GREG CLARK paid a visit to the offices of Royal Tunbridge Wells Together on June 16 in order to discuss ways of supporting local enterprises with Town Centre Manager Karen Pengelly in what was their first meeting since she took up the role at the start of the year.
Issues discussed included parking, the impact of online shopping on traditional retail and business rates.
Of particular concern is the diminishing amount of office space available in the town, Ms Pengelly said, adding she did not see developers ‘queuing up to build more’ as residential offers a far better return on investment.
In addition, she spoke of her desire to see a more joined up approach between businesses and the local authority to encourage tourism to the town saying it was an area East Kent had been very successful in, ‘perhaps at the expense of the west.’
The Secretary of State for Business acknowledged there would be increased uncertainty during the Brexit negotiations but said Tunbridge Wells was ‘doing better than most other towns’ in creating an attractive shopping environment.
He added: “Of course, there are uncertainties in any negotiations and that’s why you need to do what you can locally to make yourself attractive to customers and that’s what this [Town Centre Manager] role is about.”
Ms Pengelly said the meeting was of an introductory nature.
“It was a nice hello. I have spoken to him about the challenges facing the town and said there needs to be a change in planning legislation to help support offices.
“We have set up another meeting for in a couple of months’ time. Hopefully by then I will have some productive and constructive suggestion from him on what can be done.”