The start of work on the old cinema site in Tunbridge Wells might drag over into next year, as reported in the Times last week, while developers finalise ‘the 106 agreement’.
This is an arrangement that would developers Altitude hand over more than £500,000 as part of the package to be granted planning permission for The Belvedere project.
Altitude is already spending a reported £80million on delivering the plan for a boutique cinema, shops and at least 99 homes on the former ABC cinema site in the heart of the town.
But they will also pay upwards of £500,000 in a Section 106 agreement, a planning contribution sometimes referred to as a sweetener. This has been decided with Tunbridge Wells Borough Council [TWBC].
A TWBC spokesman said: “A Section 106 agreement or planning obligation/planning contribution helps to mitigate the impact of an unacceptable development to make it acceptable in planning terms.
“This can be illustrated in relation to primary school places. Additional homes can result in a need for additional school places. A contribution can fund these additional school places, for example through an extension to a local school.”
According to agreements, contained in TWBC planning documents, St Gregory’s Catholic School will receive around £45,000 for an ‘enhancement’.
Broadwater Down Primary School stands to take around £60,000 towards an expansion.
On top of the 99 homes, The Belvedere will comprise either an additional ten properties or a medical centre. Altitude is yet to confirm which.
Members of TWBC’s planning committee voted to pass the plans through to the next stage in a meeting in October.
The original cinema closed in 2000 and has become a grot-spot on Mount Pleasant.
Detailed plans, which TWBC members voted to grant permission for in October, showed that Altitude would pay £601,035 if the extra housing is chosen as the preferred option, or £501,693.41 if the medical centre gets the nod.
Proposals state a number of beneficiaries, which also include community groups and green space projects (see table opposite).
Stephen Tillman, Director of Altitude, told the Times last week that work on the project would begin either late in 2018 or at the beginning of next year.
He said: “We are currently finalising the section 106 agreement so formal permission can be issued before we start to commence on the detailed design.”
To this, TWBC responded: “Our understanding is that work on the site was due to commence at the end of this year and we are not aware of any changes to this.”
The Belvedere met a number of reservations, including concerns about the absence of affordable housing in the plan.
TWBC said the amount of money pledged in a section 106 agreement would not be an incentive for councillors to pass a contentious planning application.
The spokesman said: “Each and every contribution must pass the national policy and legislative tests.
“Officers have provided training to the Planning Committee so that the Members understand that contributions can only be secured to mitigate the impact of development, and must pass the relevant tests.
“The Committee and Delegated reports on planning applications also reflect this.”
TWBC will vote later this year on whether to grant full planning permission for the Civic Complex and theatre, which will cost a gross £90million.
On whether this could attract section 106 monies, the TWBC spokesman said: “It will be dependant on the impact of the proposal.
“This assessment will take place if a planning application is submitted.”