewaye or from London Road. Whichever solution is chosen it seems illogical to isolate the three private housing areas from each other ie Crendon Park, Bondfield Close and the proposed new area.
A condition attached to the main approval requiring an Operational Traffic Management Plan may address these traffic concerns and a Section 106 deed should be drawn up to improve infrastructure and traffic flow concerns.

9. Referring to Page 29 of the ‘Local Transport Plan 4: Delivering Growth without Gridlock 2016-2031’ where it states:

Tunbridge Wells
The district faces severe congestion problems, especially at peak times, with four major roads converging in Royal Tunbridge Wells (A26, A264, A267 and A228) and the A21 on its borders. There is substantial congestion on the A26 between Royal Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge, particularly in Southborough, and on the A264 Pembury Road leading into the town.

and

The Site Allocations DPD for Site 370 states:
As vehicular access is constrained and the site is inside the Air Quality Management Area, redevelopment will be expected to minimise traffic generation impacts, to encourage use of sustainable transport modes and to minimise the impact of poor air quality on any residents of the development.

The Transport Assessment makes no reference to and takes no account of the above and the penultimate paragraph of Section 9 of the Transport Assessment makes statements and assumptions that are incorrect. It has not been shown that traffic generated by the Hub will not be detrimental to the highway network. The recent ‘improvement’ works have provided little or no improvement, this conclusion therefore has no basis.

Neil Maxfield,  Corner Cottage, The Ridgewaye, Southborough  TN4 0AB (Further comment, still supporting) Comment submitted date: Fri 7 Oct 2016
Now that I have had a chance to read other comments, it is clear that those stated as Objecting are not in fact objecting to the development as a whole, most are for a development and are objecting to parts of it that can easy be conditioned. I put forward my Support for the scheme but would request a number of reserved matters to be conditional to that approval, or even grant a partial approval. It is clear that there are faults with the application but I urge the Council to consider the points made by the so-called objectors and give approval to the development with some of the relevant faults addressed as conditions. The Council ought to assess what constitutes a ‘Neighbour’ under planning terms and assess comments accordingly. The Council must consider the various statistics put forward as the numbers were often actively canvassed without an opposing view being sought and the silent majority must also be considered.

 

Mr Martin Betts, Elm Road, Southborough  (Objects)

Comment submitted date: Sun 18 Sep 2016

I have lived in Southborough for over 30 years and have been a passionate supporter of redevelopment of the town centre for half this time. There has been much talking about doing something, and finally we have a plan on the table. However it is a plan that is flawed in so many ways that I cannot help but object to this application.

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 – much loved but abysmally managed. 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 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.

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 have been hoodwinked by 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.

I would have liked to support the application but can’t. Contrary to all good practice it has been driven top down with no attempt at community engagement. The likelihood is that it will be an expensive white elephant. That there is no business plan and no forecast of the likely subsidy expected from Southborough tax payers only deepens my foreboding.

 

Mr Tony Egan, Redwings Lane, Pembury  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Sun 18 Sep 2016

I am not against the development of the Hub site but is the current plan the best that can be offered to the residents of Southborough and Highbrooms?

What are on the plans a Medical Centre, A retail Outlet fronting the Hub on the London Road! “Will it be an elegant attractive frontage with tasteful displays or a shop, with what some may consider tacky posters over its windows advertising this week’s special offers”.
A café no outline plans for a preparation area, designated storage facilities for fridges ice-cream cabinets etc. how much space will be allocated to tables and chairs? Will it also serve as a bar for alcoholic beverages? Will it be secure when not open? Will it impinge on the library? Will it send pungent food and coffee aromas across the library?

A library in the round! That would appear to be unable to be secured when not open. What furniture and fitting are going to be used shelves desks computer points reading tables etc.? where are they to be stored or secured?

Why is the Gentlemen’s toilet located on the far side of the library by an entrance to the medical centre? Why is the refuse plant next to a kitchen? Is it going to contain wheelie bins? I am sure we can all imagine the potential smell that could emanate from this area if it is not kept scrupulously clean and aired day in day out! Why is it inside in the first place?

