Former EastEnders star backs plans for new Tunbridge Wells theatre

    Plans to build a new theatre and town hall around Calverley Grounds are a stage nearer after being agreed by a council group.

    Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s cabinet advisory board for Planning & Transportation voted six to one in favour of backing the project, which will cost a gross £90million.

    The meeting on Monday (November 13) saw members of the public speak in favour, including former EastEnders actress Kim Freeman, known professionally as Kim Medcalf.

    She said: “In terms of back of house capacity the existing theatre is hugely constrained but it still has to fill 900 seats every night.

    “Groups are desperate to come to Tunbridge Wells and perform, as we have the perfect audience demographic, but they can’t.

    “We have to invest in future generations and this cultural hub can put the town on the map.”

    Ms Freeman played Sam Mitchell in the soap opera and has also starred in TV series’ Harley Street and Missing.

    Three other members of public spoke in broad favour of proposals within the RIBA Stage 3 documents, which included finalised designs and costings.

    The borough council’s (TWBC) cabinet are set to vote on plans on November 23 before a landmark full council meeting on December 6 which could effectively seal the deal.

    Councillor James Hannam was the only board member to vote against, arguing the project could not justify the expense.

    He said residents of Frittenden and Sissinghurst, the ward he represents, believed a new theatre was of little interest to them.

    Councillor Alan McDermott, chairing the meeting, said in response: “The people I play golf with in Hawkhurst have spoken positively of it.”

    David Wakefield, representing Tunbridge Wells Town Forum, said the group mostly agreed with the plans but raised concerns about having an underground car park bordering Calverley Grounds.

    “We are holding up The Marlowe in Canterbury as a model but when the council visited members walked to the theatre through town.

    “You are advocating that we walk to work, so I would question the need for the car park as it would cost the council more.”

    The council said this was necessary.