COMPANIES in Tunbridge Wells could see a slight reversal in the ongoing decline of available office space after detailed plans were submitted to turn The Pantiles Corn Exchange into a business centre last week.
The application submitted by consultants Kember Loudon Williams on behalf of site owners the Nevill Estate Company – ultimately owned by the Marquess of Abergavenny – is the latest in a string of initiatives aimed at reviving the Corn Exchange. Having lain largely empty for the past couple of years, the early 19th century building had steadily declined since the tourist attraction A Day At The Wells closed in 2004.
Planning consent was given to allow a Curzon Cinema to be operated within the building in 2015, but ultimately came to nothing. In a detailed statement accompanying the application, Kember Loudon Williams cite the loss of a ‘considerable number’ of offices within the town to residential conversion, to support their case. In addition, no work will be undertaken on the exterior of the building and the Tourist Information Centre will be retained at the front of the building.
A total of 17 business suites are proposed, ranging in size from small two-desk units, through to the largest open plan office suite of 22 desks. Many of them will be available on flexible lease arrangements.
Shared meeting and event spaces, a lounge and café facilities will also form part of the offer.
The total floor area of the proposed business centre, including galleria space, amounts to 760 square metres with plans for round the clock access.
“The new business centre is to create a light, exciting, dynamic, interesting and, above all, fl exible working environment that can respond to the ever-changing needs of the business market, both locally and further afield,” the document states, adding: “It is hoped that the new centre will, once again, place the Exchange at the commercial heart of The Pantiles.”
Jo James, Chief Executive of the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, said she ‘welcomed’ the proposal, adding: “Over recent years towns such as Tunbridge Wells have seen large swathes of commercial property converted to residential use, which makes it hard for firms to stay and grow in their local area. “Having more people working in The Pantiles will help sustain more of those local businesses who are dependent upon visitors throughout the rest of the year.”