Southborough’s theatrical community has reacted robustly to what it sees as an unwarranted condemnation of Royal Victoria Hall (RVH) by a leading Tunbridge Wells theatrical figure.
Alex Green, Executive Director of the Trinity Theatre in Church Road, has voiced his approval of the new Southborough Hub project by saying the old hall should be demolished.
Support has been growing for the alternative option of refurbishing the Royal Victoria Hall instead of replacing it with a mixed-use Community Hub project.
The new, state-of-the-art construction will comprise a theatre, library, cafe, medical centre, town council offices and a sports pavilion for the Ridgewaye playing fields.
In a formal letter on the Borough Council’s planning website, Mr Green wrote: “As a venue operator, I believe the current facilities would need significant upgrades to provide a venue of the standard the area deserves.
“I do not believe there would be sufficient demand for a purely theatre/arts based operation to be financially viable without significant public funding.
He continued: “The current venue lacks flexibility which will have contributed to its reduced usage and a redevelopment of the existing space would not substantially alter this.
“However, an entirely new build would provide the opportunity for the flexibility required to give exciting opportunities for the Southborough community.”
Tony Egan, who ran the pantomime productions at the Royal Victoria Hall for 30 years, said: “I feel very angry that Mr Green has tried to intervene with no real substance to his comments.
“Mr Green is wrong about the hall needing major changes. As far as we are aware, he has never produced a production or performed in the Royal Victoria Hall.”
He adds: “The RVH is flexible and can be used for other than theatre events as it has in the past with good and enthusiastic management.”
Former users of Royal Victoria Hall are among those who are campaigning to save it. Among them is the amateur theatre group LAMPS, which first performed there in 1955.
The chairman of LAMPS, Andrew Swann, said: “It’s a wonderful venue, both in terms of its social history, location and its size.
“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.”