Historic youth club to be demolished and replaced by new medical centre

    The Teen and Twenty Club on River Lawn Road
    End of an era for generations who met at the Teen and Twenty in Tonbridge

    A YOUTH club, which has been a feature of the town for the last 50 years is to be bulldozed in order to make way for a new ‘state of the art’ medical centre.

    The 23,680 sq ft site is currently owned by Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council (TMBC) and has been leased out to the Teen and Twenty Club since 1966.

    However a deal has been struck to sell the site to Tonbridge Medical Group (TMG), which has announced the intention to build a new medical facility. This will replace their two current surgeries on Higham Lane and Pembury Road.

    The council says the deal is expected to be signed ‘any day now’, with approval of from the TMBC cabinet expected at a meeting on January 31, 2017. The Club is set to close by March with construction expected to start in the second half of the year, for an estimated 2019 opening.

    Senior Partner of TMG, Dr Tim Palmer, said the practice had been looking for a site for around ten years as their aging and small premises ‘can’t cope with current demand’.

    “I’ve been with the practice since 1988. In that time healthcare has changed out of all recognition – but unfortunately our buildings haven’t,” he said, adding that they have recently been forced to convert waiting room space into a makeshift consultation room to keep with demand.

    He explained that the new facility will ‘at least double’ the 12 consultation rooms they currently have, allowing them to add an extra 5,000 patients to their books, meaning they can care for 20,000 individuals in Tonbridge.

    As well as offering a GP surgery, they are leaving space for other community health services, such as a diabetes clinic. Although exactly which services will use the space has yet to be confirmed.

    To his current patients, who may be concerned about the move, Dr Palmer said: “We have always put our patient’s needs first and we are convinced the new facility will be so much better for them. Most of our patients drive and for those who walk the new site will be more accessible by bus.” He promised that a consultation between staff and patients will be held in the near future.

    A sad loss

    The disappearance of the Teen and Twenty Club will come as a shock to many, as several generations have used the site for socialising.

    Cllr Georgina Thomas, who was elected on a platform of improving the community facilities for young people said: “It’s a shame that it is closing. The Teen and Twenty is iconic, I went to so many things there when I was younger.”

    Robert Oliver, a history teacher at Tonbridge School said he was saddened by the news, adding: “The club hosts a whole variety of youth groups and is an increasingly rare example of a public space where people can meet. Moreover, the decision was taken without any public consultation whatsoever.”

    However TMBC Director of Street Scene, Leisure and Technical Services, Robert Styles said that the authority’s Savings and Transformation Strategy had made it clear that all council assets would be under review. He said he was confident that it represented ‘the best use of the public’s assets’.

    Leader of TMBC, Nicolas Heslop said the council would work to ensure that displaced activity clubs would be relocated, adding:

    “We look forward to working with TMG on this exciting opportunity to transform the site with an attractive building which will be home to a ‘state of the art’ medical facility in the heart of Tonbridge.”