At the beginning of this process statements from officials were made like “if we can incorporate the Royal Victoria Hall into the Hub it will be done! As long as it is financially viable” (Mike Reidy informed us all at the Town Meeting the cost of renovating the RVH was at least one million pound, unsubstantiated of course) If the RVH cannot be saved we will replace it with a “State of The art Theatre” or a “bigger and better theatre than the RVH where we can put on bigger and better productions”

What actually is on the plans? No way could it be described as a Theatre. It is a four storey windowless box, with balconies on three floor levels! No backstage space, inadequate wing space! No access on both side of the stage for entrances and exits! No back stage toilet facilities. If the stage could be used, how would large and bulky scenery be moved on to the stage and stored until required in the performance? No designated dressing room facilities that could accommodate a cast of female, male and mixed juvenile performers. All this has been pointed out before but ignored. If there was intended to be a fly tower there is no indication on the plans how this would be accessed

Pick Everard, STC and the Hub Committee have no concept, knowledge or expertise as to how a theatre should be or operates. We are told that expert opinion was sought from Charcoalblue, The Theatres Trust, Trinity and FORVH it appears obvious that if any advice was sought has been totally disregarded. That is of course if any was sought in the first place. The RVH is eleventh on the Theatres Trust list of endangered theatres!!!
At present it would appear that on the plans is four storey windowless airless box. I overheard Jonathan White saying that if there are sufficient resources sky lights with black outs could be set into the roof!

On the ground floor is a hall with retractable seating, an area designated as a stage. No area to accommodate an orchestra or musicians. To the right of this stage area is a work shop leading to a kitchen with only one door? (Fire Regulations) and a small room with toilet & washing facilities No sign of any Front of House Curtains, there are then three more floors with three more balconies. Level Four is designated as the Control level. With Plant, Dimmer/ Store rooms, what amount of plant and dimmers is required for a community hall? A wardrobe would suffice.

The entrance to the community hall is by passage ways either side of the hall, are the passage ways and the doorways capable of allowing a flow of public some in wheel chairs without congestion or width problems. The doors are shown the wrong way round for the direction of travel in the case of an emergency evacuation. Should they not be double doors? No designated area for wheel chairs in the Hall?

Why is there only one (Apparent) disabled toilet so remote from the community hall? Will the Ladies toilets be available if the Hall is not in use? Where will the box office be situated?

So however, hard we look at these plans there is not any sign of a theatre. After all the promises there are none of the facilities that exist in the RVH. This will not turn out to be a stunning development in Southborough I can see it being considered an eyesore and intrusive. There is no Business Plan been published or any indication as to how the hub will be financed or who is going to be responsible for the running upkeep, maintenance or security of this development. This is apart from issues such as parking, access, pollution added traffic movements etc.

 

Mr Philip Harris, Park House Gardens, Southborough  (Objects)

Comment submitted date: Thu 15 Sep 2016

There appears to be no consideration of the loss of parking for the allotment holders using the Yew Tree allotments. They currently park in the approach roads close to their allotments but these parking spaces will be lost to them with the proposed development. They need parking close to the allotments as they often have to move reasonably heavy items.

 

Mrs Jacqueline Jedrzejewski, Bright Ridge, Southborough  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Sun 11 Sep 2016

Southborough deserves an ambitious programme of regeneration such as this and will get its first public ‘square’ alongside a new performance venue, library and council offices. Once built, I think it will be the envy of other Towns.

Southborough is a well-known Town in the Borough of Tunbridge Wells, but over recent years it has suffered a steady decline and so people tend to pass on through.

These new facilities will draw people to the area and have a positive impact on our High Street, I believe.

I am pleased to see that the plans include opportunities for a new performance venue, a purpose-built library, housing, offices, a retail area, car parking and leisure facilities for the football teams (& hopefully other sports as well) but I would like to see the plans specifically include provision for a restaurant and a bar also though.

Whilst the area will be pedestrian friendly, main bus routes will be able to bring people into the area and so I am personally glad to see this re-generation, the resulting resurgence of local pride and employment opportunities for the residents of our Town.

Incorporating the medical centre is an excellent idea in my opinion and will provide opportunities for expansion to accommodate our expanding Town, enable specialised clinics to be held there; saving people from having to travel to Pembury.

My one plea would be to expand considerably the parking provision and so as to ensure that local roads are not impacted; affecting existing residents from being able to park.

Finally, I think there should be a Town wide competition to design a logo for and to name the new building; inviting and encouraging local people to take part.

 

Mrs Judith Mitchell, Water Lane, Smarden  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Sun 11 Sep 2016

I fully support this application. As a local commercial property owner I believe this is a unique opportunity to put the heart back into the community of Southborough. It will both greatly visibly improve the centre of the town whilst also providing first class facilities for local people.

