Tunbridge Wells Borough Council in CCTV U-turn

    The combination of public outcry and a reprimanding from fellow councillors has led to the Borough Council’s Cabinet shelving plans to downgrade Tunbridge Wells’ CCTV system.

    The executive branch of the Borough Council were summoned to a special meeting on Thursday [May 11] after the Overview and Scrutiny Committee unanimously demanded the decision to move to a passive model of CCTV be reconsidered.

    Their appeal was based on the lack of consultation with surrounding parishes and other stakeholders as well as an insufficient level of evidence provided to justify the move.

    After a series of eight guest speakers, reproaching the Cabinet for their handling of the issue, Cllr Alan McDermott read a prepared statement outlining their new position.

    Plans to move to a passive model by April 2018 were to be abandoned ‘to allow wider consultation to take place’ on the issue.

    “We have given the people the opportunity to speak on the matter”

    However the Cabinet still denied the allegation that they had produced a deficient amount of evidence to make the decision.

    An exploration of ‘alternative funding arrangements and technological solutions’ will still go ahead as well as an operational review of the existing CCTV cameras.

    Cllr McDermott denied the decision was a ‘U-turn’, arguing: “We felt that perhaps there hadn’t been enough of a chance for the public to voice their opinions on this decision. Now we have given the people the opportunity to speak on this matter.”

    He added that he still held the position that a passive model of CCTV, in which cameras still record but there is no one actively monitoring them, was adequate. Although he added he was ‘open’ to changing his mind.

    Karen Pengelly, the recently appointed Town Centre Manager, welcomed the decision.

    “This is fantastic news for the town centre and all the businesses that operate within it. Other funding solutions will be sought over the coming few months to meet the shortfall,” she said.

    Chairman of the Safe Town Partnership, Pete Heaton, who has been a vociferous opponent to the passive system said: “This is fantastic news, I’m glad the council have listened and we should be able to work together in the future.”

    Council Leader David Jukes, the most vocal supporter for a passive model, was absent from the meeting.