Shopping centre plans £70m expansion

Royal Victoria Place is to build an eight-screen cinema as part of a £70million expansion.

The project will also include the creation of new premises for fashion retailers and a complete redevelopment of the Ely Court area.

The proposals were unveiled at a public exhibition at the centre last Friday and members of the public are invited to have a say before a formal planning application is submitted.

RVP manager Nicky Blanchard said: “For Tunbridge Wells to thrive it needs to retain a vibrant retail and leisure offer that meets the needs of local people as well as the many tourists.

“The centre was designed in 1986 and built in 1993 and obviously retail has changed a huge amount in that time and there are a number of areas in the centre that are not as strong as others, which we are trying to address.

Customers

“We believe our plans focus on offering the type of space required to attract the type of stores our customers want to see.”

The new ‘state of the art’ eight-screen digital cinema will be located in the roof of the shopping centre.

Plans to rejuvenate the Ely Court area involve demolishing and replacing the row of shops on the corner of Calverley Road and Camden Road, and creating a new entrance to the centre.

Mrs Blanchard believes this will help drive footfall to that area of town. She said: This redevelopment should help Camden Road, because at the moment it suffers.

“We want to play a leading role in supporting the town centre by encouraging more people to visit more often.”

The plans were on display over the weekend to allow people to give feedback, but anyone who missed out is encourage to submit views via email on concierge@royalvictoriaplace.com

Mrs Blanchard said: “I hope as many people as possible view the plans and tell us what they think.”

It’s hoped the expansion will be completed by spring 2019.

Five new shops will open in the centre before Christmas, it has been announced.

Swarovski, Fuel Juice bar, independent jeweller Silvermine, Bluebird Tea and toyshop Whirligig are all moving in.

Nicky Blanchard said: “These demonstrate the breadth of offer for shoppers.

“The mix of international brands such as Swarovski and independent retailers like Silvermine and Whirligig continue to strengthen the appeal of the town centre as a destination unlike any other.”

What you say…

Three Tunbridge Wells residents visiting the centre when the plans were unveiled were overwhelmingly supportive.

Vicky Mitchel, 32, said: “I think it’s a very good idea, especially the cinema which will be beneficial for people in town.

“At the moment you have to drive to Knights Park which can be difficult especially if you have children. I am also hoping it will bring more affordable clothing retailers to the centre like an adults’ H&M.”

Hannah Maxwell, 35, agrees the new plans will be beneficial for Tunbridge Wells.

She said: “I think the regeneration will be excellent. It should make this part of town more of an evening place and will hopefully result in higher quality dining places than there are currently.”

Adam Parr, 42, said: “It is a positive thing for the town centre. It will also be good for the town by creating a place which more people will want to come to. With additional shops and hopefully more parking, it will extend the amount of time people spend here and drive footfall towards the smaller retailers of Camden Road.”

Millie Minasian, the manager of Camden Road pet shop, Pets in Town believes any plans to drive footfall towards that part of Tunbridge Wells would be a ‘good thing.’

She said: “It would be great to get more people down to Camden Road but I am a bit worried about any disruption during the redevelopment. But in the long term it is welcome as most of the shops in the Ely Court area are empty anyway.”