 

Mr Gary Mitchell, Water Lane, Smarden  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Sat 10 Sep 2016

I have owned Shops and Property on London Road, Southborough since 1995. This site has been in desperate need of redevelopment for many years. The details in this Application are truly visionary for Southborough and will bring much needed regeneration and modernisation.

Whilst I appreciate that Parking and Vehicle movements in this area and along the A26 are an issue, better facilities and more people to support the Shops and other local businesses should override and be welcomed with open arms.

 

Mr Matt Spink, Crendon Park, Southborough  (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Wed 07 Sep 2016

Having reviewed the plans my feelings are mixed.

I support the Hub as I think it is something Southborough badly needs, and the designs look good. My concerns relate to the housing. When we bought our house in Crendon Park 2 years ago there were plans in the system that showed a small number of houses, with long gardens backing on to our house.

Since then the quantity and height has increased and the current plans now show blocks of apartments behind our house. This not only contradicts the message that we had from councillors that whatever is built will reflect the surrounding streets, it also means we will have an eyesore built behind us overlooking our garden and ruining our views and our privacy.

I am also deeply concerned that the steadily increasing number of dwellings and lack of parking will increase not only traffic but also parking issues in Crendon Park. Since we have lived here the road has become fuller and fuller at weekends and evenings with people from outside the road meaning parking is not always possible.

I understand the need for housing to fund the hub, but I feel let down by our councillors – it is becoming increasingly apparent that this high density, high impact housing is what those involved had in mind all along.

I would now rather not have the Hub, which I have always supported, if it means that these out of place, poorly planned dwellings do not materialise.

I understand that these are indicative, but I am also aware that they set a precedent for any developer getting involved.

 

Mrs Lynn Green, Yew Tree Road, Southborough (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Sun 04 Sep 2016

As a resident of Yew Tree Road I have great concerns surrounding the proposed Hub and hope you will take these concerns into account when considering the planning proposal.

1. The development of up to 69 dwellings.

At the initial consultation stages 55 units of varying type were proposed however this has now been increased to 69 units, which all now seem to be either apartments or duplex apartments. I do not see how this type of accommodation fits into the councils “wider mix of residential units”. It also concerns me greatly that any potential developer will increase this number further. It is also impossible to work out from the current plans what impact in terms of size, height, structure the residential development will have on the current residential properties within Crendon Park and The Ridgewaye.

Surely this amount of residential dwellings will not only create a huge strain on local resources such as schools, utilities etc., it will have huge environmental impact on an already overly congested area that has some of the worst air quality in the county. I see that an ecological assessment has been carried out, however I do hope some sort of air quality and light and noise assessment will also take place. It is inevitable that the new housing will create further light and noise pollution and along with the fumes that will be created by the arrival of more cars to the area this will only worsen the local environment. It seems ridiculous to take away the green spaces and trees that can help to improve our environment so efficiently.

2. Traffic congestion.

Despite Pick Everard’s traffic report., I really do feel that the creation of the Hub to include the Library, Medical centre, cafe, retail units, sports pavilion and 69 dwellings will lead to an increase in traffic to and from Southborough and the Hub site.
The London Road and Yew Tree Road are already overly congested with cars.
At peak times often cars travelling from High Broomes along Yew Tree Road are at a stand still, and although the new intelligent light system at the end of Yew Tree Road has helped to ease the situation, several times a week cars are backed up along Yew Tree Road. It seems that little consideration has been made for the increased number of cars the will require access into and out of Yew Tree Road car park, Crendon Park and the Ridgewaye on a regular basis if the development goes ahead. At peak times it would be almost impossible to turn out from these side roads onto Yew Tree Road. The inevitable development of the library site ,should the Hub go ahead will also add to the problem. Perhaps Pick Everard should spend a week assessing the traffic situation on Yew Tree Road rather than the occasional day.

3. Parking.

I can clearly see from the plans that there has been an increase in the amount of public parking available, however this still seems wholly inadequate for the anticipated usage of the site, if you factor in the theatre/community space/retail/medical centre/library/sports pavilion and 69 residential units.
Not only does allowance need to be made for public parking but also for staff working at the Hub,theatre,medical centre, sports pavilion as well as residents.
Often when either Ridgwaye football club have tournaments or Skinners school have rugby matches it is almost impossible to get off our drive safely due to cars parked up on the pavments along Yew Tree Road. The parked cars create a hazard for resident, traffic moving along Yew Tree Road and pedestrians and I can only imagine this will get worse with the anticipated Hub and residential developments.
Surely the outcome of this lack of parking will be,that either people are put off coming to the Hub or that Yew Tree Road, the side streets off Yew Tree Road and the London Road ( most of which are already almost impossible to get down due to cars parked on either sides of the road),will become even more congested.

