The company which owns the Upper Pantiles has responded to criticism from departing shop owners who said the historic promenade had ‘lost its way’ – leading to a downturn in their trade and forcing their closure.
The owners of Polkadot Lane, Paul Clarke and Anna Tattersley, had moved their shop to The Lower Pantiles from Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire three years ago. The couple sold Polish pottery, including tea sets.
However, last month the pair decided to return to their hometown and posted a letter in their shop window claiming the heritage of the area had been ‘forgotten and neglected’ and lacked ‘buzz and lustre’.
It went on to blame ‘high rents and rates’ as well as criticising the council for offering a lack of support to local businesses as reasons for their move.
But although the Lower Pantiles is owned by the Nevill Estate, Targetfollow – which owns the top of the promenade – has since published their own response stating: “Polkadot Lane has, in our opinion, unfairly painted The Pantiles and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council in a negative and unflattering way.
“This year has seen complete commercial occupancy of the Upper Pantiles with many great new traders setting up shop alongside the already successful and well-known business.
“There have been extensive building renovations taking place in conjunction with a complete replacement of the gravel surrounding the bandstand.
“Apart from maintaining and improving the visual appeal of The Pantiles, these works ensure numerous events scheduled take place in a fitting environment.”
They go on to add that 95 days of the 2016 have events scheduled, including fortnightly markets, weekly jazz and food fairs, with a new website being recently launched to attract visitors.
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council said they offered a programme of free business support through the West Kent Partnership and promoted retailers through Royal Tunbridge Wells Together.
A spokesman for the Nevill Estate said the unit occupied by Polkadot Lane was currently on a long lease held by another company and therefore they have no control over the rents charged.