A VISION of what Tunbridge Wells may look like in five years’ time was unveiled by the borough council on Monday as plans for the town’s most ambitious redevelopment project for 80 years forge ahead.
Concept images of the proposed civic complex, and the new theatre set to be built on the site of the Great Hall car park, reveal the grand scale of the task ahead.
The £70 million project has in large part been pushed forward by Council Leader David Jukes, who believes there is an ‘obligation’ to deliver something for future generations that will boost the local economy and make Tunbridge Wells ‘a centre for the arts’.
It will see the council eventually relocate to a new 50,000sq ft building on Mount Pleasant Avenue away from the current Town Hall which the council believe is no longer fit for purpose.
Both the new civic complex and 1,200 seat theatre, partly modelled on Canterbury’s Marlowe, will be built overlooking Calverley Grounds and accompanied by an underground car park with 253 spaces.
The project has not been without its critics. Various councillors from each party, members of the public and the some organisations in the town have questioned the cost and viability of the scheme.
But the project is supported by the majority of councillors. In the immediate wake of the EU referendum result, the council voted overwhelmingly to approve a £2million funding package to see plans reach the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) project stage three, defined as the ‘Developed Design’ level.
Cllr Jukes believes it will attract the support of the ‘silent majority’ of residents.