4. Viability of the proposed theatre.

As I understand it from my last correspondence with Jonathan White in early August there is still no business plan in place. I find it rather worrying that Southborough Town Council has not already considered the need to balance income and costs of running such a site.
The Victoria Hall was not viable and was heavily subsidised by the council, as a result it fell into disrepair.
I understand that it is hoped that the site will be viable by the inclusion of the Library, café,medical centre and retail units, but at the end of the day it will only be viable if the site is in constant use. I imagine the cost of maintenance, security, staffing etc will be huge.

We are very lucky in Southborough and can easily access 2 very good theatres in Tunbridge Wells, a good theatre in Tonbridge, as well as the many theatres in London (all accessible by public transport). I really do not believe Southborough needs a state of the art theatre. A community space that would house the library and council offices a new medical centre and football pavilion would surely be sufficient.

 

Mr James Pearson, Ribston Gardens, Paddock Wood  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Fri 02 Sep 2016
I am uploading the following letter of support on behalf of Kent County Council Head of Libraries, Registration and Archives- Andrew Stephens;

Dear Tunbridge Wells Planning Department,

I am writing in support of the Southborough community hub development planning application that you are currently considering. As Head of Service for Kent County Council Libraries, Registration and Archives I am very keen to see this project move ahead, not just for my own service but for the wider benefit of the whole community of Southborough.

The current Southborough library is a building that is in poor condition and in the current financial climate it is a challenge for us to improve the service and bring it to the standard Southborough deserves. This project offers a real opportunity to do so. The new library as part of the new community hub will be very much at the heart of the community and, working in partnership with Southborough Town Council, the medical centre, theatre/community hall will, I believe, give the residents of Southborough better access to a whole range of services in one convenient location, and for the library service a new fit for purpose location from which it will be better able to deliver a service to meet the needs of local people and sustain itself for the future.

The project has conducted a full public consultation and taken views from this into account in shaping the design. This has included making the most recent designs and plans available for residents to see in Southborough library, along with some very well attended public Q&A sessions. With regard to the library space in the hub this consultation has included library users, and some of the concerns raised around noise levels in the library, circulation and the close proximity of a theatre have all been considered and covered as far as the building design is concerned. These will be further addressed through the interior design to ensure the library space works well for all users.

I believe what is proposed will deliver the best outcome not only my service but for the whole community of Southborough.
Yours sincerely.

Andrew Stephens

Head of Service
Libraries, Registration & Archives

 

Mrs Judy Rose, Brian Crescent, Southborough  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Tue 30 Aug 2016

I fully support this application. Southborough is in dire need of a facelift and the Hub will not only achieve this, but will also be a centre for the community to use and enjoy. I look forward to seeing the project completed and for it to become the heart of Soutborough.

 

Mrs Jacqueline Prance, Harland Way, Southborough  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Tue 30 Aug 2016

Southborough Town Centre looks and is a total mess. It needs long overdue regeneration. This plan will result in that regeneration and will provide a theatre, new library, council offices, sports pavillion, kitchen, rooms for hire etc. It will provide a much needed focal point. Also the new facilities will be more environmentally friendly and cheaper to run and maintain.

 

Jennifer Wright, London Rd, Southborough  (Supports)
Comment submitted date: Fri 26 Aug 2016

Thank you for your letter concerning the proposed Southborough Hub development. Our flat is opposite, overlooking the property. We do not object to the proposal and are excited by the prospect of these services for the local community – particularly as my husband and I work in theatre. However, we hope that our following concerns are taken into account:
1. Parking for residents. We seek the assurance that parking on Western Road and all residential streets off it will remain free and – if possible – will allow local residents (including those on London Road) priority in the event that there is increased usage by visitors to the site. Parking is already difficult for residents and any increased difficulty or charge will have a huge impact on our daily lives and the value of our properties.
2. Noise. We were greatly affected by the noise caused by recent roadworks (including gasworks drilling throughout the night with no warning). We have a young family and would appreciate advanced notice and sociable hours for noise-creating building works. We would ask the same consideration for scheduling of events once complete.
We look forward to hearing how the plans progress.

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